When Mariano Rivera tore his ACL last season shagging fly balls, there was a moment when we all assumed his hallowed career had come to an unceremonious end; no playoffs, no glitz, no glory. Just a guy holding his knee in the outfield and mercifully fading into the background. Rivera came back, however, and was not quite ready to hang it up. Not that he isn’t close.
It’s an open secret that Mariano Rivera intends to retire, and that announcement figures to be very soon, perhaps Saturday.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) March 7, 2013
We’ll have to wait and see if Rivera actually retires, but the announcement, which is theoretically slated to go down moments before the start of the 2013 season, begs the question: why now? Why before the season? Ray Lewis all but admitted that he wanted to bask in some glory-dousing, but it’s hard to see Mariano Rivera in that light. He’s been a quiet star all these years, and so with his retirement too, we assumed.
Apparently not so. Of course we don’t know the details, whether he’ll make some offhand remark to a media scrum around his locker, or whether he’ll press conference it out and expound on the meaning and feelings and emotions of it all, sifting through various cliches until we’re satisfied with his humility. Maybe even a tear or two.
I guess the larger question I have, as a non-athlete, is how do they stay motivated through the pre-retirement haze? If Mo does go public, he won’t be walking off into some sunset; he’ll be running away form a countdown, his career judged and surmised and captioned all while he’s still playing. He’ll be a living statue of himself, which is weird and uncomfortable. But maybe it’s a defensive maneuver, on some level; he is coming off a torn ACL, after all, and his performance could easily dip. We’ll have already cast his career in a certain light before he can ruin it with a few bad pitches or blown saves.
All of which is to say, I like it better when it’s out of nowhere. Not just because these pre-retirements lend themselves to un-retiring and re-retiring, but because the decision seems more certain. There’s nothing to judge, no shelved present. There’s a person finishing a season and realizing he doesn’t have it in him anymore, and that should be enough.