“Do not rejoice at the fall of your enemy, and do not be happy when he stumbles” (Proverbs 24:17)
At the Passover seder we are commanded to take ten drops of wine from our cups during the recitation of the ten plagues. The reason we do so is that we are asked to not celebrate over the suffering and death of the Egyptians. While the Jews certainly have a bone to pick with Pharaoh and the taskmasters, ordinary Egyptians didn’t deserve to suffer through all the hardship over the God-Moses-Pharaoh-slavery standoff.
In general this is a good policy. Be a good sport. When you win, act like you’ve been there before. Don’t rub it in if you win and someone loses. Don’t kick someone when they’re down. Et cetera, et cetera.
There are obvious exceptions, at least in my mind. Examples like Amalek, Haman, the Nazis, and other arch-villains in Jewish history, in addition to the demise of Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, come to mind as those whose downfalls and, yes, deaths, I have no problem celebrating. That stuff is for real.
As a dyed-in-the-wool Red Sox fan, there is no love lost between me and the New York Yankees. I’ve been spit on in Yankee Stadium, I’ve hassled Yankee fans at Fenway, but at the end of the day I realize that there has to be a differentiation between hating the team and respecting the players.
Last night, in a freak accident that happened during batting practice in Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, New York Yankee pitcher Mariano Rivera, perhaps the best baseball player of my generation (and without a doubt the greatest closer in baseball history), tore his ACL while shagging fly balls. His season is over. His career might be over. And I am sad.
In sports, you want to beat the best. It’s why in 1986 it was disappointing when the Celtics beat the Houston Rockets for the NBA championship instead of the Los Angeles Lakers, or when the Red Sox didn’t have to beat the Yankees in 2007 on their way to a World Series title. Beating the Yankees, or even competing against the Yankees, without Mo Rivera, just won’t be the same.
Transcending the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry is the simple fact that Rivera is a living legend, universally recognized as a gentleman, a competitor, a good man, and a true ambassador for the game. It’s a shame to see his career in jeopardy after an unfortunate tumble in the outfield, 1200 miles from Yankee Stadium.
Here’s hoping this isn’t the end.