My son came into the kitchen yesterday afternoon and took a look at the small TV on the counter, tucked into the corner between my toaster oven and colorful collection of knives, and asked, kind of surprised, “You’re still watching this?”
He and I had turned on the Yankees game an hour earlier to catch Derek Jeter’s last turn at bat Sunday at Fenway Park and while the 11-year-old lost interest and drifted off to play outside, I kept watching.
Now, if you’ve spent any time reading my blog and gotten a general sense about the type of girl I am, you know that it would be much more likely to find me watching the Food Network or Oprah’s channel rather than a major league baseball game. In fact, I had a hard time finding the game on Verizon Fios (who knew the Yankees had their own network?) and couldn’t tell you where ESPN channels fall in my extensive selection of cable channels.
But I discovered Jeter literally in the bottom of the ninth of his career while watching a Gatorade commercial and have been kind of enamored with him since. And I don’t think I’m alone. When I wrote about my new obsession last week I got more traffic than usual to my site and noticed my guy friends, who normally don’t “like” my blog stuff on Facebook, showing their approval for the subject matter. This could possibly be the incentive I’ve needed to start paying more attention to sports in general.
So I watched Jeter get up for his second turn at bat Sunday and get that infield single while I baked treats for my son to bring to his cross-country pasta party the next day but then kept on watching even after The Captain bowed out of the game. I watched as the Yankees drove in run after run while breading chicken cutlets for dinner and then kept the TV on to watch Jeter’s post-game press conference.
“Why are we still watching this?” moaned my teenaged daughter as we ate our chicken and sweet potatoes while Jeter talked about what it was like to take the pinstripes off after his final game in the majors and how he always tried to treat people the way he wanted to be treated.
As far as my kids were concerned, it was like they were trapped in a really weird scene from Invasion of the Body Snatchers because my behavior lately has been far from normal. I wouldn’t be surprised to find them poking around in the crawl space searching for my pod. Apparently, it’s disconcerting for them to see their zombie-loving, bookworm of a mom acting like a sports fan. It’s out of character.
I sat on my bed Thursday night after I got home from a wake to watch the last few innings of Jeter’s now-famous final game in New York and grinned from ear-to-ear when he drove in the winning run. I had called my daughter into my room as he came up to bat and — softy that she is — she started to cry when his ninth inning walk off single won the game and his teammates rushed onto the field.
I’ve combed the Internet to read everything I could find about Jeter and am now a walking encyclopedia of Derek Jeter miscellany including what’s up with that glittery necklace he wears under his uniform and the name of his personal masseuse. And on Saturday night, when one of the girlfriends I was hanging out with suggested we watch the movie “Moneyball” – and even though I’d already seen it once and was in a more of a “Crazy, Stupid Love”-y kind of mood – I said, “Great idea.” It put the whole 2001 “Flip” into perspective.
I even raced over to my local book store one day last week when they got another shipment of Jeter’s new book for kids called “The Contract” – “inspired by” Jeter’s childhood and the contract he signed with his parents that included things like “Be a role model” and “Respect yourself” — for my little guy. I will read it out loud to him if necessary.
I grew up watching baseball and spent many a warm summer night outside playing running bases with my three brothers. In fact, it’s really the only sport that I totally understand I think because I actually played it (or softball, rather, and not very well) as a kid. I have more than a basic grasp of the rules, which is more than I can say about offsides in soccer and whatever is considered a foul in basketball.
So the game makes me slightly nostalgic and I get it when a few times during “Moneyball” Brad Pitt’s character asks,” “How can you not be romantic about baseball?”
And I am, deep down, a hopeless romantic.
I want happy endings and for true love to conquer all. I want to believe that most people are inherently good and that everything will work out in the end. I am optimistic to a fault.
So the whole Derek Jeter thing – the entire arc of his story from his dreams as a kid of growing up to play for the Yankees to the storybook ending Thursday night – jibes with everything I want to believe in. And even better, he’s the one thing — in the face of Middle East air strikes and troubling news out of the NFL — everyone seems to be able to agree upon. It’s like those first few days after the Sept. 11 attacks, when — even though everything was beyond terrible — we all banded together as Americans. I love that we can all get behind Jeter, that he can unite us like that.
I know, I’m really romanticizing him.
But, I mean, Red Sox fans cheered for him yesterday and chanted his name. Even Justin Timberlake, whose wife is counted among Jeter’s notable list of famous ex-girlfriends, tweeted The Captain his support:
“He was what we want baseball to be, and sports to be,” writes Mike Lupica today in the Daily News of Jeter and I think that sums it up best for me. He gave us all hope.
So who knows if I’ll show any interest in the race towards the World Series or whether I’ll tune into the YES Network next season (if I can still remember where it is). But I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for Derek Jeter.
I look forward to watching whatever he does next.