Five Ways of Looking at the Legend of Derek Jeter

Mag-03Riff-t_CA0-articleLargeSam Anderson in the New York Times Sunday Magazine:

1. The Book of Jeter

The time has come, once again, for everyone to think about Derek Jeter. Don’t try to fight it: it is time. Here in the spring of Jeter’s 17th season, as he begins to play out what should be the last of his giant contracts, as he prepares to become the first career-long Yankee to amass 3,000 hits, as he melts the snow across the Northeast with the warmth of his intangible clutchness and coaxes the fresh blades of grass (which he spent his entire off-season individually planting across America) out of the dark and loamy soil — it is only right that our thoughts should turn back to the Captain.

But how do we even begin to think about someone who has been so thoroughly thought about? Jeter has been, since the middle of the Clinton administration, the signature player on the signature franchise in America’s signature sport — a sport that doubles as national mythology. He is the meta-Yankee: his legendary glories help us to experience, firsthand, the legendary glories of previous generations of Yankees. He’s like a wormhole to the world of our grandparents. His entire career might as well have been broadcast in sepia.

Jeter’s mythology is, at this point, basically impenetrable. His public image is almost scandalously banal — as Buster Olney once put it, he is “Jimmy Stewart in pinstripes.” He’s like an after-school special about the Protestant work ethic. His every motion expresses the quiet dignity of champion champion dignity champion dignity champion. (Sorry: my word-processing software figured out that I was writing about Derek Jeter and started automatically filling in the text.)