Alabama’s secret weapon: Mariano Rivera?

Mariano RiveraNo matter who you talk to, Mariano Rivera is generally regarded as one of the best athletes on the Yankees’ roster. In fact, long before that ugly May afternoon in Kansas City, you could ask his teammates and reach a consensus that if Rivera hadn’t wandered into pitching, he could have made a serious bid to go pro as an outfielder.

Rivera also loves soccer and, as a child growing up in Panama, dreamed of enjoying stardom in that sport. His reach, apparently, extends to college football too. Alabama coach Nick Saban told reporters that he showed his players a video interview with Rivera to prepare them for tonight’s BCS National Championship game against Notre Dame:

“We just watched a video of Mariano Rivera, and he talked about he struggled at some time in his career because he was trying to be a perfectionist,” Saban said, according to the New York Post. “And that when he’s in the bullpen, he sees the crowd, he hears the crowd, he knows sometimes that he’s been getting a lot of positive self gratification for what he does and sometimes getting a lot of negative self gratification for what he does. But when he runs out and they hand him the ball, he’s got one focus; he’s not worried about the crowd, he’s not worried about any of the external factors. One focus: ‘Three outs; how am I going to get three outs?'”

Saban said that the point was to stress that his players would do well to adopt some of Rivera’s legendary focus.

“I think a team’s ability to do that, to stay focused on the things that are going to affect the outcome of the game, are critical in games like this. And you know, you could say, well, that’s nothing; well, believe me, being around young people, being in games like this, that’s something, and it’s something big.”

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