Friday, September 26, 2014

The lesson of Derek Jeter: Blink, and 20 years go by

When he began, it was a different world...

I followed his minor league exploits in Baseball America, which came in the mail every other week. At night, I'd go onto the World Wide Web through a dial-up connection, which died whenever someone picked up a phone. Onto some "fan forum" I'd spew 90-proof bile about Danny Tartabull and tell the world about this future Yankee shortstop: Robert Eenhoorn was his name. Next morning, Alphonso and I would waste hours at work, shooting emails back and forth, wondering if Daryl Boston could turn it around...

My oldest son was six. Imagine that. My daughter wasn't even born. I played pick-up basketball games on Sunday afternoons, and on Saturdays, we'd visit the zoo. We hauled a massive diaper bag, where at the bottom we sometimes stashed cans of beer - security guys don't plunge hands into diaper bags. We were learning the art of parenthood, one game at a time.

God, it was yesterday...

Twenty years, a minute ago...

These days, the back always aches, the hair is thin, and the house creaks and moans, because no kids live here. Evenings used to be filled with laughter and tantrums - unbridled chaos: a mix of Barney the dinosaur, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and Nirvana. Now, every few minutes, you can hear the refrigerator rumble on.

But not last night. Last night, you heard yelling. My wife and I paced and shouted, juked and cheered. I stood in the front hall, watching YES in one room and listening to John and Suzyn from another. We held our old playoff positions. And when it happened, when he singled to right and the winning run scored, you would have thought the Yankees just won the World Series. And then, when he walked out to the empty shortstop position and bent over for his last time, the lesson of Derek Jeter hit me, loud and clear:

Savor every grounder.

Some folks grumble about the pace of baseball. They say the game moves too slowly to sate the modern A.D.D. appetite. They say football is the true American pastime. And, yes, occasionally, you think you've become frozen in time, and that, dear God, the ninth inning will never, ever, get here. But you blink, and twenty years go by...

Savor every grounder, folks. Like they say at Steiner Collectibles, there is a limited supply.

We won't see another Derek Jeter. I hope you got the message.


KD said...

I cried. no blubbering, mind you. Just those choked-back tears of joy and sadness. Joy for Jeter and our team. Sadness for me because I'll never be able to relive these past 20 years. The past is the past, bro. All we have now are our memories.

Thank you, Captain. You'll never leave me, for as long as I live or until my mind is shot, whichever comes first.

Ken of Brooklyn said...

Guys, what a monumental moment, and yes a few tears were shed in remembrance of the amazing ride that we've all experienced under Derek Jeter's tenure. There will never be another Captain like this.

El Duque,
I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for being the Captain of this blog! Your wit, wisdom, appropriately pointed sarcasm and deep fairness makes IIHIIFIIC an essential part of my day. You help me process. Your there to give voice to all the joys and frustrations that bounce around inside my tortured brain, eloquently describing the agonies and the ecstasies of what it means to be a fan, especially a fan who obsessively follows a team like the Yankees.

So bless you El Duque, and a heartfelt thanks to ALL of you that contribute to this wonderful, irreverent, and beautiful blog!

el duque said...

Thanks for the kind words, but you have it backwards. You guys are what makes this blog worth doing.

Alphonso said...

I had to go to Norway to avoid the pain of Derek's last appearance. It is so cool that he will not play in Boston.

There are Yankee fans in Oslo, wearing hats with the interlocking NY.

We are all lost now. Doomed to wander the wilderness.

No Yankees remain from our latest and greatest run.
I may jump into a fjord.

A well written passage,pal..


el duque said...

Watch out for those Oslo-ites who are wearing NY caps. I think they're part of a sex cult. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

BernBabyBern said...

Last night is why Olbermann had the whole Jeter thing wrong.

Olbermann has evolved into the type of fan who boils everything down to numbers ... a list, a chart, indecipherable acronyms for stats so he can Tweet to the world that Derek Jeter couldn't carry Chipper Jones' jock strap.

Numbers are fun. I'm the first to admit that numbers have a certain beauty in baseball.

But the real beauty in baseball, and in life, are moments. The moments that become seared in your mind and stay there for the rest of your life.

Jeter's career was about moments. The celebration in '96, the postseason hits, the HR vs. Arizona, the 'flip', and so many more, right through to last night.

For most of us who followed Jeter's career, we're quite a bit older now; we don't look at baseball (or anything in life, for that matter) in quite the same way. Jeter was the last link to that time.

The real reason so many of us thought last night was a special night -- and why grown men are writing that they teared up -- wasn't because Derek Jeter will never have a moment like that again.

It's because we realize that we won't, either.

Dutch Maarten said...

I am from Holland. Robert Eenhoorn country. Unfortunately I have only seen Jeter play 3 times. On television al lot more but not enough thanks to the time difference.
The way you follow the Yankees is similar to the way fans of Feyenoord Rotterdam (soccer) tend to look at their club. Critical, cynical and with humor.
There is a huge difference too. You don't hesitate to admire your greats. We are not very good at that.
It is fun reading this blog and enjoying the satire and the banter.
It's truly wonderful to read about the admiration and live for a true icon.
Thanks. A lot.

Buhner's Ghost said...

Fabulous ending, brilliant writing! Rebuilding isn't nearly that much fun, but provides endless opportunities for sarcasm. Welcome to my world.

Bill from Manhattan said...

Game Called. Across the field of play
the dusk has come, the hour is late.
The fight is done and lost or won,
the player files out through the gate.
The tumult dies, the cheer is hushed,
the stands are bare, the park is still.
But through the night there shines the light,
home beyond the silent hill.

Game Called. Where in the golden light
the bugle rolled the reveille.
The shadows creep where night falls deep,
and taps has called the end of play.
The game is done, the score is in,
the final cheer and jeer have passed.
But in the night, beyond the fight,
the player finds his rest at last.

Game Called. Upon the field of life
the darkness gathers far and wide,
the dream is done, the score is spun
that stands forever in the guide.
Nor victory, nor yet defeat
is chalked against the players name.
But down the roll, the final scroll,
shows only how he played the game.

Grantland Rice, 1956

Beautiful video version:

The Ghost of Scott Brosius said...

Duque's post and KD and Bern's comments have summed up my emotions perfectly. I have nothing more to add.