Jeter & Jameis: Enigmas or Role Models

September25/ 2014

I prefer my eggs “over light”, my music “country” and my sports heroes “good guys”.   There are plenty of choices in these, and every, category.  I make no apologies for my choices.Jeterrr-(1)

The sports spotlight this past week has been on two very high profile “J” athletes….. Jameis and Jeter.   One is 20, the other 40.   The “20” has chosen to tattoo himself as a braying, cock-eyed cap wearing, serial misbehaving jackass.   The “40” walks off the biggest brightest stage in all of sports as an Icon for “consistently doing very well while doing right”…. and for dating supermodels.

The former is likely not as bad-to-the-bone as everyone outside SeminoleNation is convinced he is.   The latter is likely not as saintly as the endless tributes would have us believe.   Regardless, that two such opposite images are front & center side-by-side makes fascinating column fodder.

Jameis Winston and Derek Jeter are two very talented high profile athletes.   You could substitute countless others for either one or both and disprove my incredibly insightful analysis.  But since this is “their week together” I choose these two.

Maybe Jameis Winston WILL “wake-up” some day.  Maybe someone (not named Jimbo) will eventually jerk-a-knot in Jameis and straighten him out.   Or maybe not.

Even if that Road To Damascus transformation should happen, Jameis will never shed the current rep he has carved out for himself.   “The Internet” superglues you to your mistakes and bad behavior for life.  As Lincoln, Caesar or Charles Shultz said:  “The evil that men do lives after them…. the good is oft interred with their bones”.

Cases in point: Christian Laettner will NEVER escape stomping on the Kentucky player.   Chris Paul hitting Julius Hodge in the crotch…. and Steve Spurrier taking a picture of a certain scoreboard.  Those were isolated instances.  Jameis has already compiled a hefty scrapbook of bad behavior.   Ray Lewis was only involved in one murder.   That one involvement is mentioned in every article re: Ray Lewis.

I heard Bobby Bowden speak at an FCA dinner 3-4 years ago.  He explained why he always stood up for his “wayward sons” who continually exhibited bad behavior at FSU.   “I’m the only father-figure many of these kids ever have had or will have.  If I give up on them, they have no one.”

I get that.   But I take issue with the lessons in personal accountability that Bobby doled out over 20+ years and that his successor – Jimbo – is doling out.

Jameis’ “latest miscreancy” was not a hanging offense by itself but it was not “jaywalking” either.   It was a straw on a very heavily-laden camel’s back.   It could not have been more ill-timed.   “Football Players and Disrespecting Women” is the current hot topic de’jour in America PLUS FSU was preparing to play, arguably, the toughest game on its schedule.   Had Jameis blurted his stoopidity the week before, Jimbo could have banished him to a dungeon in the Doak-Campbell basement living on raman noodles and Tab for a week.  FSU woulda beat Citadel like ECU thumped UNC and it woulda been a one-day 3” story.   He didn’t and it wasn’t.

FSU admins stumbled, fumbled and bumbled all over themselves for several days in a strange Kabuki Dance competition-of-the-absurd with Roger Goodell and that greaseball numbnutz that owns the Ravens.  It was a tie.

Jameis mouthed the same hip-hop homilies he mouths every time he screws up…. and Jimbo made the same excuses for him he always does when Jameis screws up.  “Something” about that scenario ain’t working.   Wanna bet that both of’em do it again the next time Jameis does what Jameis keeps doing?

Hey Jimbo…. howsabout Jameis standing on your family’s dining room table and yelling “what he yelled” at your wife and children?  Howsabout THAT Jimbo?

If I were FSU I would do exactly what the Texas Rangers did for Josh Hamilton.  Assign a “keeper” to him 24/7 to physically keep him from self-destructing.   It could be a retired Tallahassee cop, or a minister, or even a former FSU player that “gets it”.   Move in with Jameis and be by his side 24/7 until the season is over and FSU is no longer “at risk by association” with this loose hand grenade.

Father Flanagan said “there are no bad boys”.   Other than the rape allegation, none of “Jameis being Jameis” has been felonious.   It is simply serial stoopidity in the era of social media and cell phone cameras.   Lawrence Taylor rampaged Chapel Hill for four years in a different era.

