Friday, September 11, 2009

Class And Respect

As Derek Jeter stood on first base Wednesday, he wasn't sure what to do.

He had just singled to tie Lou Gehrig as the Yankees' career hit leader at 2,721 and the crowd was giving him a standing ovation.

Jeter wanted to acknowledge the crowd, but he also didn't want to show up the Rays, who were leading by two. He said it felt like an awkward moment.

Then he saw the Rays on the top step applauding and decided it was OK to remove his helmet and give the crowd its due.

Doesn't that just epitomize the way Jeter has conducted himself in his career ... and, really, would we expect any less from him?

Jeter has always put the game first. He's never been a "me" guy -- a guy who would stand at home plate and watch a home run sail over the fence, the point to the sky before beginning a sllooowwww trot around the bases. He's always been about winning and conducting himself with class and dignity.

Much like the Iron Horse.

That Jeter struggled with how to handle the moment was no surprise. He's never been about individual accomplishment and he's never been and a situation like that.

But I promise, he'll get better at it. Jeter is going to have a few more coming up in short order, hopefully starting tonight, when a hit will move him past Gehrig.

After that, he'll likely pass 3,000 hits in early 2011 and 3,500 in late 2013.

Depending on how long Jeter wants to play and assuming he stays healthy and productive, we eventually could be discussing him passing 4,000 hits, Ty Cobb, and maybe even Pete Rose ... but that's a long way off and a lot can happen between now and then.

In the meantime, all we have to do as fans as Jeter passes each of those milestone's is appreciate that we are indeed watching on the game's all-time greats -- who's done it cleanly in the era of performance enhancing drugs (yes, I'll go out on a short limb with that and eat crow if proven otherwise).

But what did surprise me Wednesday was something I saw on our Twitter feed. A Red Sox fan declared Jeter was the anti-Christ.

The anti-Christ? Really?

Pathetic.

Must be one of those ignorant, entitled Pink Hats that Dave has derided in the past. That kind of statement shows an appalling lack of respect and sportsmanship.

We're talking about baseball, sports. We all love it and enjoy the ride our teams take us on, but it's still a game. It's not life and death. And when you boil it down, the game is being played by human beings -- very talented human beings, but human beings nonetheless.

To demonize anyone of them by calling them the anti-Christ is classless and just wrong.

Look, it's OK to despise and opponent, especially and archrival. I can't stand Jason Varitek, Jonathan Papelbon, Kevin Youkilis, and Dustin Pedroia. As long as they are on the Red Sox, I'll never cheer for them -- unless a Red Sox win would somehow benefit the Yankees.

But I still respect them, and if and when any of them pass a significant milestone, I'll tip my cap to them and give them their due, just as I've done for Cal Ripken Jr., Greg Maddux and Wade Boggs.

The uniform, for that moment, just doesn't matter. You show respect for the hard work and dedication a competitor has put in to reach that pinnacle.

It's the classy and right thing to do.

And I hope that one day the Pink Hats will come to understand this.

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