Overtime: On Sports Goodbyes

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Overtime: On Sports Goodbyes

Wilmer Flores slides into home. The beloved Met said goodbye on Friday. (Keith Allison/Flickr)

Wilmer Flores slides into home. The beloved Met said goodbye on Friday. (Keith Allison/Flickr)

Wilmer Flores slides into home. The beloved Met said goodbye on Friday. (Keith Allison/Flickr)

Wilmer Flores slides into home. The beloved Met said goodbye on Friday. (Keith Allison/Flickr)

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By Jack McLoone

Goodbyes in sports are rarely perfect, clean or even satisfactory.

Take, for example, how we remember Derek Jeter’s final moments: bottom of the ninth at Yankee Stadium, his final home game, and he hits a (suspiciously) grooved fastball into right for a walk off single. A quintessential Jeter moment. “Derek Jeter ends his final game with a walk off single!” shouted announcer Michael Kay.

But what we often forget is that they weren’t his final moments. Jeter made two starts in the season-closing series at Fenway Park against the Red Sox, both times being pulled early in the game, including in the third inning in his true final game.

This “Overtime” is a lot like Jeter’s games at Fenway. I already wrote a goodbye (see: my certified tear-jerker of a From the Desk), but I had some more thoughts, spurred on by other recent departures.

David Wright did not get his storybook ending. After spending years fighting to return from an almost crippling back injury, Wright was able to appear in one final game at Citi Field. But he did not even get a hit, and his last out was a pop out in foul territory.

But that’s not what will be remembered. That lasting image will be Wright seeing himself on the kiss cam with Jose Reyes (sigh) and then being subbed out, taking five tearful minutes to leave the field and then joining Gary, Keith and Ron in the SNY booth.

Wilmer Flores was very unceremoniously non-tendered by the Mets on Friday. The fan favorite—and, specifically, one of my favorite players—may not have been particularly good, but he was a proud Met who loved walk off hits.

He will not be remembered by a clinical “We’ve non-tendered Wilmer Flores” tweet from the Mets’ Twitter account. No; crying on the field, the ensuing walk off home run a week later (and his nine other walk off RBIs) and the Friends walk-up music will be his lasting legacy.

So, what’s the point?

This is my final issue as an editor of The Fordham Ram, and it will be a little bit of a whimper from the sports section. This is a dead time of the year, with only four sports competing in the past week.

But that’s not how I will reflect on my time. While I have been on staff, Fordham Football has had two new head coaches, and I wrote our stories about the first two leaving (including essentially breaking Andrew Breiner leaving). Men’s Soccer made it to the Elite 8 of the NCAA Tournament after having never won a game previously. Women’s Basketball made it to the Sweet 16 of the WNIT. Fordham Softball won the A-10 Tournament three times. Mary Kate Kenny and Ryan Kutch are breaking every record. Golf won its first tournament since 2015. Baseball led the country in steals. And I’m sure plenty of other things have happened that will make this last issue more of a footnote than a lasting tombstone for my time here.

But what is the worth of a “sports goodbye?” Even the perfect ones sting; going out on top, say, like Peyton Manning after winning Super Bowl L, still means going out.

But most sports goodbyes do not really mean anything. And I do not mean in the Brett Favre “oh actually maybe not I’ll just retire as a member of a longtime rival” kind of “don’t really mean anything.” I mean many sports goodbyes are just no longer playing, but not going away. Peyton Manning still does commercials. All of the Heisman Trophy winners have the Heisman House commercials. Tony Romo pivoted immediately to the broadcast booth (as did Jason Witten, unfortunately).

Yes, there are some that do—Roberto Clemente, Sean Taylor, Jose Fernandez, Lou Gehrig, to name a few—but they are rarer.

I tried to figure out where the quote “It’s not ‘goodbye,’ it’s ‘see you later’” came from, but after seeing four Odyssey articles with variations of it as a headline, I think it’s just a cliché. And that’s fine; sports—and sports writing—are generally one big cliché, so that tracks. When someone says goodbye to sports, they rarely truly go away; it may just be entertainment, but it is all-encompassing at times, and its gravity holds on to most people just tight enough that they can not fully escape orbit.

Luckily, there will not be an opportunity for me to first-unretirement-Michael Jordan myself. Thanks to impending graduation, I cannot just reassert myself onto The Ram’s masthead again. But like when Jordan played for the Wizards, I’ll still be around in a much lesser form, writing my last remaining sports beats in a bid to get to 200 articles (and less vain reasons, I’m sure).

One of the most fun baseball players I have ever seen, Adrian Beltre, retired a couple weeks ago. A sure first-ballot Hall of Famer, Beltre will be remembered as much for getting ejected for moving the on-deck circle and hating when people touch his head as he will for his 3,000 hits and his steady defense. Beltre will be remembered for being a singular character and singular player.

And while I’m not going to compare my usually bad writing to a Hall of Famer, I would like to think that will be my sports goodbye from The Ram: as much about how I did things (like calling Kyle Schwarber a “wrecking ball on a slight incline”) as what I did.