By Sweeny Murti
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That was a finish even the haters had to smile at, right?

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The bouquets were being thrown at Derek Jeter all week. All year really, but as this final week hit they were coming in bunches, and we were as guilty as anybody with the tributes poured out in this space. And if you haven’t seen them yet, well, just click on the links below and see what all the fuss was about!

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Yes, I know some of you thought it was overkill. From the anonymous trolls on Twitter to Keith Olbermann — even Mike Francesa thought things were going a little too far.

OK, guilty.

But didn’t last night just prove what we’ve been talking about? A great player had a great moment. Nobody said the greatest player had the greatest moment, and even for Jeter, in his career, when he’s had time to process what happened at Yankee Stadium on Thursday, will surely rank winning World Series championships ahead of an individual moment like last night’s. But it was special, an uplifting night that won’t be forgotten.

And nobody made it up — it really happened.

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It was a happy moment, not a sad one. Remember last year when Mariano Rivera wept on the mound, embraced by Andy Pettitte? Remember what Jeter was doing as he stood next to them? He was smiling, laughing even, and clapping in celebration of a wonderful career. Happy that it happened, not sad that it was over. And even though the emotions Jeter felt last night might have been a little like Mariano’s, it should be a happy moment for the rest of us.

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The sendoff was fitting. I know the Yankees missed the playoffs and there was no final victory parade. But as the Yankees have shown us many times since the dynasty that marked the beginning of Jeter’s career ended, winning it all just isn’t that easy. Jeter knows that and respects that more than anybody.

So with no guarantee of winning the World Series even if they made it into the tournament, isn’t last night the way it should have ended? Or would you prefer the final bow to be taken while the Angels or Tigers celebrated a series-clinching victory?

There are greater tragedies than not winning a championship. You will get over it and start a new quest for a title next spring. But that moment — it was worth it.

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Watching Jeter react to the crowd, say his many thank yous to the fans, and talk about what it meant to him to play for this team in this city, it made you feel as if he gets it. He isn’t from New York, but he is New York. He gets it.

And you know what? It didn’t matter what his batting average was, or his OPS, or his range factor. It didn’t matter where he batted in the order or how often he played shortstop. What happened last night was the memory that wipes all that away. After all, wasn’t the argument for Jeter that he was always about more than the numbers? What proves it more than last night’s game?

And soon, after one more round of bows at Fenway Park this weekend, the haters will get their wish and we can go on talking about all the other “role models” in sports, like Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson.

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