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Two athletes carrying themselves professionally is refreshing

Our columnist thinks Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera should have played for the Mets, whose home is Citi Field (above).
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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.

Posted 12:00 am, August 11, 2014
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Reader feedback

helton from Flushing says:
Ken - Well said. I've been a Yankee fan all my life, and these 2 players are a rarity: superstars both on and off the field.

The quality that I admire the most is the way they carry themselves - with dignity. They treated people and the game with class and respect. Just go out and play to the best of their ability. Shake off today's mistakes and go get 'em tomorrow.

What more can we ask of our "heroes"?

P.S. It must have been wonderful to see a young Say Hey Kid play at the Polo Grounds. I think that Willie Mays, more than any other player, showed the most amount of joy while playing baseball.
Aug. 11, 2014, 8:04 am
Kenneth Kowald from I Sit and Look Out says:
Helton: Many thanks. My father, not the most unbiased of men, saw Mays come to the Giants and said then that this was a player of exceptional talent and dignity. Mays proved that over the years and even today. Every time I think of him, it makes me happy.

Kenneth Kowald
Aug. 11, 2014, 5:30 pm
Kenneth Kowald from I Sit and Look Out says:
Addendum: See the cover and second Talk of the Town item in the September 8 New Yorker, for a wonderful tribute to Derek Jeter. Well-deserved!
Especially in light of the "antics" (?) of too many over-paid kids who are professional athletes. These are supposed to be our heroes?
A guy named Vick went to prison because he produced dog fights. But, he's back on the football field.
And, one of his fellow spoiled brats, said something, "Hey, deer hunting is just as bad as dog fighting."
Ethics learned, I should imagine, in college where he went on a sport scholarship , thanks to his ability to pull in dough for the institution.
I leave it to the reader to figure out the comment.
But, we still have Riveras and Jeters, thank heaven. And, we appreciate them, as we should.

Kenneth Kowald
Sept. 13, 2014, 2:12 pm

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