Russell Wilson and his wife Ashton live in Seattle and have three dogs: Penny, Cali, and Prince – the dogs are three different breeds and the Wilson’s are waiting for life to slow down a little to have children. Lebron James’ mother attended every Cavaliers home game in his time there and was rumored to be involved with his former teammate, Delonte West; to which some even speculate as the deciding reason for him making the “Decision” to take his talents to South Beach. Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley both have had publicized zealous gambling infatuations, and Jordan had a distinct weakness for younger Caucasian women (which athlete doesn’t?). Peyton Manning is doing everything but delivering the pizza to your home, and holds an annual passing academy that has groomed the likes of Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck. Derek Jeter has… well.. what do we really know about Derek Jeter?
In this day and age of continuous social media, to the likes of video of Ray Rice dragging his fiancée unconscious out of an elevator on our computer screens and smart phones within 36 hours of the incident, to photos of the inside of the resort suite in which Kobe Bryant was accused of sexually assaulting a woman, or not being able to watch Erin Andrews conduct an interview without envisioning a peep hole, how does a superstar athlete like Derek Jeter go virtually untouched in the media for the better part of 20 years?
Google “Derek Jeter scandal” and the first link that pops up is, “How Derek Jeter Helped Baseball through Scandal”, an article written by CBSSports depicting how he apparently saved baseball by staying clean and remaining silent – even while two major figureheads of the steroid era in Jason Giambi and A-Rod sharing the diamond with him on a daily basis during the peak of the crisis.
He survived being employed by the polarizing Yankees owner George Steinbrenner who once famously said, “Winning is the most important thing in my life, after breathing. Breathing first, winning second.” He remained unblemished while being a teammate for over 5 years with the never reticent and unanimously replicate foot-in-mouth king, Alex Rodriguez. Steroid talks were grumbling throughout the league without him ever being mentioned by a trainer to whom “gave him something that he didn’t know what it was” or in any of the reports that eventually got all the way up to congress (he excelled at the height of that now criticized era). He witnessed the downfall and firing of a 4-time World Series Champion Manager and father-figure in Joe Torre, and last but definitely not least, was not trampled by the New York media with any blame for it — and did all of this seemingly unscathed.
There is that one small scandal about Jeter sleeping with the same woman twice without realizing it, and having the an identical gift basket awaiting her in the limo as was also awaiting her following their first encounter, packed with the same signed memorabilia. She took offense to this, and informed the media of this brute injustice. Although not very classy, Jeter was neither dating anyone, married, nor even a father. Any single man with no obligations to a one-night stand (or unknowingly a two-night stand) who gives away gift baskets after sleeping with a woman should be given a medal of romantic honor, and I believe I speak for most men when I say this. With a superstar athlete’s black-book, one would think they’re lucky just to get leftover cold pizza. Jeter gave them things they could actually profit from. Again, it quickly became a non issue.
What I truly want to know about Jeter is fairly simple. How did he get away with that private lifestyle for 20 years in the city that never sleeps? With even low-tier athletes today not able to take out their trash without fans coming to their home to yell and proclaim at how bad they suck, and virtually no athlete able to buy a drink at a bar without 12 phone cameras flashing in their face, Jeter was never seen all over US Weekly or the front page of TMZ (who now has a sports site).
There are no whispers about how he gambles all of his money away, or how he sleeps with underage women when he visits the Caribbean. There are no lawsuits, disputes, or ill words from teammates. Is he really this squeaky clean? Or as a society are we just accustomed to having dirt or incessant information on nearly every superstar in our beloved major sports? What I do know about Jeter is that from a PR standpoint, what he has accomplished is one of the most commendable careers that I have seen in my lifetime.
I won’t bore anyone with the on-field numbers: the over 3,000 hits, above .300 career batting average, and numerous gold glove awards. I just feel that as a man with constant pressure on him from essentially the day he graduated high school, what he has done over the last 20 years is conclusively unprecedented.
I remember a time when we knew next to nothing about our athletes. Somewhere around the time where a young Jeter ran into the crowd to catch a foul ball while busting up his chin on the Yankee stadium club seats, to Johnny Manziel having an article written about every frat party he had attended the prior weekend, we have lost our way on what really matters. The sport is what matters. They are there to entertain us, not bring home the Nobel Peace Prize to our respective cities. Marshawn Lynch said it best when he said, and I paraphrase, “Give any 20 year old who never had shit millions of dollars and have his dreams come true, and I would like to see some of the mistakes they’d make.” We expect these athletes to be perfect when they have clear imperfections, to be smart and well-spoken when a vast majority have had tutors holding their hands through classes since grade school, and to be homely with fans when they can’t go out to have a burger without signing 30 autographs and taking 10 pictures.
This is why rare stars like Derek Jeter should be commended, not only for what they’ve done on the field, but for also staying out of the mud while all of the other pigs were calling them into the pit. Jeter’s career is soon coming to an end, although, if there is an end to any beginning – a new beginning must also arise. Could Kevin Durant be the next superstar to stay out of the limelight? He has most of the same personality traits as Jeter, and a similarly private lifestyle. In truth, only time will tell. Overall we don’t know much about him, but that is much more refreshing than being able to call his dogs by name.