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Ask anyone who grew up in Chicago. We hate the Yankees with an undying hatred, a purple passion. In fact, if all New York sports teams lose every game from now until eternity, we still won't feel the score is settled. Fine. Now that you know where I stand, let me comment on Derek Jeter and why I think so much of him.
I watched "60 Minutes" last night, where Derek Jeter was the subject of one of their segments, with Ed Bradley doing the honors. I was expecting something different than what he turned out to be. Derek is the son of an African-American father, and and Irish-American mother. There are those who scorn such children because those with that attitude are simply racist idiots - something of a redundancy, that. May children like Derek Jeter help put the bullshit of racism to rest. May we all live to see an age where such irrelevancies are no longer something even worth mentioning. Derek Jeter's a man any parent should be proud of, beyond question. The more such childern exist, the better, in my book. Let the fallacies of racism die as soon as possible in the face of contrary evidence.
Derek Jeter was clearly portrayed sympathetically on the show. I don't know him and I don't know the extent to which the interview was representative of him as a real person. But what I saw makes me proud to be a member of the human race, and that doesn't happen every day, unfortunately.
First of all, he's an articulate, intelligent sports hero who apparently had a father who instilled some really important values. He doesn't do steroids, he isn't a crackhead, and has tried all his life to live up to the expectations laid on him by a caring father. Not every young man responds equally well to the lessons such a father tries to convey to his son. It says a lot about the man. Derek Jeter respected his father and his father deserved that respect, because he gave his son a sense of responsibility. In fact, his father deserves respect because he was there, living up to his responsibilities as a father, and didn't abandon his children. Sadly, it seems that many fathers have failed their sons even in this most basic sense. I admire Derek Jeter's father, as well as Derek.
Furthermore, Derek Jeter is apparently not so impressed with himself and his achievements as an athlete to be unwilling to accommodate his many fans, of all races and creeds. He signs autographs, poses for pictures, and cheerfully puts up with not having a private life. Most people can't begin to appreciate what he puts up with, and he does it with obvious gratitude for the support he receives from his fans. He's not some spoiled multimillionare jock, with an ego to match his paycheck. Again, Derek Jeter breaks the stereotype.
By being the child of an interracial marrage, he's evidently been the subject ot ignorant taunts and heckling all his life. It would be easy for such a man to be bitter about his lot in life as a result of his heritage. Instead, Derek Jeter is simply a man, and seems impervious to the racist nonsense he undoubtedly has to deal with on a regular basis. I admire the man for his attitude. He's focused on being the best athlete he can be. Winning in a team sport depends on him supporting his teammates, including Jason Giambi, the admitted stereoid user. Why? Because, he says, Giambi supports his teammates, and so deserves their support in turn. I place a big premium on loyalty, and Derek Jeter scores high in my book.
He's a man to be admired, in a sport that is wracked by scandal and various forms of bad behavior by athletes who are privileged to be playing a kid's game for a king's salary. Derek Jeter exemplifiies what we desperately want our heroes to be - he actually is a role model for our own children. He's a Yankee that I'm willing to cheer for, and that says a lot. I hope his team loses, but I hope he goes 4 for 4, with 6 RBIs and hits for the cycle. We Americans search almost desperately for heroes among the athletes we support, but usually get something far less. Derek Jeter is a man. The man, in my book, despite my being a diehard Yankee hater.
Derek Jeter is a class act. I'll even cheer for him when he comes to bat against the White Sox or Cubs. Imagine what we all could do if we could overcome our stupid, irrational prejudices. Derek Jeter has shown us the way. Can we not follow his example?