What is a hero anymore?
What is a hero anymore? Someone who demonstrates professionalism, a sense of community, selflessness, is humble beyond their achievements, courage, and respect to all.
We live in an age when we build up flawed people just to watch them take a fateful stumble off the pedestal they didn’t ask to be on. We used to have old west cowboys, although if alive in today’s generation of media their exploits would have been as vilified as today’s celebrities. We used to have great war generals and freedom fighters, those have been replaced by talking heads and political pushers. Another group lost to the history books, astronauts – we stopped taking risks and making leaps in space travel: politics and tragedy again got in the way of funding. Movie stars and athletes have become more tabloid fodder than role models, but maybe it was always that way?
In the next few days, what may be sports’ last real hero retires. Love or hate the New York Yankees, one can’t deny the legacy of the man known as ‘The Captain’. We live in a time where kids shouldn’t be pointed in the direction of athletes when looking for role models: greed, drugs, violence, adultery, and murder run rampant in the daily news. Sportsmanship has gone the way of a Babe Ruth home run, long and gone. I will encourage my children to look towards first responders, teachers, and the selfless volunteers who help those in real need across the world. But I will tell them the stories of what used to be…. The last great sports hero: Derek Jeter.
When I was a young boy, baseball always captured my attention. It was my first love. I’d listen to the stories of my elders and their heroes: Jolt’n Joe, The Mick, The Babe, Yaz, Koufax, Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Hammer’n Hank, and many more. Growing up I needed a role model, life was far from typical or fair, and even though Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Mark McGuire were blasting moon shots, it all seemed a little too Hollywood. Who knew that was so close to the truth? Ken Griffey was around growing up in Washington State, but my encounters with him were less than friendly. One fateful month my family suffered a great illness, and I spent more than a few hours in a hospital waiting room watching the Yankees in Jeter’s rookie year. Baseball again gave me the escape away from my family troubles that I so needed. I gravitated to #2 instantly; the hustle, hard work, and respect with which he played the game I loved so dearly. Those things have never wavered in Jeter’s career.
Jeter’s professionalism on and off the field, his tireless effort, and – of course – the winning didn’t hurt, got me through what ended up being the rest of my childhood in a broken home. I always told myself I’d bring the same level of effort to what I did when I grew up. Jeter has been, and always will be, my only true sports role model. The last of his kind in a sport that used to seemingly produce them at will. The Ministers have had a few opportunities to see Derek in person over the years, we’ve always greeted him with a standing ovation and the iconic Der-ek Jet-er chant. He’s always tipped his cap in return of respect to the fans, his opponent, and the game. Recently I got the opportunity with just games left in his first ballot hall of fame career to go to New York City, and see ‘The Captain’ in Yankees Stadium – something I’ll tell my children, my grandchildren, and great-grandchildren about. One last tip of the cap, one last hustle down the line, one boy – now a man shedding a tear for 20 years of leadership the right way. Derek Jeter, #2, forever a hero. Respect.
~ E.S. Norton ~