Sunday, October 17, 2004

A new hero

The Boston Red Sox have never been one of my favourite teams. I may sympathise with their fans as they continually fail to reach baseball's Holy Grail of winning a World Series, but they use their strong financial position at the expense of my favourite team, buying up all our best players. However, I have to salute their star pitcher, Pedro Martinez. Their rivalry with the New York Yankees is well documented; in their last few meetings, the Yankees have "owned" Martinez, making him seem a shadow of the devastating sportsman he is at his best. This prompted him to make the remark that in their recent meetings, the Yankees had been his "daddy". Unsurprisingly, the next time he made the visit to Yankee stadium, this time in the playoffs, the Bronx was electric with chants of "who's your daddy?" And the end result of the game was ultimately disappointing , for although Martinez pitched very well, he made just enough mistakes to allow the Yankees to creep home.

But the reason I really admire him is for his statements after the game. He was asked if he regretted making those statements, given that it implied the Yankees had got into his head and prevented him from performing at his best. Here was his reply:

""It actually made me feel really, really good. I actually realized that I was somebody important because I caught the attention of 60,000 people. If you reverse time back 15 years ago, I was sitting under a mango tree without 50 cents to actually pay for a bus. And today, I was the center of attention of the whole city of New York. I thank God for that."

How refreshing to hear a sports star with a sense of perspective. Not that I don't admire competitiveness - of course I do, for I am one of the most ridiculously competitive people I know. Yet at the same time, it is easy to overlook the enjoyment that playing sports can bring. Now, I could have used the comments to show just how important sports are in the popular psyche - the northeast of America is buzzing at the significance of the series - but this time I will do my best to refrain. Instead, I wish to commend Martinez - a pitcher who has caused me untold frustration - for realising how lucky he is to live out the dream of millions of fans. And I wish, also, that he can show a return to form next time he pitches, so I can have the satisfaction of seeing the Yankees beaten.