I throw around sports epithets like the Feds throw around tax dollars. ---
They mean nothing to me... except for one: "He plays the game the way it should be played". That one is hallowed. There are only a handful of sports stars that have ever lived up to that level of acclaim and they are becoming more and more rare with time.
Walter Payton, Julius Erving, Cal Ripken Jr.; those are the kinds of people I am talking about. Players who were good enough to be the best in their sport but who held their team, their sport and their communities in higher regard than their personal stature. They truly love the game and the combination of honor, dedication and talent raises them above their peers. They are superstars for sure... but they are even more than that. They are icons.
One player to add to that list is Derek Jeter.
Jeter broke Lou Gehrig's record for hits by a Yankee today, and I recorded the moment. I did it because I am a Yankee fan certainly, but more importantly I did it because I wanted another opportunity to talk about Jeter with my 2 sons. You see, I could care less if my boys are Yankee fans (ok, maybe I care a little) but I do care that they recognize someone who deserves to be emulated. On Wednesday, when Derek Jeter’s third hit of the game gave him 2,721 in a Yankee uniform, tying a record held by Lou Gehrig for 70 years he was reluctant to salute the crowd. The Yankees were down at the time on the scoreboard and he didn’t want to “disrespect” the Rays even though they were clapping for him at the top of the dugout themselves. In his next at bat he drew a walk and while the Yankee fans booed loudly he humbly ran to first base without any disappointment because he understood the importance of a baserunner in what was then a 4-2 game.
"The Flip" and "The Dive" are two of the greatest plays in baseball history. Four World Series championships, AL Rookie of the Year and two gold gloves are just points in a hall of fame career. The way Jeter respects his opponents, plays hard but fair, embraces his position as a role model and an ambassador of the game are what set him apart. Sure, I would love it if either of my boys were to end up as Captain of the Yankees, but I would be even more proud of them if they ended up being like Derek Jeter.