Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Rant #142: Is Jeter the Only One Left?

With the Tiger Woods incident turning into a public relations fiasco for the world-famous golfer and his family, a bit of news crossed the wires yesterday that gave me hope that perhaps all of our sports heroes aren't as tarnished as they appear to be.

Sports Illustrated announced on Monday that it will honor Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter with its Sportsman of the Year award.

Jeter is the first Yankee among the magazine's honorees, dating back to 1954. This is remarkable in itself, because during the past 55 years, the Yankees have had a slew of stars play for them, including Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Whitey Ford, Reggie Jackson, Don Mattingly ... the list goes on and on.

And in this world of athletes taking advantage of their celebrity to do stupid things, Jeter appears to be a throwback to a different time, when athletes did their talking on the field and that was about it. No, athletes were not angels during previous generations--certainly Babe Ruth, for one, was not Mr. Perfect by any stretch of the imagination--but at least their transgressions weren't paraded around for all to see.

Jeter does it all on the field, he does it through his charitable foundations, and, of course, he can fill one hand with the championship rings he has earned. He is a winner in all respects, comes from a good, solid family (which I think is part of the reason his swagger is so limited), and he has been blessed to play on teams that were outstanding, including this year's World Series winner.

Yes, as everyone knows, he has also been linked to some of the most beautiful and famous women in the world, but somehow, that part of his life has never been exploited. He has never married, has not fathered children out of wedlock, and pretty much does his "kinoodling," so to speak, away from the cameras.

And as one of the real "rock stars" in sports, it is amazing that the whim of young females has not been part of his life.

And in this star-obsessed world that we live in, his "clean living" is something to be commended.

Look, I know that Mickey Mantle was portrayed by the media of his time as an angel, and it was only toward the end of his career that we found out he was a heavy drinker, a carouser, an adulterer, and many other things about this athlete. Who knows, somewhere down the road we might find out that Jeter is not the person we thought he was.

Look at what happened to the late Kirby Puckett in Minnesota. He also was portrayed as an angel, and we later found it that he was pretty much the devil in disguise.

But somehow, with this guy, I just doubt that he is anything different than the Jeter that we all know.

The Dec. 7 issue is scheduled to hit newsstands on Wednesday, featuring Jeter on the cover, leaning against the 161st Street Yankee Stadium subway stop in full uniform, a photo that was taken after the World Series.

You just have to admire this guy. He is still in his mid-30s, still plays a great game--he not only hit .334 this year, but won a Gold Glove for outstanding defensive play--and his future appears to be a bright one, even when he decides to hang it up.

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