By Jared Max
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As yet another klezmer jingle danced through the Yankee Stadium speakers in the late innings Wednesday afternoon, my focus jolted from covering the Jeter vacuum, reminded that at sundown Rosh Hashanah would arrive.
Seated in the first row of the press box between home plate and first base, I tapped my foot and quietly sang a few rounds of “Hava Nagila” before my mind went to a funny place. I envisioned a quartet of his teammates lifting Jeter on a chair, raised high in the air as Yankees, Orioles and umpires locked hands dancing the hora, circling the infield, navigating the captain’s bouncing ship to his familiar home on the left side. But, this didn’t happen. Jeter remained the designated hitter, left holding a bat in the on deck circle when Brett Gardner made the game’s final out.
While the head (“Rosh”) of the year (Hashanah”) occasionally coincides with the Gregorian calendar in early October, in 2014 it lands in late September, as usual. Normally, I would have been home cooking my grandmother’s family famous brisket, preparing to attend a feast. Since most of my family is out of town this year, I drove to the Bronx instead, to be a part of another holiday celebration: “The Captain’s Final Regular-Season Day Game at Yankee Stadium.”
No latkes. Lots of chanting. And, praying for Mother Nature to not ruin Derek Jeter’s grand finale.
Because of undeniable threats of heavy, consistent rain forecast for the hours leading up to “The Captain’s Final Game at Yankee Stadium” (no need to say “regular season” anymore since the Yankees were eliminated from playoff contention yesterday), I wondered if this penultimately scheduled home game could turn out to be Jeter’s last. Imagine that! What if the final scheduled home game gets rained out? What about fans who shelled out hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to buy tickets on the secondary market so they could see Jeter play his final home game? Because it is void of playoff implications (except maybe home-field advantage for the O’s), there would be no need — or time — to make it up. After the Yankees-Red Sox series ends Sunday, the Orioles will have to prepare for a playoff game. They will not be returning to the Bronx until 2015.
Life does not always go as planned. Jeter’s shortstop-record-tying hit was ruled an error weeks after the milestone occurred, rendering the record-breaker a record-matching hit (and, a certain piece of memorabilia less significant than originally thought). With Jeter, we have come to know it is best to expect the unexpected. This is why he is so Jeterian, why this weekend figures to be chock full of surprises, too.
Sunday will be surreal. For one night, Boston Red Sox fans will be conflicted. I foresee that most will not be able to hold back from rooting for a man who has been the enemy since the mid-90s. For just one night, I predict they’ll grant themselves the opportunity to experience what it feels like cheer for their rival’s leader. They will stand. They will cheer. They might chant his name. They may show their own form of respect, chanting “JETER SUCKS.” Either way, the stage is set for the stuff that makes men cry. If you were teary-eyed during Jeter’s Gatorade commercial, you might want to buy an extra box of tissues at the supermarket Sunday for what is in store later that evening.
Regardless of faith, Yankees fans are celebrating while taking pause, reflecting on the past and asking questions about the future. Do you remember how you felt when Don Mattingly retired? You fell in love with Tino Martinez. Don’t fuss over what might it feel like to root for a Yankees team without Jeter. If the next several years are reminiscent of those non-playoff seasons stretching from prime Mattingly to pre-Jeter, you will deal with it.
You have been fattened by the Yankees for nearly two decades. Now, it is time to shed a rich, pinstriped skin.
Be grateful for what we were fortunate to witness.
While some these days may celebrate Rosh Hashanah saying “L’shanah tova,” in any language, universally, Yankees fans should wish each other a “Happy 2 Year!”
Jared Max is a multi-award winning sportscaster. He hosted a No. 1 rated New York City sports talk show, “Maxed Out” — in addition to previously serving as longtime Sports Director at WCBS 880, where he currently anchors weekend sports. Follow and communicate with Jared on Twitter @jared_max.
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