Gary Carter passed away at the age of 57 today. After finding out the news, I immediately called my grandfather, a huge Mets fan (everyone makes mistakes) and we discussed Carter, his fondest memories of listening to the radio announcers talk about him, and how he was "truly one of the best" and "one of his favorites."
Earlier this off-season I wrote about Jorge Posada and how I appreciated everything he did for the Yankees and how much he meant to me as a player. I have never met Jorge Posada, just like my grandfather never met Gary Carter.
Yet there's this certain connection fans feel with their favorite players that I'd love to discuss. I remember fondly my times visiting the New York Rangers in 2008 and talking with some of the players I had looked forward to watching play every night.
When I met the players, they became human to me. Some joked around, some ignored me, and some even went out of their way to say hello, wanting the attention of the fans. It was an odd experience, as I looked at athletes as these sort of superheros that were above us all, but in reality they were just regular guys like me.
Perhaps that's why it hurts so much to see one's favorite player be accused of steroid usage, or a DUI, or hearing that they cheated on their wives. The idea that athletes could do no wrong and are role models for everyone is really misguided, but it's a traditional view that isn't about to change. Athletes are just regular people, just with gifts that many of us could only dream about.
The connection between players and fans is so remarkable, as we connect the players to our lives. My grandfather talks about having met Babe Ruth, one day I will talk about having met Henrik Lundqvist. (Obviously not as exciting)
That brings me back to Gary Carter. Baseball will mourn the loss of one of the favorites of many fans, Mets fans or just plain baseball fans. Some fans may even cry upon hearing the news of his passing. Baseball is more than just a sport and perhaps baseball players are more than just athletes. They are escapes from every day life, and ways to live through the times of watching these remarkable athletes excel.
Perhaps one day Derek Jeter will pass away and I will tell my grandchildren about watching him become Mr. November. As crazy as it sounds, it really isn't crazy at all. Hopefully that day never has to come, but the connection baseball brings between people and time and people and people is amazing.
Anyway, enough rambling from me.
Rest in Peace Gary Carter.