From time to time we’re reminded that there are a few people who get it, a few people who understand that in order to get respect one must dedicate a lifetime of giving respect. So when we find one in the world of sports we should embrace him or her. And we do; we hold them to a higher standard and they never seem to disappoint. A few names that spring to mind include Manny Pacquiao, Tom Brady, Wayne Gretzky, Grant Hill and Derek Jeter.
Now you can argue and name other names and debate this, but one thing’s for sure -- you can’t deny what they’ve done for the games they’ve played. But moreover, for the humans they are. In a world riddled with guys like Michael Vick, Alex Rodriguez, Ron Artest (sorry ... Metta World Peace), Kobe Bryant and Terrel Owens, it should be pretty easy to look like a good guy, but more often than not, they just can’t seem to manage that. I should say they seem to have no interest in being the good guy. The money takes over and they forget where they came from. But like Cal Ripken before him, Derek Jeter is not one of those guys.
Jeter works and lives in the No. 1 media market in the United States -- New York City -- and his life has been the thing that scriptwriters try to create and make believable. But if a scriptwriter wrote this script about a young man that used to travel to New Jersey in the summer and tell his aunt he was gonna grow up and play shortstop for the New York Yankees ... well, frankly, we’d all groan and wait for it on DVD or pay-per-view. Nonetheless, the fact is, that’s what Derek Jeter did, which makes it true, yet not believable. Highlight reel after highlight reel shows his clutch hits, amazing catches and setting the milestone of 3,000 hits and having it be a home run. This is the stuff that Hollywood can’t write because nobody would buy a ticket to a movie so corny and predictable, right? To make it believable, they would also have to make this character a person that sets a new standard and example and that person would almost always do and say the right thing. But again, nobody would believe it in script form. I mean, Jeter doesn’t even swear! What the hell is up with that? Oops, sorry, that was premature.
Twenty years in the league, I can remember when he started in the mid ‘90s and how he clawed his way into the lineup and never left. Here’s a guy who could have had any girl he wanted, lived the "rock star" lifestyle, but instead kept even that on the level. When you Google "Derek Jeter’s worst moment," you get back Derek Jeter’s top 10 best moments! When you do the same thing for Mr. Metta World Peace, Michael Vick, even Michael Jordan, you get their worst moments.
As a Yankees fan, I guess I’m gushing a bit over the unbelievable player I’ve rooted for over the past 20 years. As a Yankees fan I’ve been lucky because that entire "class" of Yankee was flat-out awesome -- Marino Rivera, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams and, of course, Derek Jeter. But this is Jeter’s final year, and as I gaze into the dugout I wonder if there’s another great player waiting to fill those shoes? Will there be another shining example of "You can play the game, make millions and still be a good human being?" I’m looking for that player anywhere in baseball -- another Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripken, Lou Gehrig and, yes, another Derek Jeter. Professional sports needs these guys to show people that while a ticket to any given game is unaffordable, should you lay out the cash and see one of these great players, it may just be well worth it. I’m sure we’ll find another one out there, someone who we can gravitate to, but for now we’ll just have to enjoy Jeter’s final few games as he closes out a stellar career. If you’re a Red Sox fan, I think you’d have to agree, even though you might be biting your lip and saying what the hell is up with that?