Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Swan Song of Jeter Month: A Paean to The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived

I swear, sometime we're going to actually stop writing about Derek Jeter's retirement.  But there's just too much.  I don't write very much these days because I don't consume much crappy sports media these days, and I don't make the time to go search for bad sportswriting.  But when an event like Jeter's retirement comes along, it's just too easy to find.    I promise, we'll eventually stop Jeter Month™.
Here's The New York Times, ostensibly the nation's premier source of good journalism, presenting Doug Glanville's "The Book on Jeter".  Right, I know, Glanville probably just gets writing gigs because he was a player.  But  still: this is horrendous. It's a mixture of terrible writing, dramatic prose, awful cliches and a bald-faced lie.
Every major league player is deeded real estate in the book of baseball. 
Are we talking real estate or literature here, Doug?  Holy mixed metaphor!

Some may be granted only one word, others a paragraph. And then there is Derek Jeter, who is closing out, in a masterly way, one of the great chapters in baseball’s history.
Would anyone argue that Jeter is closing a chapter in baseball's history, or rather merely in his own? I'm sorry, folks, but Jeter is not a symbol of anything. Unless you want to make him a symbol of a Player Who Did Not Do Steroids, which as Larry B mentioned previously, was the sort of thing that only hundreds of other players could manage.
It is rare when you can craft both the beginning and end of your entry and also guide the pen in between. The serendipity that marks a life in the game can add pages of unforeseen horror (or romance) to your story. 
Swoon!  Oh, the horror, the romance, the drama!  Coming out next month in trade paperback, Doug Glanville's Fifty Shades of Derek Jeter.  Spoiler alert: there are no pictures.
The wayward hand of the larger forces in baseball can act like a toddler’s first dance with a crayon. Wantonly scribbling out previous work, recklessly writing outside the lines without control.
Toddlers dance with crayons?  Good lord, this is a terrible metaphor, made worse by terrible execution.  It's like a heaping dose of terrible garbage force-fed to a dancing, drawing toddler who spews the terrible garbage everywhere, even on the walls, and then the Times publishes it.

But a major league player has a magic pen, too.
What?  Is Jeter now Harry &#@*% Potter?
 In Jeter’s letter to the fans, he expressed a common player belief that this game was a dream, the domain of the supernatural and unexplainable, enduring against all odds. 
Look at Jeter, going all Puck on the audience here. Also, I can only imagine the game of baseball, with its billions and billions of revenue, feels pretty scrappy because it's enduring against all odds.
So you tap your dreams, and accept that every once in a while they will be interrupted by a trip to the disabled list or a subpar season. Yet Jeter lived the daily dream of being an exceptional player with an exceptional organization behind him, and he became one of the best of baseball's dream.
With an exceptionally huge market and an exceptionally huge amount of money behind him buying exceptionally awesome players to fit around him.
Jeter has built a career on grit and hustle, on an inside-out swing and a jump throw to first from deep in the hole. The ice water in his veins enabled him to expect victory in the most dire circumstances, and doubled as an antidote to the sometimes venomous scrutiny that comes with playing in New York.
Grit?  Hustle?  Inside-out swing?  Jump throw? ICE WATER IN HIS VEINS?  JETER BINGO!
[And I didn't even use the free The Flip square in the center]
Jeter has always been daring and fearless, 
By fielding a lot of ground balls and hitting a lot of opposite field singles?  Shit, I did that in high school.  
and it takes a lot of courage to pre-empt the inevitable physical decline of a professional baseball player and do what he did this week: declare a self-imposed deadline and submit, finally, to baseball’s history book. 
How courageous of Jeter.  What COURAGE.  It's the most COURAGEOUS letter that's ever appeared on Facebook.  Other players merely retire when they get old, but nobody does it with Jeter's COURAGE. 
This is ridiculous.  The only baseball players whose retirement MIGHT be considered courageous are Sandy Koufax, Ralph Kiner, and Kirby Puckett, and even then, those were Sort of Obvious That They Couldn't Keep Playing.
The game’s actuarial tables don’t generally put a 40-year-old shortstop in the starting lineup on Opening Day for any contender, so he already enters this season as an anomaly.
Doug Glanville is lying.  Jeter will actually be 39 when he's in the starting lineup on Opening Day.  But why care about the truth when you're trying to sanctify the holiest shortstop ever to play the Game? 
Yet no player can completely control the ending. Happenstance is one of baseball’s great gifts and curses. When you are playing 162 games in a season, nearly every single day, anything can happen.
Anything can happen is our only hope.  Maybe Jeter's ankle will completely disintegrate on Opening Day and we will be spared the Jeter Parade of 2014.
Jeter never gave up until he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was over, and even then, he winked.
1. Never gave up.  BINGO.
2.What the hell?    He winked? Was Jeter trying to be coy?  Or did he have some of the good old grit in his eye?
 He is pragmatic and knows the risk of entering a season at this stage in his career without a plan: it’s an invitation to chaos. 
But he has a plan: waltz around the country, get lots of attention and gifts, help the Yankees to a first-round exit, and distribute gift baskets all along!  omg. Best.  Summer.  Ever.
There would be the inevitable questions about a slow bat or an unhealed ankle, the distractions and self-doubts that come with a slump at 40 versus a slump at 25.
In many ways, Jeter’s declaration not only provided parameters for himself, it spared his teammates and his manager. They will not have to explain his future struggles, they will not have to consider joining a conversation that suggests he think about retirement.
He spared them that! How noble! And then he courageously and generously and nobly invited them to 30 different Jeter Day parties.   I bet by the end of the season Brendan Ryan's face will be permanently distorted from 162 postgame interviews of fake smiling and he will just lose it if he has to tell one more reporter about the Honor of Backing Up Jeter.
Truth is, he does not know how this year will unfold. We can imagine the impossible — like a standing ovation in his honor at Fenway Park or a game-winning home run in Game 7 of the World Series — because all along he played for something bigger than rivalry and organizational pride. 
Oh god, what a nightmare. That's worse than my recurring nightmare about flunking out of graduate school, my wife leaving me and being sent to a gulag while my leprosy spreads over the just-healed gangrene. Please god by all that is good and ho do not let this happen.
Those priorities earn the respect of anyone who loves the game and cares about its future. Jeter transcended tried-and-true constructs, and it would be fitting if his transition from the game were transcendent.

