Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I Still Want to Hate Derek Jeter but I Never Will

Ever seen a grown child cry? Just put me in front of a baseball-centric, father-son tale and it’ll happen.

When I watched Derek Jeter 3K – an HBO special documenting the lead up to Jeter’s dramatic 3000 career hit – I was alone in my living room and consuming a burrito filled with lean cuisine. I had stumbled across the documentary while flipping channels and was very excited to find that I had an hour to watch it.

Bear in mind that I hate the Yankees. It’s easy to do and as a lifelong baseball fan you only have two choices: love them or hate them. I hate them. And Derek Jeter is the Yankees.

But I can’t hate him. I can’t hate him because of this and this and this. The term “gamer” gets tossed around quite a bit. Someone slides hard into second base and Tim McCarver wants to call him a gamer and make some obscure analogy. Mr. November is a gamer. He’s the quintessential player you point at and say to the nine-year-old at his first baseball game, “See that one, at shortstop, number 2? Play like him.”

There’s an undeniable romanticism to the sport well documented in flowing prose by many an author. It’s seemingly interwoven with the fabric of our nation. As Terrence Man (James Earl Jones in Field of Dreams) said, “[America has] been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past.” Flowing hyperbole indeed. But it’s far bigger than a sport and country. 

Watching Jeter talk about his childhood dream of playing shortstop for the New York Yankees, hearing his mom tell him before each game to “have fun and get two hits for me,” listening to the support of his father, I realized this was beyond bats and gloves. I was watching a universal story of family and a story that, frankly, any kid who ever played little league can relate to. Baseball marks the universality of childhood.

For me, Jeter’s career is interwoven with my childhood. He was the star as I wanted to be the star. He was the face of baseball when I was playing catch with my dad and when I was telling my dad I was going to be better than Derek Jeter. And while that never quite came to be – my dreams erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again – baseball is the simple game that reminds me of where I’ve come from and how I’ve come to be. 

Jeter dramatically belted a 3-2 pitch deep into the left-field bleachers, the 3000 hit of his career and second of five on the afternoon. In the mold of the gamer he is, the Yankee shortstop also delivered the game winning RBI. He talked about the pressure of it all and how surprised he was and how he agreed to do the documentary so that someday his kids could see what their dad once did. 

And I teared up, just a little bit.

And then the documentary ended. As the credits rolled, short clips of congratulations from relevant parties played: Tony Gwynn, Joe Torre, Michael Jordan, Bernie Williams, team trainer, etc.

And then his mom congratulated him. 

And then I realized it was probably good that I was home alone.

And then dad congratulated son.

And then I lost my shit. Straight up Field of Dreams style.

1 comment:

  1. Good God Adam...a whole box of klennex later...but I always did have weak tear ducts.