Perspective | Derek Jeter stays ‘The Captain’ of his narrative


It occurred on a snowy New 12 months’s Eve in 1999. Because the story goes, Derek Jeter, then the New York Yankees’ famous person shortstop, and his friends had been getting out of a cab. There’s ice throughout, and simply after Jeter warns them concerning the circumstances, he steps out and slips, screaming as he falls, “Oh, God!”

All these years later, his buddies nonetheless get a kick out of that story. So does Jeter — regardless that he wound up hurting himself, being recognized with a situation (an umbilical hernia) that sounds severe however is comparatively innocent. He laughs about it through the third episode of “The Captain,” a seven-part documentary collection that premiered Monday on ESPN.

“My stomach button popped out,” Jeter says, revealing a never-before-told second. His face softens as he chuckles.

“True story,” he quips.

That third episode focuses on loyalty and what it takes to enter — or be exiled from — Jeter’s circle of belief, and the stomach button anecdote takes up simply over a minute of airtime. It’s most likely essentially the most salacious crumb served up in the entire collection.

That’s by design. When probably the most revered however enigmatic and personal sports activities figures of current many years decides to open up, he does so on his phrases.

Take his icy reception for Alex Rodriguez after his former bestie joined the Yankees — Jeter by no means owns up that, as a captain, he might have carried out extra to assist A-Rod really feel welcomed. Or his love life — it’s implied that Jeter would take pleasure in an evening out every so often, taking small bites out of the Massive Apple, however within the first 5 episodes his romantic relationships stay off-topic. (And, no, he says he by no means gave out present baskets stuffed with memorabilia after one-night stands.)

“I feel it’s important to draw the road,” Jeter says of defending his privateness. “I drew the road at a really, very younger age, and I simply wasn’t going to allow them to cross it.”

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Enjoying 20 scandal-free years within the insatiable New York media market, Jeter disguised vanilla morsels as sound bites and hid his persona behind that placid, good-looking face. He appeared like a runway mannequin however spoke with the sobriety of an accountant.

The person was boring, a truth finest summed up by ESPN reporter T.J. Quinn within the fifth episode: “He by no means broke character. He’s all the time Derek Jeter. You by no means obtained a way of who’s inside him.”

However until you’re a sportswriter being paid to extract perception, boring isn’t essentially a nasty factor. Jeter was guarded and territorial, and fortunately his method hasn’t been imitated by athletes who care deeply about points that matter on the planet. Nonetheless, the superstars of the social media era might study a factor or two from his artwork of moderation.

We see their offseason workout videos on Instagram. We hear in to their barber store conversations, talk so raw and unfiltered that they have to rush to Twitter for cleanup. We hear their gripes about speaking heads in conventional media — at the same time as they research from the identical hot-take playbook whereas hosting their own podcasts.

NASCAR driver Austin Dillon has a reality TV show, and the Ball household’s online series one way or the other has generated six seasons. Someplace, Tom Brady might be getting ready for his 23rd NFL season whereas producing his 700th documentary. Attempt to image Jeter revealing this a lot of himself within the 1990s. It by no means would have occurred. And but he was the skilled athlete who helped usher on this period of oversharing.

As a participant, Jeter tried to remain off the again pages of the New York tabloids. However when he retired, he hopped into the media enterprise and based the Players’ Tribune with Jaymee Messler. Since 2014, the web site has given athletes an opportunity to inform their tales — or, to be extra exact, to border the narrative to their selecting.

Jeter, now 48, acknowledged the facility of talking for your self, regardless that the Gamers’ Tribune publishes work largely crafted by ghostwriters and athletes have seized on this self-empowerment to commodify and model themselves. They’re the CEOs of their private and professional lives. However there’s one large distinction between Jeter and immediately’s stars: In his world, not all the pieces was on the market.

Even in “The Captain,” the story goes solely so far as the star, who in February stepped down as CEO of the Miami Marlins after almost 5 years, permits.

The followers who worshiped him, the beat reporters who lined him and nearly everybody who stood locked outdoors of his intimate circle might by no means have recognized about Jeter’s dry humorousness, that he nearly was in the identical nightclub as Sean “P. Diddy” Combs on the night of a triple shooting in 1999 or that his belief points return to rising up biracial in Kalamazoo, Mich.

Viewers will hear these tales and extra in “The Captain,” which is an invite simply far sufficient previous the floor to lastly see Jeter. At instances, he reveals a aspect few have witnessed. He curses freely, tees off on critics and swims in his private reservoir of pettiness.

Jeter’s not solely a Jordan Model athlete; he acts like a Michael Jordan clone. Who can neglect the scene in “The Final Dance” of Jordan holding a pill that performed a snippet of a Gary Payton interview — and then roaring in laughter concerning the protection of his long-ago nemesis?

Jeter additionally will get the final phrase every time. When reacting to Nomar Garciaparra’s assertion that the Boston Purple Sox didn’t lose to a greater staff within the 1999 American League Championship Sequence, Jeter channels his interior MJ.

“That’s what losers say,” Jeter says with a smile and a shrug. “Sorry, Nomar. We had a greater staff that yr.”

In the identical episode, Jeter shares the gnarly story about his navel. After confirming the incident, he turns his head and, as if going through somebody sitting off digicam, says, “Fairly positive that story doesn’t make this.”

However after all that story makes the minimize. The media firm behind “The Final Dance,” which gave Jordan full editorial management, produced this movie. The Gamers’ Tribune additionally partnered with ESPN and Main League Baseball to assist with its creation.

“The Captain” stays Jeterian. It’s billed as candid, however it tells the story his method.

For 20 years, Jeter received 5 championships whereas controlling his narrative. Now he should assume his legacy wants a postscript — so he has written that, too.

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