Two athletes carrying themselves professionally is refreshing

By Kenneth Kowald

As readers know, my father was a devoted fan of the New York (baseball) Giants, and I became one early in life.

Since they abandoned my native town, I have paid less attention to baseball, but I continue to root — kind of — for the New York Mets and New York Yankees. I would like one of them to be world champions!

My interest in hockey is almost nil. That applies to soccer as well. Professional football leaves me cold and college football seems to be more professional every day. Basketball is something I can take or leave, although I find myself rooting for the Brooklyn Nets on occasion.

It would be great to have a championship team — in any sport — in our city once again.

In all of these sports, with the possible exception of baseball, injuries, especially head injuries, concern me, primarily because so many players — regardless of their personal lives and even lives on the playing field — are held up as icons by too many people.

Maybe more of them should speak out about concussions so children can be helped. Maybe more should reduce the level of trash talk so kids can be helped.

But there are two icons I want to write about because, to me, they symbolize not only what “sport” is all about, but what counts on the playing field and in their personal lives.

Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter have played in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, but not for the Mets, of course. Thank heaven for the Subway Series. Rivera retired last year in a blaze of glory, which indicated the American public can still distinguish greatness from scam.

Jeter leaves this year. He will be sorely missed, indeed. There is something about him — and Rivera for that matter — which makes me wish I knew him.

But I do know them both through their playing years and their personal lives, which do not make up the gossip horrors we call magazines.

They have been a pleasure to watch, in sport and daily life. These, it seems to me, are the kinds of sports icons which we should be talking about with our children — not the foul-mouthed, “look at me” athletes who are so clearly in it for the money that any instances of humanity are suspect.

And there have been too many instances of bad — even criminal — behavior by some “stars.” Yes, I believe in redemption, but not if it is used just to sign another multimillion-dollar contract. The proof is in the actions.

Jeter is quiet but articulate. Recently, he said this:

“I’ve tried to respect the game and everyone that’s involved in the game …. People respect you for how you played the game, for how you carried yourself and that means a lot more to me than someone respecting me for one particular play or something like that.”

Yes, Rivera and Jeter have been paid well, but they have earned it, with their actions on and off the field, not with loud mouths. They seem to have joy in their playing days.

Wouldn’t it have been wonderful to have them on “our side” at Citi Field? They were there, of course, but only as visitors and rivals.

I wish them well in their new lives. It has been an honor and a pleasure to know them, even from afar.

Read my blog No Holds Barred at timesledger.com.

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