Here’s the real shame about the Red Sox video “tribute” to Mariano Rivera: It set a mocking tone to an otherwise over-the-top and perfectly fitting ceremony. Through most of the presentation, Rivera was honored as a worthy opponent, not a heated rival. The Red Sox presented gifts that were both unique (that No. 42 from the scoreboard) and appropriate (the pitching rubber from the visiting bullpen). The entire Red Sox team was on the field, a group of cellists played Enter Sandman, and the Fenway crowd showed legitimate appreciation.
If this was his last trip to Fenway, the pregame ceremony was memorable for all the right reasons. Which is why is a shame it’s also memorable for a roast-like retrospective on the 2004 ALCS.
“It’s a blessing,” Rivera said before the game. “Hopefully it’s not the last time. It’s a blessing to be here for so many years. It has been wonderful. … I would say, thank you for the support. Even when they come here to boo us, we don’t expect nothing better than that. We come here to play the game that we love, and we come to play hard. The respect that I have gotten, that’s what you appreciate. I would say thanks for the appreciation.”
Frankly, the sight of the Yankees iconic closer being honored in the Red Sox ballpark was probably more awkward for the fans than the players. The rivalry is a bigger deal from the outside than from the inside, and the players only get caught up in it when something like the Dempster-Rodriguez situation happens. The players might honestly have viewed the video as being all in good fun, and it was followed by those very same players talking about their overwhelming respect and admiration for Rivera.
“I come here to play the game,” Rivera said. “I know we’re going to play nine innings hard and every team is going to give their best. So, I mean, I think the rivalry, the fans make it bigger than what it is. We have been there together, we have great times together. That doesn’t mean we’re going to cheat ourselves. We’re playing for different organizations, and we want to do the best for each team.”
The Red Sox ceremony was easily the most elaborate of the season. I’m sure it will be trumped at Yankee Stadium, but of all the opponents, the Red Sox did the most to celebrate Rivera’s pending retirement. If there were boos or derisive comments from the stands, I couldn’t hear them. Rivera, predictably, said he had no problem with the Red Sox look back at 2004, and the rest of the ceremony was an obvious show of absolute respect and celebration.
The gifts were nice. The video was awkward. I’m sure Rivera would have preferred a save.
“We’re fighting for something. We want to go to the playoffs,” Rivera said. “Without even thinking about myself, I won’t. Hopefully it’s not the last time.”
Associated Press photo