The Importance of Forgetting
Why is Mariano Rivera such a great closer? He has no memory. Few people in baseball history can have a finger pointed at them and people say, “You lost the World Series.” Rivera is one of those unfortunate few. He was already a great closer prior to the 2001 World Series, having set the record for consecutive scoreless innings in the postseason with 34 1/3. Yet he blew the save in the 9th inning of game 7, coming in with a 2-1 lead and leaving after taking a 3-2 loss. He gave 3 hits, committed an error, and hit one batter. It was a truly exceptional meltdown. How did he respond? By compiling 310 saves and a 1.95 ERA in the next 8 seasons, from ages 32-39 (i.e. after his prime should have ended).
It would have been easy for the 2001 Series to end his career. The obvious comparison is Donnie Moore, who never recovered from his one bad pitch in the 1986 ALCS. Rivera has since 2001 had good games and bad. In 38 1/3 postseason inning since, he has 3 total runs. 2001 is a distant memory, and his career has rolled with only an injury-induced hiccup in the 2002 regular season.
This lesson applies across sports. After Ernest Byner’s famous fumble with the Cleveland Browns in 1987, he went on to win a Super Bowl with the Redskins and make the 1990 and 1991 Pro Bowls. Given the weakness of the Bills pass defense and the strength of the Saints passing game, that is what they need from Leodis McKelvin. His fumble in Week 1 was critical to that loss. However, he must follow the examples of Mariano Rivera and Ernest Byner, putting that fumble behind him to be a productive member of a taxed Bills secondary.