Sunday, October 5, 2014

Ode to Jeter

Last weekend not only marked the end of a really bad Red Sox season, but the end of the great career of Derek Jeter. As a Red Sox fan, I always dreaded seeing the ball hit to short knowing that he would turn a double play in a most spectacular and athletic fashion. His plate appearances against the Red Sox always seemed to end with him on base starting a Yankee rally. I won’t bore anyone with the endless statistics about games played, runs saved, hits made or women dated, but it’s pretty clear that he’s a first ballot Hall of Famer. The only question is whether or not it will be unanimous.

The thing I appreciate most about Derek Jeter is that he managed to play well consistently for almost 20 years, on the same team, win multiple awards and be universally respected. I learned over the weekend that he leads the Yankees in being hit by pitches and yet has never been ejected from a game. How he managed to keep his cool after getting drilled 170 times is beyond me. While his off-the-field behavior got some tabloid attention, it was pretty much just gossip about who he was dating or no longer dating. The only time his shiny image was clouded was for a brief period of time when he was hanging around with Alex Rodriguez.

People in politics could learn a lot from Derek Jeter. The old adage “it’s not whether you win or lose it’s how you play the game” is probably the first takeaway that Jeter embodied and that candidates should remember. While it’s much easier to be a gracious winner than to be a good loser, candidates have to prepare for either scenario. There is only one winner in an election, but most still live here after the fact so good conduct in the election — and afterwards — is important. In these post primary days, much has been made of party “unity” and some candidates have really been “walking the walk.” In Providence Michael Solomon has been campaigning for Jorge Elorza, hoping that their combined efforts will keep Buddy Cianci out of the Mayor’s chair. Clay Pell has continued to be a positive voice in Rhode Island politics, appearing recently at a veterans event. Losing candidates will further their own goals, politically and otherwise, by being as “classy” as Jeter. 

So while we all salute Jeter for the player he was and the character he embodied, I have to say that the real reason I will always love Derek Jeter: there’s a play he didn’t make. He was a millisecond too late with that swipe tag to Dave Roberts in 2004, making “the steal” one of the best moments in sports and not just another bone-crushing, heart-wrenching defeat for Red Sox fans. He could not have known what lay ahead but the fact that he didn’t whine, pout or have a tantrum — at a play that looks closer every time I watch it — was enough for me. So thanks for playing #2 — and thanks for missing too.

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