Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Derek Jeter And The Art Of Saying Nothing

On Wednesday I learned that John Breen had died.

Many people do not know who Breen was, but for anyone who studied journalism at UConn the man is a legend.

Professor, advisor, mentor and friend, Breen molded generations of journalists, teaching them to go about their profession with grit and dogged curiosity.

Breen's passing naturally had me thinking back to my days at UConn in the early 1990s and all that I learned. One of the first and most basic lessons I learned was that when a journalist covers a meeting or a press conference, the news is not that there was a meeting or press conference. Rather, the news is what is said or done at that event.

Pity the poor journalists who have to cover Derek Jeter.

Jeter is the master of speaking without saying anything of substance.

Wednesday, a week after announcing on Facebook that 2014 is going to be his final season, the New York Yankees shortstop met the media for the first time.

And said absolutely nothing of substance.

Don't believe me? Well, let's take a look at the headlines from the Yankees blogosphere:

  • Yanks Go Yard: Jeter's Retirement Presser
  • River Ave. Blues: Derek Jeter's Retirement Announcement Press Conference
  • It's About The Money: Jeter Press Conference Recap
  • Bleacher Report: Key Quotes, Takeaways From Derek Jeter's Retirement Press Conference
  • Derek Jeter: 'The Time Is Right' (Really? Would he'd be retiring if the time was wrong?)
  • Jeter Stays Stoic in Face of Impending Farewell Tour
  • LoHud came closest to something remotely substantive: Jeter Tries to Keep Focus on Season Ahead

  • Sigh, typical Jeter. I could be sitting in a room with him, Jeter doing all the talking and he still would say less than me. There are politicians who could learn a thing or two from him.

    The thing is that the reporters who cover the Yankees do try to get Jeter to say more. They have grit and dogged curiosity. Jeter just never bites.

    Mike Puma, a former colleague at the Connecticut Post, is one of the best reporters I had the privilege to edit. Currently the Mets beat writer for the New York Post, Puma is thorough, accurate and professional.

    After Jeter's announcement last week, Puma shared the following anecdote on Facebook:

    "My favorite Derek Jeter anecdote: With maybe 10 days remaining in the 2008 season, the Yankees needed a miracle if they were going to make the playoffs. So before a game, I tried to get the Captain to admit that the Yankees' playoff run was over. Of course, he wouldn't do it.

    "The next day Jeter stopped me in the clubhouse and asked if I still wanted him to concede. He then lectured me on the importance of avoiding negative thoughts. And especially not to worry about hypotheticals. 'You could get fired tomorrow,' Jeter said.

    "I responded, 'You're right - I could. So why not give me a story and admit that you guys are done?' ... He laughed and ran outside for batting practice."

    It was a good try, Mike.

    And Wednesday, reporters we trying to get Jeter to break. It didn't work.

    "You trying to get me to cry?" Jeter said. "If that's the thing, just spit it out. Yeah, I'm emotional, because it's kind of difficult because we still have a season to play. It might be different if it was at the end of the year. Yeah, I have feelings. I'm not emotionally stunted. There's feelings there, but I think I've just been pretty good at hiding my emotions throughout the years. I try to have the same demeanor each and every day. But it's different. It's not the end of the season yet. We've still got a long way to go."

    But that's the Captain for you. Talking to the media, keeping the focus on the season and the field.

    And saying absolutely nothing.

    Breen would have enjoyed trying to crack him.

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