At the same time Occupy Wall Street made headlines last October, my university's drama department put on student-run performances of Broadway's Rent. To my and other fans of the Great White Way's delight, Anthony Rapp, who played Mark in the original Broadway production, came by to do a concert before one of our shows.
With no prior knowledge of Rapp's Broadway career, my sports-savvy boyfriend did not entirely understand why I kept harping about how we should get tickets to his concert. So I decided to make a sport analogy for him to get the point.
"He's like the Mariano Rivera of Broadway," I said, thinking I was witty for making the comparison.
My boyfriend's eyes widened in more than just disbelief. "Rivera?!" he said. "No way. He's absolutely going into the Hall of Fame. He's the greatest relief pitcher of all time!"
As I watched Rivera in pain get carried off the field Thursday, my cheeks turned red with embarrassment as I recalled making that clearly unjust comparison. Comparing Rivera to Rapp does not do justice to the Core Four player. Calling him the same as Bernadette Peters or Joel Grey might not be good enough either.
Despite his religiously devout personality (once, Rivera vowed to leave the league in 2004 to become a preacher) he does not get the same criticism as equally religious athletes like Tim Tebow. He instead earned respect for his humility off the field and his consistency in sealing Yankee wins, even under World Series pressure in 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2009.
Since my very first baseball game, Yankees vs. Texas Rangers in 1996, I envied the prestige of the Bronx Bombers. With their pinstripes and cleanly trimmed heads, the Yankees have a history of not just winning, but of taking the MLB's finest and making them winners.
So when Rivera announced today that he would not be retiring this season, I was not the least bit surprised. He is part of a winning team, and in the last two decades, has played an essential part in their winning history. For the media to speculate for hours that Rivera would leave baseball for good without throwing a final strike is just as disgraceful as me comparing him to Rapp.
I took Rivera for granted months ago, and the media took him for granted yesterday. We fell into the trap of forgetting that he is more than just an all-star baseball player. He's a human being with the same willpower to fight and win. For that, Rivera deserves the best recognition the MLB can provide. That's a wrap.