Now that Mariano Rivera has picked up career save No. 602 and stands alone as the all-time saves leader in Major League Baseball history, I'd like to make the following statements:
Mariano Rivera is the greatest relief pitcher of all-time, a fact that cannot be disputed.
Mariano Rivera is arguably the most dominant pitcher of the past 30 years, something I believe others would be hard pressed to dispute.
Mariano Rivera is arguably one of the 10 greatest pitchers to ever toe the rubber in Major League Baseball, something that I do not write lightly.
While that last statement may seem far-fetched on the surface, it's really not that outlandish a statement to make, and something that was briefly discussed with my fellow B/R Featured columnists Doug Mead and Asher Chancey in last week's B/R Baseball Round-table.
But I digress, and these are topics of discussion for another day.
Ask yourself this question: How many times have you turned on the TV, picked up a newspaper or listened to the radio when you've seen, read or heard of a professional athlete causing a stir for something they did, whether it be on the field of play or off of it?
If we're being honest, the answer is on multiple occasions.
Take football for instance. Michael Vick spent two years in prison. Ray Lewis was charged with murder.
Basketball? Michael Jordan has had rumors about his gambling habits follow him around throughout his career. LeBron James let his ego get the best of him with his hour-long-infomercial on ESPN where he declared that he was "taking his talents to South Beach."
College athletics? How many scandals have we seen in recent months and years where players cheated on exams, schools falsified academic results, or boosters simply just put a wad of cash in someone's hand?
Tennis? It seems as if Serena Williams has a bit of a temper, last put on display at the recently completed 2011 US Open, where she openly berated and threatened the judge—not the first time she's acted like this.
My point is that athletes from all walks of life, in all sports, are human. They let their emotions get the better of them in some cases, and in others simply make stupid decisions.
Mariano Rivera is human.
Yet we have never seen him in the news for making poor decisions. We have never seen him openly berate an umpire for a bad call or a teammate for not making a defensive play.
He never sought or wanted the spotlight, he simply wanted to come to work, do his job, and go home.
Nothing more, nothing less.
Have you ever heard an opposing player, manager or coach say anything negative about Mo?
Mariano has never wavered from conducting himself with dignity and class, paying respect to the game he plays, the opponents he faces, and the fans who cheer him on.
People, whether they are professional athletes or not, can take a page from Mariano Rivera and how he does things. He is a role-model that most take for granted, and that's a shame, because there will never be another legendary figure quite as amazing.
You read that right. Mariano Rivera is a legendary figure. An iconic figure. 80 years from now, when most of us will be long gone, tales of his greatness will have reached Ruthian levels.
Stand up and cheer Mariano Rivera, regardless of what team you root for. Point him out to your children and grandchildren, explaining to them how "THAT is how you handle success. THAT is how a professional athlete should do things."
I'd like to make one more statement if I may, one that I have repeated over-and-over again since joining Bleacher Report.
There's Mariano Rivera...and there's everybody else.