By Jason Keidel
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There you are, tethered to some fantasy, pulsing with projection because your crumbling hero somehow reflects upon you.
This is not directed at the 25-year-old who still sees Derek Jeter through the prism of his adolescence, because your mindset is understandable. But if you’re my age (41) and still cling to Jeter like a teddy bear fresh from the shelf at FAO Schwarz, you have issues. I’m talking to you.
I know you love Derek Jeter. He loves you, too, in that I-make-$3 million-a-month-to-live-off-my-reputation kinda way. There was a time when he needed your singular sense of affection. Now is not that time.
Indeed, he so cherished your vote, your ballot-box ballad that he refused to attend the All-Star Game, under the guise of resting the very calf that was just fine for his 3,000th hit.
For goodness sake, Jeter isn’t even the best shortstop on his own team. Lord knows there are myriad reasons to dislike Alex Rodriguez, but he’s five times the player Jeter ever was. Just open your eyes. And it was Jeter who brooded far too long upon A-Rod’s arrival, stretching a schism that needn’t exist, based on a silly quote years earlier, for which Alex apologized.
Bring it, your obdurate theories while I tend to facts, the most important one being that there’s no stat in the history of human athletics to suggest that any 37-year-old man (not using steroids) gets better at his craft, particularly a shortstop. Cal Ripken hit .271 at Jeter’s age, and Ernie Banks hit .246. Joe Louis and Jackie Robinson are allowed to get old, but not Derek Jeter. Seriously?
I’m astonished by the rancor I received for making the simple (and accurate) assertion that Derek Jeter is no longer a great baseball player. There’s only infinite data to support it, including his batting average (over 40 points below his career average) his on-base percentage (50 points below his career average), and every other important statistic, for nearly two years now.
Heaven knows why that kid surrendered his college tuition to Jeter, burping that ball for a MetroCard and two tickets to Lion King. But we can’t be mad at him. He’s a child. What’s your excuse?
My inbox boiled with invectives, “Eat it, Jason,” was the kindest among many unprintable things, folks hiding behind pseudonyms. When did I say he wouldn’t get 3000 hits? Never. I said he’s a shadow of his former brilliance. I said it last year, this year, and I’ll be correct again next year. Deal with it. I’m not right because I’m brilliant, blessed with unique prescience. Unlike many of my media brethren, I consider my readers peers, not peasants. In this case, I’m just a little more lucid.
Many of these rabid missives came from women. Women! Men are born fools – and I am chief among them – but women are the sensible gender. I know why boys want to be like him and girls want to be with him. Just try to keep, if not a leg, a foot or a few toes back in reality.
You’ve gulped that pill and entered the sporting iteration of an acid trip, your battle cry sung by Grace Slick, lost in the forest with that White Rabbit, stumbling around your inverted reality where all things get bigger and better. It’s all gibberish, fueled by this misguided mantra you refuse to swallow. Let me help you help yourself.
I fed your delusion as long as I could, but now it’s dangerous, a Derek Dementia soon to be certified by the American Medical Association as a pandemic. (Not really, but you get my drift.) Writers are a romantic lot, and I fed your fantasy as long as I could. Then he got 3K hits and my inbox bubbled with vulgarity.
No doubt the walls of your man cave are lathered with all things Jeter. Try replacing the posters with Curtis Granderson’s visage. Curtis is more articulate, equally gifted, gritty, and classy. I pined for Granderson the moment I watched him with Detroit. He’s a born Yankee, like your beloved Derek, whose only sin is age, though you can’t accept it.
I think Cary Grant and Denzel Washington were exquisitely handsome at 37, though I never saw them hit Doc Halladay’s fastball at 38. Neither will Jeter.
I was at The Game back in 2004 when Jeter dove into the hard, plastic ocean of blue seats for that pop-up and emerged with a bumpy, bloody wince, and my skin bristled with goose bumps with the rest of you. That was seven years ago. Open your calendar, your heart, and your mind. It’s 2011, gang. Get used to it.
We’re New Yorkers, imbued with fight – not the venom with which the world west of the Hudson hideously typecasts us. We’re good people. But we love a beef. And we’ve got one now.
Keep it coming. Stand on your warped prerogative as a sightless fan and forgo the facts. Your contention that Jeter is still Jeter is, in the words of the greatest writer to grip a pen, a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing…
Feel free to email me: Jakster1@mac.com
You heard the man. Address your issues in the comments.