Only a couple of weeks ago I was watching the Yankees-Redsox game in which the Yankees won in extra innings when John Flaherty got the game winning hit, after Derek Jeter saved the game with another one of his breath taking catches. When I noticed that the Redsox (former) shortstop, Nomar Garciaparra, was sitting in the dugout too “hurt” to play, I was reminded just how lucky the Yankees are to get to watch and cheer for a player like Derek Jeter every day. But was it only a short time ago that Yankee fans forgot that?
As I watched Yankees’ shortstop Derek Jeter, run full speed into the stands I couldn’t help but think back to a time that seemed years ago, but was in truth only a couple of months ago. Jeter was in the midst of the worst slump of his career. As his streak of hitless at bats stretched longer and longer, his “loyal” fans began to lose patience. In a turn of events that shocked the baseball world, Derek Jeter was booed at his own stadium… by his own fans. A careers worth of outstanding achievements, personal victories, and unmatched success were forgotten as Yankee fans booed the heart and soul of their beloved team.
As I sat in horror and witnessed this event I can’t deny feeling let down by my fellow Yankee fans. This man had given his heart and career to the team he loves, and the fans he calls, “the best in baseball.” And in a moment of failure they forget that? Where were these critics when he saved the Yankees season with his famous back-handed flip play in game three of the 2001 Division Series? Or where are they on the days he plays through injuries, simply because he understands what he means to his team? Do these “fans” watch the same Derek Jeter that I do?
Throughout the entire slump Jeter never made excuses for himself, or condemned his “loyal” fans who couldn’t stand by him. In what should make those same “fans” feel even worse, Jeter said he “understood.” He may have, but I didn’t. There are simply some players that should be beyond reproach. Had he not done enough to earn our confidence and patience?
So, when I witnessed Derek Jeter dive head first into the left field stands to save the game for his team (and yes, his fans also), I couldn’t help but think of the irony. In a game in July, Jeter crawled out of the stands bloodied and bruised, and I imagined how awful, those “fans” must feel now. They had booed Derek Jeter, the captain of the Yankees, the player who will likely never willingly step out of the Yankee uniform, and the man who plays hard everyday not only for himself and his team, but for them.
In all fairness, I know how much those same people love Jeter. But as a die hard fan myself, I am proud to say I have never found a justifiable reason to boo Derek Jeter.
For Derek Jeter life is back to normal. He still makes the most incredible plays we have ever seen, his stats are something to be proud of, and his fans are once again by his side. But in the back of his mind, Jeter will always remember that these were the same fans that booed him when he needed them the most. Derek Jeter deserved the support of those fans. Those fans didn’t deserve Derek Jeter.