Friday, September 05, 2014

Good-bye, Derek Jeter. Red Sox Nation will miss you

Every once in awhile the sports world is blessed by the presence of a true sportsman. A true role model. Sometimes these players are champions. Sometimes they are journeyman who toil away at their sport, day in and day out, game after game after game. Derek Jeter, SS, number 2 in your New York Yankees' scorecard, is such a player. He's heading into the last couple of weeks of the season. He's heading into the last weeks of his career. Watching him over the years has been quite a treat, even for those of us who are not exactly Yankees fans.  No, he hasn't been great. But yes, he's been that special.

He isn't the best player to ever play the game. He's not even the best player to ever play as a Yankee. But what he is, WHO he is, is one of the best MEN to play the game. With a guy like Jeter it's not just what he does on the field or in the batter's box that makes him a joy to watch. That's athletic ability: raw talent and hard work. Jeter's career relied on both. Many do. What put him over the top, though, what makes him the Yankee whom Yankees haters everywhere love, is "The Complete Package." It's that special ingredient a guy like Jeter brings to the mix; that secret ingredient that makes the biscuits rise a little fluffier, keeps the steak juicy, the fruit salad sweet. It's whatever it is that makes a game time hot dog taste like actual food!

Derek Jeter is the anti-A-Rod. He is what we fans, true fans, of sport like to call a Class Player. He's the kind of player who quietly gives everything he has to the game, and when the game is over he digs down deep and finds something more to give to the community. There can't be a baseball fan in America who doesn't know who Derek Jeter is. There may be a couple who don't particularly like him. MAY be. Those are usually pseudo-fans who take it personally when a player like Jeter quietly destroys their favorite team's playoff hopes. They are the pseudo-fans who don't care about the game, whose only concern is that night's box score. They don't care about career numbers. They don't care that the guy who loses a bit of speed, a couple of inches of field coverage, makes up for it with courage and grit and experience. They don't care about a player with heart. A player who maybe contributes more to his team in the locker room, on the practice field, in the dugout day in and day out. No, they care only about stats. True fans care about stats, too. But we also care about heart. We respect the player who quietly shows up at the park and BOOM! Let's his play do the talking. We go to watch those players, we cheer for them, we feel for them, whether they play for our team or our rivals. *Disclaimer: I am a lifelong, die-hard, Red Sox Nation card carrying member of the other side in one of the most heated rivalries in sport. Yes, I like Derek Jeter as a player. I love what he has brought to the game. I respect him as a man. BUT I AM A RED SOX FAN. I HATE THE YANKEES! But I am also a true fan of sports, and I appreciate players more than teams. I won't change team affiliations when a player is traded. But I'll still follow that player and cheer for him, even if he plays against "my" team. I think that's why I like and respect Derek Jeter so much. If the opposing team makes a great play, I will stand and cheer because their play is just as important to the outcome of the game, and I am there to see a good game. I don't live or die by wins and losses. And that's what I see in No. 2. He comes to play his best, to give the fans his best performance. And he appreciates it when opposing players do the same. On any given day they may play better but still,a Derek Jeter does his best.

Yes, Derek Jeter is this era's face of the Yankees, and ladies, he ain't been hard to look at! He's greatly respected by coaches, teammates, opponents, and fans sitting behind both dugouts. He's greatly respected by sports writers and play-by-play announcers. He's greatly respected by The Game. Because he's shown, through the years, how a real player respects The Game.

Thank you, Derek Jeter. Thank you for sharing your talent, your drive, your heart with us. May you enjoy the rest of your life in peace.

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