Captain Karma Does it Again

By Bob Gaydos

If Derek Jeter had been the leader of a powerful Greek army in the fifth century BC, there would be no Greek tragedies.

Derek Jeter

Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides would have been out of luck, out of work, or trying to make ends meet by writing lyric poetry. And we know how well that gig still pays today.

If there had been Jeter Rex rather than Oedipus Rex, there would have been no patricide, no gouging of eyes. And who needs to marry his mother when he dates the likes of Tyra Banks, Vida Guerra, Miss Universe Lara Dutta, Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel, Victoria Secret’s Adriana Lima, Mariah Carey, TV personality Vanessa Minnillo and current flame, Minka Kelly, the cheerleader in TV’s Friday Night Lights and Esquire Magazine‘s “Sexiest Woman of the Year” in 2010?

You catch my drift.

Perfection really is its own reward.

If Jeter’s athletic skills had translated to football rather than baseball, the best college football player every year would be awarded the Jeter Trophy, not the Heisman. If he played basketball, we’d talk about Michael, Kobe, Wilt, Oscar and Derek. (Lebron still has some explaining to do.)

It could be no other way. That much is clear, finally and irrevocably. Derek Jeter, the Golden Boy of the New York Yankees, captain of the team, five time world champion, all-star, role model, Mr. November, Captain Clutch, and future Hall of Famer just told Messrs. Ruth and Gehrig to scrunch over a bit in Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park so they can make room for Number 2 when he retires, which may not be as soon as some mere mortals believed.

Sorry Babe, Lou. You, too, Joe and Mickey. The kid’s got more hits than any one of you. More than 3,000 now and you all know how hard that is to do. None of you did it. Oh yeah, Babe, you’ll like this. His 3,000th hit was a home run and not a cheapie either. He’s got that flair for the dramatic you used to have, without all that bravado. Yeah, he’s humble, too, which isn’t easy when you go five for five on the day you hit 3,000 and drive in the winning run to boot.

Even the other team applauded him.

Leo …? Hey, Durocher, you listening out there? You know that whole “nice guys finish last” theory you lived your life by? Jeter never heard of it. He is nice to what some people regard as a boring fault, which says more about them than him. And not just nice. He’s also respectful, hard-working, considerate, smart, diligent, reliable, consistent, classy and handsome. If he wasn’t so identified with the New York Yankees, he could pass for Minneapolis.

If he were a chef, his steaks would be succulent, his veggie omelet perfectly fluffy. If it wasn’t, he’d do it until he got it right. No charge for the misses.

There is a theory on how to live one’s life to the fullest. It used to be called the Golden Rule — do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Today, some people talk about doing the next right thing, or passing it forward and reaping the rewards. Indian religions — Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh — call it karma. Simply put, in a world in which every single thing is connected, every individual act, every deed, has a corresponding reciprocal effect. Do good things and good things will happen to you. Do bad things, etc.

Derek Jeter is Captain Karma. The exception that proves the rule. Most of us are too “sophisticated” (and self-centered) to embrace such a simple philosophy of life. Most of the time we give it lip service at best. Not Jeter. Play back any interview he ever gave after some outstanding play. “The important thing is we won.” “I just try to do the best I can for the team.” “Individual honors are nice, but the main thing is to work together, pick each other up.” “I just try to stay focused and put the bat on the ball.”

Over and over. The guy never misses a beat. It can’t be an act. Even the great Olivier strayed from the script sometimes.

Jeter has more money than Croesus and more Little Leaguers mimic him — getting set in the batter’s box or trying to master his jump throw from deep in the shortstop hole — than any other player of his time. No contest. His memorabilia is the biggest seller in sporting goods stores. People even name their kids after him — Jeter, not Derek.

And yet, as with all the tragic Greek heroes, there is a chorus sitting at the edge of the stage, just out of his spotlight, waiting for some slight slip, some chink in the Jeter armor. After all, didn’t Achilles have his? With Jeter, they say it is his age. (Makes sense to look there because if he had any flaws in his behavior, some scandal mag or blog would have found it by now, given the high-profile dating life he’s led.) They — the skeptics — say he will exhibit hubris when it comes time for him to let younger players assume his key role, in the lineup or in the field. No way Captain Karma, now 37, can keep it up, say the doubters. He is not perfect.

Maybe not. But did you catch what happened with that home run ball he slugged for hit number 3,000 — a ball immediately valued at six figures on the open market? A modest, young man from Highland Mills, N.Y., a lifetime Jeter fan, retrieved the ball and said he didn’t want any money for it. He just wanted to personally give Jeter the ball because “he earned it.”

Sounds an awful lot like good karma to me.

(With a bow to Jim Murray, simply the best.)

Bob@zestoforange.com

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One Response to “Captain Karma Does it Again”

  1. Mike Sweeney Says:

    Great appreciation for a great Yankee. His only flaw that I have found is that he didn’t go to the service for longtime Yankee announcer and big Derek Jeter fan, Bob Sheppard. Other than that, as you said, he’s a genuine throwback to the old team player of days long gone.

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