As I write this, Kobe Bryant is sitting on the bench. He’s waiting for the PA announcer at Staples Center to introduce him. It’s the last time he’ll walk onto that court as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers’ starting lineup. He’s keeping his emotions in check. But as he sits there watching the other four starters jump off the bench, it’s hitting him. You can tell. He’s realizing this is it. And he’s certainly embracing the moment.
Growing up a Boston Celtics fan, I’m not going to miss Kobe Bryant. But make no mistake about it, I respect his on-the-court greatness. I admire his legend. So I’m watching his final game.
Here in Boston, our farewell tour is just getting started. Well, not “ours” literally. I mean David Ortiz’ farewell tour.
Like Bryant, Ortiz is playing out his final season after telling the world this would be his last call. So as I watch Bryant’s career come to an end, all I can really think about is Ortiz.
At some point, in either September or October, we’re going to see Ortiz get introduced for one final at-bat. And it’s going to be emotional.
Between now and then, the Red Sox won’t let you forget that this is Ortiz’ final season. Hence, the farewell tour. And with that, some will complain. They’ll tell us it’s “too much” or that it’s “over the top” and “the Sox are just trying to make an extra buck.”
If you listen closely, you can already hear it from some people. And while I’ll be the first to admit that the Red Sox’ marketing strategy can be a little too in-your-face at times, one thing I’m not going to do is cry about a celebration of Big Papi’s career.
I mean, do I really need to remind you what his resume looks like? Ortiz is a nine-time All-Star with three World Series championships, all with the Red Sox. And he wasn’t just part of those championships. He played a crucial role in every single playoff series during those championships in 2004, 2007, and 2013.
Ortiz is a career .295 hitter in the postseason, with 17 home runs and 60 RBI. He’s played in three World Series, winning all of them, and has a .455 batting average in those 14 World Series games. And in 2013, he was named World Series MVP.
I shouldn’t have to tell you that. You most likely already know just how dominant and clutch Ortiz has been. Which is why I don’t understand how anyone could complain about an “over the top” season-long celebration of the guy’s career.
Look, I know we’ve seen a whole bunch of championships in Boston the last 15 years. But don’t forget about the Red Sox’ 86-year drought. And please don’t forget that Ortiz’ heroics in Games 4 and 5 of the 2004 ALCS turned another inevitable nightmare into a franchise-changing fairytale.
Ortiz is a legend. And one night, we’re going to watch him standing there in the on-deck circle, helmet on, bat in his hands, waiting to hear his name called for one last at-bat. Maybe we’ll realize it at the time, like Bryant did on Wednesday night. Or maybe it will be in the postseason, and we won’t know until it’s all over.
Either way, it’s coming. But so is all the hoop-la. So are all the gifts, and the ceremonies. You know, the farewell tour.
Towards the end of Bryant’s season, people became tired of it. I didn’t, because he earned it.
Everyone retires. Not everyone gets a farewell tour. And rightfully so. But much like Bryant deserved one, so does Ortiz.
And if you have complaints, I don’t want to hear them.