You can’t escape it. Unless you’ve been in a coma the past month you’ve seen all the articles. You’ve noticed the countless tweets and the barrage of Sports Center pieces. He’s everywhere. Derek Jeter is getting the longest, most public going away party we’ve seen in a long time. As a result, there has been a backlash. And in many ways I get it. Even from the most serious of Yankees fans (present company included), many have asked, “Is this all really necessary?”
When you actually take the time to think about it, the answer is actually a resounding YES. Derek Jeter represents so much more than a great shortstop for the New York Yankees. He embodies what we, as a people, value about sports and life in general. No one would argue that Derek Jeter is the best baseball player that’s ever lived. Baseball historians may even argue that he was not one of the elite players of his era. One may even argue there were very few, if any, years he was the best player on his team. So then how could you explain the fact that more Jeter jerseys have been sold than any other jersey in the history of Major League Baseball? The answer is respect. Part of Jeter’s going away tour this summer has been the Nike Jordan brand’s #RE2PECT campaign surrounding Jeter. Nike sold t-shirts and hats with the RE2PECT logo emblazoned on them. And while it may seem cliché, the RE2PECT campaign means so much more than us respecting Jeter. The respect I am referring to is how Jeter respected us. How he respected his teammates and coaches. How he respected the game of baseball.
Derek Jeter’s final home game was his 2,745th of his career. In his career he has been ejected exactly zero times. Jeter never threw teammates under the bus when the team lost and always gave credit to teammates for the wins regardless of how well he played. When he didn’t play well he always faced the media and answered questions honestly. Jeter always hustled on routine ground balls and played with an intensity and passion that few play with in today’s game.
Regardless of whether you are even a baseball fan, you see in Derek Jeter the type of qualities you identify in so many great leaders across all aspects of society. Derek Jeter transcends sports. Over the past month we’ve also been inundated with stories of athletes committing horrific crimes against women and children. In the 24-hour news cycle we live in it seems that all we see are images and stories depicting the worst of human behavior in pro athletes and fans at stadiums across the country. So yes, Derek Jeter does matter. He matters a lot. We would be much better off, as fans and as citizens, if we had a few more Derek Jeters. And that #RE2PECT thing wouldn’t be such a bad idea either…