Derek Jeter's "RE2PECT" Tribute Is Why Derek Jeter Matters


Derek Jeter matters. He matters for way more reasons than this picture, obviously, and he matters now perhaps more than ever.

No matter what you hear, baseball still matters in America. If it didn't, talks of a guy like Clayton Kershaw being offered a $300 million contract would cease to exist. The sport still matters to those who grew up loving the game, often finding a part of themselves woven into diamonds immaculate and rundown across America.

Contrarily, baseball isn't America's go-to sport anymore. A "No shit, Sherlock" statement if there was one, the truth of the matter is it's hard to imagine Major League Baseball surpassing the NBA or NFL in the next decade. The NFL — although hellbent on shooting itself in the foot at whatever costs — is miles ahead of the pack in terms of America's number one sports obsession. The NBA's superstars are the most unique in the world. It's hard to imagine anything in baseball even coming close to something like the LeBron hysteria.

Baseball has its all-stars. And its superstars. And, even, its megastars. Yet, with the game's publicity firmly planted behind the other two aforementioned leagues, it's a name like Derek Jeter that breaks from the mold. Casual fans recognize him. Hell, my grandmother hasn't watched baseball since the days of Willie Mays, and she understands the importance of this being "The Captain's" last season.

He's been arguably the game's most recognizable ambassador (with respect to names like Bonds, Griffey, Clemens, Rodriguez, etc.). He's carried the title of poster boy and done so without committing an error, figuratively speaking of course. Playing for the New York Yankees doesn't hurt either.

Therein lies the complexity of it all, though. New York City, supposedly the mecca of everything from sports, hip-hop, pop culture and pizza, has traditionally swallowed its own talent. The lights are bright. The critics are sharp, swift and oftentimes relentless. And in New York, everybody is a critic. Everybody.

Tuesday night, Derek Jeter plays in his final "midsummer classic." To commemorate the event, Jordan Brand pieced together a clip only 100 seconds in length. In that minute and 40 seconds, however, it explained perfectly the fascination with Jeter. He thrived in an era where "chicks dug the long ball." He never put up gaudy offensive numbers that transcended his era or questioned his legitimacy while doing so. He was ... just ... there, leading America's most beloved and despised baseball team.

There's another time and place to discuss the legend of Jeter away from the diamond. Like the who's who of women's he's been attached to, the fact not one scandal was ever attached to his name — in NEW YORK FREAKIN' CITY — the tales of how he snatched grown men's women right in front of them and his legendary party exploits in Tampa.

Derek Jeter is the Dos Equis Man with a baseball bat. But the commercial, airing tonight before the All-Star Game at Target Field in Minneapolis, did nail three undeniable truths.

1. Brevity. Otherwise defined as what I didn't use. Watch the commercial again. Exactly 11 words were spoken, and we all left with goosebumps on our arms and, for those in touch with their emotional side, a tear or two in our eyes. What's understood doesn't need to be said. One of these days I'll understand this.

2. Sunday, September 28. Week 4 the NFL season resumes then. It's also Game 162 for the New York Yankees, signaling the end of the regular season, which could very well be the Bronx Bombers' final game if the postseason isn't in their cards. In poetic fashion, the game is at Fenway Park.

While it was only a commercial and who knows how the BoSox's fans will approach the scene in real life, if we're lucky, they'll provide one of the all-time great sports moments as Jeter steps to the plate for his last appearance in enemy territory. Rivalries define sports, but the appreciation by fans and players alike to recognize the importance of a once-in-a-lifetime moment such as this one is why we're all bonded by the love of the game in the first place.

3. Star Power. Rudy Giuliani, Spike Lee, Jay Z, Billy Crystal, Action Bronson, Michael Jordan, Michael Jordan's atrocious hat, his old Yankee comrades Joe Torre, Marino Rivera, Tino Martinez, Tiger Woods, the list goes on. That many power players tipping their hats basically saying, "Thank you ... for putting on for the city, for the championships, for becoming a legend ... for everything" is a feeling we all hope to embrace at least once in our lives (minus the World Series rings). That's how we know we've done this thing called "living" right and we weren't just down here dicking around on borrowed time.

Phil Jackson even got Jeanie Buss in the clip. In her Lakers hat! The only question now is, if Melo wouldn't have re-signed, how would that have worked? That's water under the bridge now.

What isn't, nonetheless, is that Derek Jeter matters — perhaps now more than ever because the game itself is staring life without him directly in the face.

Where RE2PECT is given, RE2PECT is earned (and this comes from someone whose highest affiliation with the Yankees comes from his classic navy blue NY fitted cap). With 3,316 career hits, five Gold Gloves, 13 All-Star Games and five championship rings, the hope is my generation appreciates having had one of sports' all-time icons in our lives for three different decades. That gift doesn't come around too often.

Mission accomplished. **tips hat**

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