By Jared Max
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Were you feeling good last Sunday afternoon, perhaps indefinably so?
When Boston Red Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski cozied up to future Hall-of-Famer and fellow team captain Derek Jeter on the infield at Fenway Park during Sunday’s pregame ceremony, did you feel warm and fuzzy?
The sunny state of my spirit Sunday did not baffle me as much as it intrigued me. It sparked thoughts that I have wondered about for years. Why was my little baby soul smiling, witnessing eternal baseball rivals sharing admiration and love? Why do we cheer, maybe even shed a tear when we see naysayers convert? Why does it make me feel good to hear my father, a Red Sox fan, speak positively about Jeter?
Like the word that has been tagged to Jeter, a core element in the success of any relationship is respect. Be it between player and media, celebrity and fan, husband and wife. My best friend recently shared a line that his mother used to tell him: “Love is a wonderful thing, but love won’t make a marriage last. Only respect will.”
When we see two people who are fierce fighters in the ring, but respectful of each other’s worth and their commitment to their craft, we have ingredients for ever-special moments like those that occurred Sunday. And, no, I’m not referring to what happened in prime time TV — Peter Griffin and Homer Simpson meeting for the first time, before fighting each other in epic, Peter-versus-chicken “Family Guy” style. Interestingly, it was another sports farewell 20 years ago in Boston that showed us how vulnerable we can be to becoming sports softies. When the Celtics retired Larry Bird’s No. 33 jersey, the evening’s most memorable moment was the time Bird shared mid-court with his longtime rival and dear friend Magic Johnson. If not for common respect for each other, their story could not be as rich. This goes for sports and other avenues.
When you see public servants from opposing political parties join forces, do you ask yourself why it feels good? Whether it’s a Democratic President Barack Obama and New Jersey’s Republican Governor Chris Christie teaming up after Hurricane Sandy or George W. Bush challenging “my good friend Bill Clinton” to complete the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, do you feel inexplicably happy? I do. Why?
Following their relentless disgust-filled pounding of each other hours before, Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed shared a moment in the opening scenes of “Rocky II” inside Rocky’s hospital room. Following his defeat to the champion, Rocky appears surprised that Apollo, equally battered and bandaged, visits him. Apollo asks, “Did you give me your best?” Rocky responds, “Yeah, yeah.” Apollo says, “Thank you.” The audience says, “Because you respect each other, we like both of you.”
It seems that anytime we see a protagonist and antagonist break bread, we feel like everything is OK. Whenever I watch my favorite sports movie, “Hoosiers,” I get emotional in the scene when the townies who had tried to run Coach Dale out of town pat him on the back, expressing admiration and respect for his character.
In September, 1983, I got to see Carl Yastrzemski play his final game at Yankee Stadium. Aside from having seen Yaz play many games at Fenway Park, I knew there was significance to my father taking me to see his last appearance in the Bronx. Even if my dad might have been trying to make me a Red Sox fan — buying me a special “Yaz” retirement pennant — I respected what that night meant to the retiring Red Sox captain, to my father who loved Yastrzemski, to the Yankees fans who treated No. 8 like Boston fans did No. 2.
While it was a treat Sunday night to see the Griffins and Simpsons frolic and fight together, the fictitious, animated story paled in comparison to an earlier meeting that day of strange bedfellows: Red Sox pitcher Joe Kelly asking Derek Jeter to pose for an on-field selfie while his teammates waited eagerly in line for their chance at a lasting memory with a man no longer their enemy — a man who had inflicted irate madness to Red Sox Nation countless times in the last two decades.
When you saw this, were you beaming with human goodness, gushing over Boston’s unprecedented, noble salute to an opposing warrior — let alone, a Yankee?
When respect is mutual, anything is possible.
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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