1. O Captain, My Captain
I remember the opening Opening Day of Derek Jeter’s career. Both the New York Mess and New York Yankees were breaking in rookie shortstops. It was April Fool’s Day, 1996. The local tabloids wondered aloud which shortstop had the brighter future. Ordonez finished with only about 2,800 fewer hits.
Of course, this was the week that Derek Jeter took all the hits, from people who’ve long pined to remind us that, statistically and as a fielder, Jeter is unworthy of our adulation. I mean, he’s no Red Ruffing. I’m done with listening to that. Every once in awhile a professional athlete comes along who defies X- and Y- axes and quantification. Larry Bird, for example. Herschel Walker, as a collegian. They are larger than life figures who are more than the sum of their parts.
The thing about Keith Olbermann’s rant on Tuesday isn’t that there weren’t a few kernels of truth. There were–a few. The thing is that Derek Jeter has never been a charlatan (like A-Rod). He has never shrunk from the greatest moments, and he has never been petulant or difficult, either with the media or with teammates. And, you know, No. 6 all-time in Hits despite playing at least three to five seasons fewer than any player ahead of him.
The vitriol of Olbermann’s rant, in light of when it occurred and in light of the fact that Jeter has never done anything but behave as the consummate professional, well, in the 6:47 of air time that Olbermann spoke, I actually learned a lot more about Keith Olbermann than I did about Derek Jeter. And I feel sorry for him.
By the way, if Keith holds according to form, he’ll come back with an essay about how all of us overreacted to the essay and that he was just pointing out relevant numbers, you know, kind of like reminding the mourners watching JFK’s funeral cortege passing by that John F. enjoyed an extra-marital dalliance or two. No, Keith. you have to own this. In the final week of the career of an unforgettable player who nobody (besides Jorge) ever said was the greatest of all time but who always approached the job the way you’d teach your kids to do, you needed to scold us for, in your opinion, elevating his legacy. What an incredibly small act on your part.
I’m going to enjoy the next couple of days, watching the final games of Jeter’s career, because I understand that in terms of charisma and professionalism and yes, talent, players such as he come along once a generation at best. For New Yorkers, Jeter is the ’73 Knicks or Joe Willie Namath. He’s a legend. And he’s earned that status.
2. The Daily Harrumph: Simmons Sez
ESPN suspends its most multi-platformed star, Bill Simmons, three weeks for this rant. It would’ve been more if Norby had seen the tape.
So, of course, Twitter came to The Sports Guy’s defense. I think this is because Twitter is disproportionately inhabited by people who will always take the little guy’s side against the establishment’s side, probably because most authority types don’t have the time to waste on Twitter (as I do).
I don’t think Simmons should have been suspended for three weeks, but I completely , agree with Norby’s decision to suspend him. Forget for a moment ESPN’s billion-dollars deal with the NFL. Granted, that probably played a role.
But the facts here are simple: 1) An ESPN personality came right out and called the commissioner of the NFL a liar, without any type of hedging. 2) He used profanity. 3) He dared his bosses to come and get him.
I’ve been thinking a lot about both sides of this issue and here’s the way I see it: Simmons exists on a number of levels at ESPN. He’s both about to be the host of his own TV show, but he’s also still the guy who does podcasts with Cousin Sal and J-Bug. The problem is, once you’re the guy on TV, you’re the guy on TV. It’s not as if you can adjust your attitude and your approach to your wardrobe. Rather, it’s highest-common denominator.
Simmons has moved in to a new neighborhood. Maybe he used to enjoy putting the kiddie pool in the front yard and blasting Kid Rock as he washed his car in the driveway, but you can’t do that any more in this neighborhood.
A year and a half ago, Simmons had what I thought was his finest moment in television when he basically called Doc Rivers a liar. Nobody suspended him. You know why? First, because he was right. Second, because he didn’t puff out his chest and dare anyone to tell him he’s not allowed to express his opinion.
Charles Barkley says a lot of off-the-cuff stuff on television. But I don’t recall Chuck ever daring his bosses to punish him for his outrageous comments. Sure, Simmons said of Goodell, “He’s a liar,” but I imagine Norby was even more peeved when Simmons said, “Leave me alone.”
Well, Norby did not.
All that’s left is to see if Simmons, whom I’ve always been a fan of, is a man of his word. “If one person says (you’re in touble),” Simmons threatened, “I’m going public.”
Well, Bill, at least one person did. It’s your move. But I imagine the Sports Gal isn’t too happy with you right now, either. So you’re probably going to keep it zipped. We’ll see.