Please forgive me because I can’t help myself! It’s in my DNA as a lifelong Boston Red Sox fan. My genetic code has preprogrammed me to hate the NY Yankees. But I am not at all ashamed to admit that I absolutely love Derek Jeter. The man is a genuine class act. He is the ultimate professional, the All Star’s ALL STAR and I’m not just talking about his prodigious athletic talents.
In today’s world of professional sports where spoiled, entitled, infantile, self-promoting narcissists are more the rule rather than the exception, Jeter is a breath of fresh air. He distinguishes himself as the selfless penultimate team player who is far more concerned with the team’s successes rather than his own selfish accomplishments. He is genuinely self-effacing and makes those around him better.
This has been a crowning year for the 35 year old who was recently named the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of The Year for his accomplishments. The sure bet for the Hall of Fame helped lead the Yankees to another and his 5th World Series Championship, (God, I hate the Yankees), he won his 4th Gold Glove, his 4th Silver Slugger (as the best hitting shortstop in the league), the Hank Aaron Award (as the fan’s best hitter in the American League) and the Roberto Clemente Award for his humanitarian service.
Jeter is a throwback to the early days of sports when athletes valued humility, respect of others, team effort, hard work and sportsmanship. He is the Anti Allen Iverson (of the “Practice?! You talking to me about PRACTICE?!”) who believes that success comes from commitment and consistent hard work, and that your reputation, skills and accomplishments don’t excuse you from busting your butt all of the time. Jeter has little tolerance for teammates or anyone else who cuts corners and slacks off. He believes in going all out, all of the time regardless of the score or how unimportant a game may be.
As a total team player, he is a natural born leader who instills confidence in his teammates. In his break-out, rookie season with the Yanks (Have I told you how much I hate the Yankees?), as a 21 year old, Jeter established the Turn 2 Foundation to help youth live a drug and alcohol free lifestyle. How many professional athletes that you know immediately think of giving back at their very first taste of success? The Foundation’s first year they raised $300,000 and to date, they have awarded more than $10 million in grants. $500,000 of this money was recently invested in launching the Derek Jeter Academy in Tampa, an outpatient counseling center for teens seeking individual or family substance abuse treatment.
Unlike the Tiger Woods of the world who skillfully craft a public persona that is a shell of who they really are character and personal integrity-wise, Jeter is genuinely the same individual both on and off the field. His public image is his private image. He is respectful of others, honest and genuinely a nice person.
The things that truly bother him are when people don’t care, when they fail to invest all of their efforts in their craft. He is also not much of a fan of self-promotion, individual statistics, negativity and those who use injury as an excuse for not going all out and for failing.
Jeter plays the game today the way he did when he was in Little League, with 100% effort, passion, enthusiasm and FUN. Derek Jeter is a class act and a true champion. He may be a Yankee, but he’s got some great things to teach us all, even if you’re a die-hard Red Sox fan!
p.s. Don’t tell anyone in Boston, but I secretly admire those damn Yankees