Stars and (Yankee Pin-) Stripes


“Don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion”. A phrase emphatically echoed by the former head coach of what was then the back to back National Basketball Association World Champion Houston Rockets. This proclamation was directed towards the doubters and naysayers who did not believe that his team was capable of returning back to the promised land/top of the mountain. I extract a few key words from that phrase. The words: “don’t”, “underestimate” and “heart”. When reflecting on sports in its entirety, I cannot recall many players over my forty years of life, that I can truly attach those three monikers to. I mean we all know Michael Jordan had these qualities of course, as he refused to accept anything less than championships. We have watched Eli Manning rise like the sun in the east when it was time to standup and be counted in Superbowl lure. We have also seen Serena Williams seemingly be out of the championship conversation, only to storm back and remind the world she had never left. Of course, I have one that is dear to my heart for many different reasons. His name? Derek Jeter.

Steven A Smith, who is an analyst for ESPN, has a charismatic tone he utilizes when saying Derek Jeter’s name aloud. It truly embodies the way that all Yankee fans feel towards our captain. My father (rest his soul) was a huge Jeter fan, as when the playoffs would begin, the walls could repeat like a parakeet, what he would often bellow out loud: “Ole Jeter is a bad boy”. And to that statement, who can truly argue against this fact? I have been a Yankee fan since I was a kid, from the days of Thurman Munson, Reggie Jackson, Micky Rivers, Willie Randolph, Ron Guidry and Goose Gossage. But even throughout my viewing of all these great Yankee legends, I still cannot recount the same nostalgia I have felt throughout witnessing the illustrious career of Derek Jeter. In the great moments or clutch moments, we have watched him rise to the occasion and live in greatness, all while playing on the biggest stage and for arguably the greatest franchise in the history of all sports. This earned him the nickname “Captain Crunch” because he’s not just a big fish in a small pond, he’s a whale swimming inside a teardrop in NYC. We “don’t” “underestimate” his “heart”; however what we have to estimate now is his health. It is no shock to all of us fans of the Yankees or Major League Baseball, that something is missing from our team. We are missing leadership and we are missing heart; things we associate with Derek Jeter. With Mariano Rivera taking his last bow from baseball, we are watching the backbone of our team slowly being removed and leaving us to look for a replacement that won’t make us look like a jellyfish. Not an easy task to accomplish when trying to replicate a once in a lifetime great player. Derek, who has never been considered the top echelon in the league for his position, may hold an even greater importance then Mariano. Derek’s work ethic, professionalism, approach to the game and personified class are everyday examples that the guys in the locker are able to mimic and adhere to. This impacts the youth and instills within them the Yankee way and the way of a legendary warrior. These are qualities that when replicated by others, helps to build the heart of players that ultimately can lead to a championship heart. In a day that will see young players like Cano, who could one day be the face of this franchise as Jeter begins to wind down his career, it is imperative he learns “the Yankee way” and not the ” Joba way”. This is why we need our captain back if we plan on trying to right this ship.

With steroid allegation looming and players not understanding how to respect a legend (Joba/Mariano), I would be lying if I said I am not concerned. I am a spoiled, yet grateful, Yankee fan who has had the pleasure of witnessing championships throughout the years. As we look upon this year, we have to hope for timely health and minimal outside distractions, however, the shadows of the evening are getting long, the sounds of summer are drawing to an ending and soon we will be heading into the fall classic. Will there be another magical post season for the Yankees? Only time will tell. It is getting close to crunch time; looks like a job for Mr. November. #pinstripes4life

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