Tough Break for the Enemy

As my father-in-law says, the Red Sox were eliminated from the playoffs about 13 months ago - he's right both figuratively and (to some extent) literally. What's a provincial sports fan like me supposed to do? Watch the Patriots? Sure, but they only play once a week. Watch the Celtics? Can't wait, but their season doesn't get under way for another two weeks. Watch the Bruins? No can do - labor unrest has the entire NHL season is in jeopardy. The best option left? Watch and root against our teams' rivals.

As luck would have it, the New York Yankees are still playing in baseball's post-season (at least they are as I'm writing this). Game one of their series against the Tigers was this past Saturday. I watched with delight as the Tigers took a 4-0 lead into the bottom of the 9th. My delight turned to disappointment, however, as the Yankees staged an improbable comeback to send the game in to extra innings. Convinced that the Yankees would eventually win, I turned the channel in disgust.

About an hour later, just for closure sake, I tuned back in to see the result. Much to my surprise, the Tigers actually won the game. A big grin came across my face as I absorbed that thought. Just a moment later though a news flash came across the ticker on the screen: Yankees' shortstop Derek Jeter fractures ankle in 12th inning, out for remainder of the season. "That stinks" I said to myself.

Don't get me wrong, I'm certainly not above rooting against individual players. It gives me great joy to see A-Rod cement his status as the most unclutch player ever. Joba Chamberlain can slip on a banana peel for all I care. But Derek Jeter... I just can't root against him. Here's why:

  • He's been a great player for a long time. Ten years ago I would have practically got in to a fist fight with anyone who said Jeter was better than Nomar. Now it seems silly that there was even a debate. Nomar was awesome for a 7 year span (1997-2003) but then petered out. Jeter has played at an all-star level for most of his 17 seasons. 
  • He plays the game the right way. He always plays hard, makes smart decisions, doesn't whine, and doesn't break any of the game's unwritten rules. (Warning, cliche coming) He plays the way you'd want your kids to play.
  • He's clutch. It's no coincidence that the Yankees have won 5 championships during his tenure - he's delivered big plays in big moments.
  • He's not a juicer. I can't prove this, but he's never been implicated in any reports and his power numbers (i.e. home run totals) never took a conspicuous spike.
  • He's dreamy. At least that's what my sister-in-law Amy says. Personally I don't see it.
  • He's a good guy outside of baseball. In 17 years he's never had a run-in with the law (sad that that's an accomplishment in this day and age) and has never made an ass of himself with dumb comments. More importantly, he's done a lot of philanthropic work and was given the 2009 Roberto Clemente award in recognition of his Turn 2 Foundation's efforts to help children and teenagers avoid drug and alcohol addiction.  

So Derek, I hope the surgery, rehab and recovery all go well and that you're back on the field next year. The Yankees aren't good enough to root against without you.