December 1, 2006

Bye Bye Bernie

We might lose a hero. Yes, the word "hero" is thrown around way too many times, and is used to describe unworthy people in some cases. But to me, Bernie Williams is a hero, and he might not play baseball anymore.

Bernie contributes to charity, creates wonderful music, he practices hard, and plays with guts and determination. He's not a foul mouthed man, not egotistical, and he is loved by his teamamtes. He was a clutch player for the Yankees, the only organization he ever played for, and his on the field play was responsible for many victories. But does that make him a hero? In my world, yes.

Baseball, and sports in general are more than entertainment. Sports at an early age inspires children to test themselves, achieve goals, work well with others, follow orders, build physical and emotional strength, and, most of all, to believe in themselves. Organized sports are a vital social glue which can bring entire communities, cities, and countries togther to unite behind their team.

Sports are uniguely essential to human existence. Their stars are larger than life because the take us away from the banalities, struggles, and pain of our everyday lives. Sports heroes loom large for us because their deeds are remembered for generations, perhaps for all time. None of us can imagine a historian researching something we did at work over one hundred years ago and then writing a book about it. Sports heroes, and our affinity for them, allow us to hang on for the ride. We root for them because we want to live like them. And one one of our sports figures stands out, and he or she is also a good human being, that makes him or her much more special, much more valubale to the admirer, and to society.

I was at a game in Yankee stadium a few years back. In Monument Park with my wife, we watched with a small crowd of fans as Bernie Williams sprinted back and forth along the outfield. We all shouted and waved as the revered Yankee concentrated on his workout. On his final pass, Bernie waved to all of us with a bright, genuine smile on his face. "That's Bernie Williams" a young man next to me said to his girlfriend. He gushed as he held her close and watched Bernie trot over to the dugout. I don't know why, but I felt like a kid, much as that young man may have felt, as Bernie acknowledged us with graciousness reports today that the Yankees may not re-sign Bernie as their needs are in the bullpen. As reported, Bernie most likely will retire and never walk onto a baseball fieled again. Next year, I'll go to more games at Yankee stadium. In monument park, I'll have to shake of the urge to look look for Bernie sprinting past again. My favorite baseball player didn't save anyone from a burning building, didn't fight in a war, or invent a miracle drug; but, he lifted my spirits at many times in my life with his baseball heroics. For that I will remain grateful. Is he my hero? For all that baseball means to me, and for as much this man has contributed to the game both on and off the field, and for how he is as a person, yes. He's a hero. Bye Bernie. It was great rooting for you.

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