By Jim Monaghan
The final week of the regular season played out like a Hollywood script for Derek Jeter. First came the walkoff single against the Orioles in his final game in Yankee Stadium, and then came the three-day lovefest in, of all places, Boston’s Fenway Park where the Yankee legend was greeted with the kind of cheers and “DER-EK JEE-TER” chants usually reserved for Yankees home games.
From the moment back in February when Jeter announced his retirement via a post on his Facebook page – “First of all, everyone said they didn’t even know I had a Facebook page” – the tributes came pouring in. The cynics started to wonder if Jeter was being credited with inventing and/or saving the game of baseball.
The final weekend in Boston was positively surreal. Sure, there were Yankees fans everywhere, but there were also a lot of Red Sox fans leading those cheers. Gone were the days of the “Nomar’s better” chants…heck, Jeter and the rest of us might have even forgotten about the “Pokey’s better” days of 2004.
And then came October 1.
The guy who had been so reserved in his comments to the media – has any player ever use so many words in a post-game interview to really say so little? – was now offering athletes a chance to speak out, albeit in a highly-controlled manner. “I do think fans deserve more than ‘no comments’ or ‘I don’t knows.'” Jeter was “in the process of building a place where athletes have the tools they need to share what they really think and feel. We want to have a way to connect directly with our fans, with no filter.”
David Waldstein’s article in The New York Times revealed that “The website will have editorial oversight. Gary Hoenig, a former editorial director of ESPN Publishing and an editor of ESPN the Magazine, will be the editorial director. The website will be backed financially, in part, by Thomas Tull, whose production company was behind ’42,’ a film about Jackie Robinson.”
Cue the media backlash. Writers who’d spent the better part of the past two decades singing Jeter’s praises suddenly had their opening, and they ran with it.
John Harper from the New York Daily News offered this.
Steve Politi from the Newark Star Ledger was equally miffed.
Politi explained his lack of enthusiasm for Jeter’s venture saying, “Here’s my problem: After a lifetime spent guarding every detail, big and small, about his life it’s a tad hypocritical to ask current athletes to bare their souls on his website. What’s next? Joe Girardi encouraging other managers to throw out their research and just ‘go with their gut?'”
The crowning touch came from New York Daily News sports columnist Mike Lupica.
Lupica’s column contained a couple of not-so-veiled very crude references to female anatomy that were, among other things, completely devoid of the class that Jeter showed throughout his career.
Jeter’s been seemingly EVERYWHERE lately. An appearance on the Today Show, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, and an online twitter chat of all things.
And Jeter Publishing is off to a roaring start.
Derek Jeter came into professional baseball with a plan – play the game the right way, and don’t give the media a reason to take something you say and run with it. He’s clearly treating the next step in his professional life with another carefully laid-out plan. That Players’ Tribune twitter page and website were registered in November 2011; the domain for his Jeter Publishing website was also set up about a year ago. He managed to fly completely under the radar with both until he decided to make it public.
We all know that any content published by athletes via Jeter’s site (Russell Wilson is the first to contribute something) is going to be heavily edited. Big freaking deal. The media backlash – less than 72 hours after Jeter’s career came to a close – is ridiculous and can be summed up in four words.
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Jim Monaghan can be heard Monday through Friday mornings on the WDHA Morning Jolt from 6-10AM & Sundays from 7-10AM with “All Mixed Up.” He’s also an instructor at Professional Baseball Instruction in Upper Saddle River. Follow him on twitter – @Monaghan21.