|Photo courtesy of http://twitter.com/nick_pants|
Imagine a professional athlete in a team sport putting his *individual* accomplishments on his cleats for all to read, topped with the shoes he is wearing calling himself "The King of NY." You would think that was pretty tacky, right? Especially when the star in question plays for a team that doesn't even put players' names on the back of the uniforms. But when the athlete in question is Derek Jeter, some Yankee fans contort themselves to defend this self-aggrandizing stunt, even though the cleats go against everything they purport to admire about the Captain -- his team-first attitude, humility, and desire to avoid individual attention.
But as I have learned over the years, if you ever want to get people really angry, especially Yankees fans, just say something, anything critical about Jeter. That is something I experienced on Facebook yesterday after my friend Jeff asked for my opinion about Jeter's new cleats. I missed seeing them this week, but when I saw the New York Post story on them, I was appalled. Aside from him calling himself "The King of NY," which is self-aggrandizing enough (Is this how he is going to outdo Joe DiMaggio when he is introduced during future Old-Timers' Days? Is there a Bob Sheppard audio in the vaults somewhere that will solemnly declare, "Number 2, Derek Jeter, the King of NY"?) there is also the way "MVP" is in big bold letters, with "All-Star" in tiny letters above it. (Jeter, who some of his acolytes like to think is the greatest player of all time, never won an American League MVP.) The five championships are in tiny type, too, with things like the Silver Slugger awards getting much more space on his shoes.
There are also not one but two mentions of those five Gold Gloves Jeter won, even though the last few were hardly deserved. There is also not just "respect" spelled with a 2, but "captain." Good grief. In short, these cleats are a hot mess.
Put it this way -- Ray Lewis had his own individual accomplishments on the cleats he wore in his last Super Bowl, but he had the words on the bottom of the shoes, not, like Jeter's, on the cleats themselves for everybody else to read. Nor did Lewis call himself "The King of Baltimore" or any such nonsense; instead, the visible part of the shoe had Psalms 91. (Hat tip to Baseball Think Factory for the info on Lewis' cleats.) When Ray Lewis, who regularly wore a fur coat, has more subtle shoes than Derek Jeter, you know Jete's cleats are way too much.
It's funny. I have been hearing for at least the last decade or so about how Jeter was all about humility, the team, and putting the Yankees -- and winning -- first over individual accomplishments. Wasn't that exactly how A-Rod was found wanting? That he was the me-first kind of guy who only cared about individual stuff? Yet here, Jeter does something that is the opposite of his image, and not for the first time, and some Yankee fans, instead of wondering what the heck the captain is thinking, direct their vitriol at folks like me for simply pointing out that Jeter looks like a tool wearing this.
Jeter is supposed to be a role model for children, but do the parents of America want their kids to promote themselves like that? Really? This sort of braggadocio, which is also why I find the Jeter Nike commercial so obnoxious, seems antithetical to his image.
And really, at what point is the Jeter worship enough? When does it end? I have said it before and I will say it again. It is not enough to call him a first-ballot HOFer and a top five Yankee, as I do on my friend Sully Baseball's show (yes, I explain how I give Jeter the nod over DiMaggio.) We also have to think that Jeter is the greatest person to ever play the game, the most humble and wonderful. And when we are done with the Manchurian Candidate-esque accolades, we are not allowed to ever notice when he does me-first things that are the opposite of what he is supposed to be about.
You know, it is one thing for Jeter to stand there and bask in other people saying how wonderful he is. It is more than a little creepy and weird when he himself is doing the praising. Change his name to anybody else's in this scenario, and people would agree. But call out Jeter, and you're just a hater. Good grief.