But even though Jeter’s baseball legacy will be there for all time, the world changes, and how that legacy is interpreted will change with it. This is what is so hard. Even if we end on our terms, we still can’t know how we will be remembered.
That's not hard.  That's normal. In fact, I' m looking forward to seeing how history will look back on Jeter as an excellent Hall of Fame shortstop who did not transcend anything.  Nothing about this will be hard.
We hope there is something immutable about our effort. That we are somehow timeless and forever.
Good god, this overblown prose is worse than Rick Reilly.
 But we have to wait and see, and clarity still might not come in our lifetime. As Jeter stated in his letter to his fans, “Now it is time for a new chapter. I have new dreams and aspirations, and I want new challenges.”
Because playing baseball has become too challenging.
His greatest challenge may be those first steps without the pinstripes, without the packed stadium, without the opponent 60 feet 6 inches away.
A fifth of a billion dollars, the adulation of the biggest city in the country and worldwide fame might help him navigate that.
 It might arise while he’s sitting on the couch, opening up baseball’s history and seeing his entry complete, with nothing more to be added.
And saying, YEAH JEETS while pounding his chest.
And now for the dramatic ending, where Doug has saved the worst for last:
But the good news, as baseball turns to the next chapter, is that it’s a game that looks forward and backward equally, and something tells me that Derek Jeter will be that rarity who will find a way to travel through time and stand in both the past and in the future.
There it is, people! Doug Glanville thinks that Jeter will be able to travel through time.

That's it, folks.  I can't do any more Jeter Month.  Unless someone else takes up the torch, I'm done.  Next post will come sometime this week where I will discus how ESPN is digging up good old fashioned racism and decorating it with the facade of statistics!  Believe me, it's putrid.


Larry B said...

Thank God (by which I mean Jeter) that Jeter Month is over. I hate Jeter Month.

Anon said...

or a game-winning home run in Game 7 of the World Series

Game 7s can be indicative of an exciting, competitive series, but are way over-rated. Hit a home run with one out in the 5th in 2-0 win that clinches a sweep? Not bad. Hit a home run in the bottom of the 9th of a seven game series? Stick that gritty sumbitch in the hall! The latter might be exciting for a fan, but the former speaks to a team's dominance. It's the same with other stupid shit. Hit 2 home runs, a double, and get walked? Nice line. Hit a homer, a triple, a double and a single (even if you get stranded all three times)? Holy shitballs, you hit for the cycle!

It's one thing to be a baseball fan, but guys like Chass and Glanville are baseball fetishists.