I lament that “Jameis” is likely a harbinger of the future of Big Time College Football.   FSU is portraying him as “a lovable goofball” because he is very talented and they need him to bring more glory to SeminoleNation.   Not unlike how Ol’ Roy did his best to portray “PJ” last Fall.

UNC powers-that-be chose (wisely) not to go along with Roy in that self-serving portrayal.   Roy and Jimbo both know what line in their job description ultimately trumps all the others – Win.

♦ ♦ ♦

Among all the plaudits and accolades pouring on Derek Jeter.…. I will offer one you may not have thought of.

Derek is the son of a mixed-race marriage – an AfAm father and Cauc mother.   I believe they are both teachers.  He grew up in Kalamazoo, MI.   Other than being a fun word to say, I know nothing about Kalamazoo as Anytown USA.   No clue what challenges the Jeter Family dealt with over the past forty years.

Six years ago I had a dialogue with a local racial activist.   Not Bill Barber, but a long-time friend and ally of Barber’s.   I asked him….. considering the racial chasm that currently exists in America, looking back over the 40+ years since the CRA, what alternative paths might have gotten “us” to a better place?  Acknowledging that the paths we as a nation have followed have not gotten us to a very good place.

He stared at me with a “gee I never thought about that” expression then admitted – “I don’t know.”

Maybe Mr & Mrs Jeter would have an answer for that question.   Maybe the path the Jeter Family followed could be a model.

Hard-core Yankee-haters hate Derek Jeter “because”.   Hard-core State-haters hate Russell Wilson “because”.   Hard-core ______-haters hate everything about ______ “because”.   I look at such partisan sad souls like “purple cows”.   I’d rather “see one” than “be one”.

I’ve always seen Derek Jeter as I saw George Brett, Cal Ripken and Peyton Manning.  They have awesome God-given and honed ability and respect “the game”.  Unlike “Chip Hilton” in those Clair Bee novels, they haven’t always “won” on the final play.  They have failed in their annual quests far more than they succeeded.  But the legitimate historians of sports will record them as “winners” for the way they went about their sports over extended time.

Keith Olbermann belittled Jeter-mania earlier this week.   In the annals of sports journalism the Keith Olbermanns will be mentioned in very small type in the “others” category.   Olbermann is correct that “we” do have an annoying tendency to go overboard in labeling today’s wunderkin “the best ever”.

A generation is usually considered a 5-10 year time span.   Every generation erects shrines to its era’s heroes and sports moments and steadfastly defends those shrines with a teeth-clenched fury.  I get that.

For 50 years, I thought Game Seven of the 1960 World Series (Mazeroski’s walk-off) was The Greatest Baseball Game Ever….. until Game Six of the 2011 Series (Freese’s walk-off).  The final play of last Fall’s Auburn v Alabama moved up to the top of my College Football list….. along with “Gio’s punt return” and “TA’s knee on the one”.   My criteria is remove your partisanship and judge the play itself.

Rating Derek Jeter vs Cal Ripken or Tris Speaker or Robin Yount or Ozzie Smith et al infinitum is “solitaire with a deck of 51” for them what enjoy such madness.

I love that Jeter only wore one uniform (like Cal and George and Robin and Stan and Yogi and….).   I’m sure Peyton wishes that had been his legacy.  The sports gods deemed otherwise.

I love that Jeter never ever did a “Look At Me” gesture.

I have no clue what Derek Jeter’s politics is.   I especially like that.

I think major league shortstops are the most amazing of athletes.  Their grace and style always appears so effortless yet so incredible.   Jeter is/was an amazing athlete but not in the league of Jordan or James.   Baseball is a game of stats and even more so in this age of sabermetrics (whatever that means).   Jeter’s career stats are impressive but so are others.

I once sat in on a conversation between George Brett and an NFL Hall-of-Famer who was a friend of Magic Johnson.   They talked about how many endless hours the “great ones” put in taking batting practice, fielding grounders, shooting jumpers, and studying film…. what it takes to compete at the highest level against the best…. and to hold your own over time.

Then, in the end, all that gets reported is how many starlets and supermodels one dates.  …… sigh.

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