Sunday, October 02, 2011

Derek Jeter as Demigod

Demigod (from Merriam-Webster) - : a person so outstanding as to seem to approach the divine. This is the kind of definition that drives the world crazy when it comes to Derek Jeter, who you all know is this writer's favorite baseball player. But man-crush notwithstanding, Derek Jeter is going to the Hall of Fame someday but he is a mere mortal. His play has been way above average, but divine? Uh no. But certain (usually old school) media types like to create drama and one of the story lines is building the Jeter myth. Take Marty Noble for instance.

Noble's latest piece over at is just the kind of demigod-building that happens around Derek Jeter. The latest myth-building exercise by Noble was precipitated by the excellent relay from Curtis Granderson to Derek Jeter to Russell Martin that nabbed Alex Avila at home to prevent a crucial run in the first game of the ALDS series between the Tigers and the Yankees. Note a section of Noble's dramatic prose:
Jeter's throw was a tad higher than perfect and a bit more to the third-base side. After Russell had removed Peralta's bat, he was just where the relay would come. Funny how that works when Jeter is involved. He can do it right by making a mistake. This time, he made Russell's tag easier. A skilled and smart play-making guard routinely delivers his passes to his teammate's free hand. Successful quarterbacks throw to the undefended side. But Jeter is just a shortstop. Just the way Sinatra was just a saloon singer.
Myth building at its finest. Just before the above paragraph, Noble retold of talking with Mick Kelleher that Jeter was out of position on that relay. Noble built that into the myth that Jeter is always in the right place at the right time even when it's not where he should have been.

Hey, it was a great play at a great time and it greatly diminished the Tigers' chance of winning the ballgame. But in all seriousness, it was a random event in a long career from a very good player. Noble of course built it into a memory of another similar great moment for Jeter eleven years ago against the Mets. So yes, you can connect those dots if you want to. But that fact is that Derek Jeter has now played in 148 post season games. Surely with that large a sample size, there are going to be shining moments. There were just as many moments that weren't shining. But that's not the concern of a myth builder.

It was a great play, fortuitous for the Yankees and for Derek Jeter. Jeter has played perhaps more playoff games than anyone in history. Fortuitous moments are going to happen when you play that many post season games. Let's not make it more than it was, though. Derek Jeter is not a demigod. He's just a great player who occasionally has great moments when the whole world is watching. And the world has been watching a lot for a long time.

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