Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Derek Jeter: The last great transitional career in Yankee/human history

When Derek Jeter joined the Yankees, we were a Windows '95 nation. There was no Twitter, no Facebook, no YouTube, no iPhone, no iPod, no blogs... no OMG! no WTF? Yes... no River Ave, no Lohud, not even an It Is High! The stars of baseball - Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire - were icons worthy of a Disney movie. Barack Obama was the recent editor of the Harvard Law Review. To "surf" the Internet, you dialed a phone. To navigate a city, you unfurled a road map. To get a box score, you read the newspaper. And The Master, John Sterling, had never even fathomed "an A-Bomb from A-Rod."

We were in the BJ period of Yankee/human history: Before Jeter.

Jeter's recent retirement announcement has provoked an avalanche of crapola, so many wooden paragraphs that I still hesitate to toss mine into the fire. But after contemplating the depths of this change, I am unable to ponder what kind of Yankee future lies ahead in the AJ period - After Jeter. Because, my friends, this is bigger than we think. All those words we've blathered - they're nothing compared with what's coming.

I believe the reason Jeter resonates with so many fans - beyond his greatness, of course - is that his career connects the period of old TV America and whatever the hell we are in now. It's still America, of course - but one that in 1995, when Jeter came forth, you could not recognize. Over the years, cultural change has accelerated. But Jeter remained shortstop for the Yankees.

Yes, there are other societal consistencies. Aside from going deaf for a while due to drug use, Rush Limbaugh never stopped screaming about Democrats. Politicians still use trumped up hot buttons - and there's Donald Trump himself, and TV news is still worthless, and racism is still common, and Hollywood is still full of self-promoting phonies. In 1995, America was trying to figure out who to back in the Middle East. Guess what? We still are.

But Derek Jeter hustled then, and he hustles now. He will leave baseball running with all his might on his last at bat, even if it is an infield pop. Nobody will ever replace him in the Yankiverse. I think Robbie Cano understood this, when he jogged off to Seattle.

Beloit College annually writes a mindset index about the incoming freshman class, sort of a reset button for geezers to try and understand the world of young people. The index for the incoming class of 2011, which puts them born around the time of Jeter's arrival, includes these notions:

The freshman class 1) Never “rolled down” a car window; 2) Grew up with bottled water; 3) Always viewed Nelson Mandela has the leader of South Africa; 4) Always saw rap music as mainstream; 5) Has known Russia to have a multi-party political system; 6) Viewed sports stadiums and rock tours as commonly named for corporations; 7) Have never seen MTV feature music videos; 8) Never saw Johnny Carson live on TV.

When Jeter leaves, the changes are going to be greater than we think.

When Jeter leaves, Yogi Berra will be a collection of quotes, Magic Johnson will be a baseball owner, and Don Shula will just be a steakhouse.

When Jeter leaves, folks, a part of our lives will end. I'm not even sure how to describe it, other than to say the Yankees will not be the same for a long, long time - probably in our lifetimes. This is huge, folks. This is Roy Scheider having seen the shark. People, when Jeter leaves, to fathom it, we are going to need a bigger boat.


KD said...

Even now the museum at Yankee Stadium has a "Derek Jeter Era" display, all gaudy with championship trophies. We'll be having some great old timers' days, won't we?

ceeja said...

When do the Yankees ever again put together a young cohort of players like Williams-Jeter-Posada-Pettite-Rivera? This has been a good run, but unless the Yanks do something creative they are going to be in the wilderness for the next 10 years at least.

I think the business plan is to spend enough money to be marginally competitive. But what they really need to do is to rethink the way they are getting new talent. I think the entire scouting and general manager office should be sacked.

KD said...

Ceeja: we'll be hip-deep in nostalgia until our dying days.

My wish for 2018 Old-Timers' Game: An homage to the brilliant 1998 World Championship team with every player in attendance. Even Shane Spencer!

The Sayonara Kid said...

Well said.