Home > Uncategorized > How Jeter Helps Us…

How Jeter Helps Us…

Ok, admittedly, I am a baseball fan. I could watch baseball all day, then turn on the lights on the back porch and play catch with my son until one of us gets hit in the face. But despite that fact, I think I can be a little impartial in saying that Derek Jeter is helping the United States stay human. (And I’m not a Yankees fan…at all.)

Yesterday a friend of mine was recounting her experience with her son’s concussion, and the multiple other football players she saw coming in and out of the ER. I was glad my son likes to play baseball.

NFL season is in full pass rush by now and I’ve turned off the TV on Sunday afternoons. There are players killing people, beating their wives, whipping their four-year-old children, and those are the things I have heard about just recently.

Now, I realize a few things: 1. NFL players aren’t the only ones acting poorly. In fact, they are just holding up a mirror to the public. As a pastor I saw a lot of these things in my parishioners, and as a person I see the tendencies of poor behavior in myself. 2. As a culture, the American people have encouraged an atmosphere in which we have allowed young men who have the ability to throw, kick, catch, and carry a ball to believe they are above the rules. 3. My son has a Richard Sherman jersey (Seattle Seahawks player). At 11 years, he is drawn to the chest-beating, bicep-kissing, self-aggrandizing behavior. And he emulates them…when he thinks I can’t see him. 4. Sports is not sport anymore at that level. It is corporation. It is business. Just look at the difficulty ESPN has in honest reporting regarding sports it gets to air on its stations.

What about Jeter? After all, I did title this with his name in it…which may be why anyone looked at it at all. Derek Jeter. Captain Clutch. Mr. November. His post-season heroics have earned him those names. The Yankees owner (I told you I’m not a fan of the Yanks…so, I won’t mention his name) gave him the rare and well-earned position as “Captain” of the team. And now, at the end of his 20-year MLB career, he’s getting the accolades due him.

Every ball park he played in during his final season has given him a standing ovation. He’s even getting respect in Boston – the Yankees’ division and eternal rivals. With my son I attended one of his final games in Detroit just so my son could, in his old age, say to his grandchildren that he had seen the Captain play. The Kalamazoo Kid was gifted soil from the three main ball parks he played on in Michigan, and seats from old Tigers’ Stadium. He’s a demigod. He’s worshipped. He somehow stands out as different. Does he? And if so, why?

First of all he is different…from the bad boys. He’s different in that he doesn’t get into trouble. You never ever hear about Derek Jeter in conjunction with troglodytic behavior. In that way he is different. He’s also different in that he is a great player. His numbers are astounding due to his ability and his longevity and the supporting cast he’s had in 20 years with a well-funded team. He’s different.

And he’s not different…from the rest. Sports teams have the bad boys, but a majority are superlative people who see their abilities as a way to improve their communities, fund non-profits, and visit sick kids in hospitals to bring joy in the midst of pain. They work hard, they are committed to their families and their world. There are hundreds of them. Jeter is no different from them in that respect.

But now, as Derek Jeter puts the closing at bats on his career, he is getting more press than murderers, wife-beaters, child-abusers, and the rest. All eyes are turned in his direction because of how he is different. And we need him to be different. We need someone to show us, to remind us, that we can be human…and sometimes that takes a demigod to show us.

All the brokenness of the bad boys is a mirror to our society, and that’s why we need people like Jeter to hold up their mirror, too. So we see the other side of our humanity – the humane side. But for all the ways he is different, he is simply human, and reminds us to hold up our own mirrors to the rest of the world. At the end of the day, the Kalamazoo Kid is just that – a kid who grew up in West Michigan just like my son. I hope my son will grow up to reflect all the good things placed in him by his Creator. No not Jeter…Jeter’s Creator.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Keepers, Tammy
    September 26, 2014 at 10:55 am

    Love this, Jim!! You are a really great writer!

    🙂 Tam

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