Thursday, September 16, 2010

Historical perspective on "Jeter the cheater" and the downfall of society

The story is all over sports radio today, but in case you haven't heard it, Derek Jeter was at bat in a Rays-Yankees game last night. A pitch came inside and hit his bat, but you wouldn't have known it by watching Jeter. Andrew Johnson:

With one out in the frame, no one on and the Yankees trailing 2-1, Jeter squared to bunt against Qualls. As he spun away from Qualls' inside pitch, the ball appeared to strike Jeter and he immediately grabbed his left arm in apparent pain. Home plate umpire Lance Barksdale awarded Jeter first base, something the New York shortstop didn't argue, but Rays manager Joe Maddon did, leading to his ejection.

After the game (which the Yankees lost, by the way), Jeter was a little more honest:

Derek Jeter didn’t play coy after the game. He was asked what that ball hit in the seventh inning, and Jeter answered as simply as possible.

“The bat,” he said.

Jeter showed bunt and tried to spin out of the way when the pitch came inside. The ball made contact, the bat went flying and Jeter grabbed his left arm. Joe Girardi and Gene Monahan came sprinting out of the dugout. Jeter remembered the on-field conversation being pretty simple. Girardi asked Jeter if he was OK, and Jeter said yes. From there, it was all about selling the bit.

“Geno did more acting than I did,” Jeter said.

Opinions varied on the matter. In last night's broadcast, Tony Bruno reserved his criticism for the umpires who didn't hear the crack of the bat. This morning, Colin Cowherd noted that this is nothing new - it's just that we have more cameras today than they did even 20 years ago, much less 100 years ago.

But others feel differently:

Driving into work this morning, I listen to Mike Greenberg, Mike Golic and Tim Kurkjian attempt to one-up each other with praise for the display. Kurkjian used words like genius and brilliant. Greenberg only added that, unlike Kurkjian and Golic, he didn't even think that the action should be considered cheating.

Has the whole world gone mad?

Brett Perryman goes on to say:

Faking injury is among the easiest, most natural of evil human instincts for children to master. They use it to manipulate, just as Jeter did. He put on a pathetic, childish display, nothing more....

What Jeter did was in line with corking his bat. He picked up his golf ball and moved it a few feet to improve its lie. He planted a deflated football for the opposing team's game winning field goal. What he did broke the two cardinal rules of sport - he cheated the competition, and he cheated fans. It was positively dispicable, and I find it disgusting that so many seem to be fine with it.

There are two issues here - the integrity of the game, and the integrity of Derek Jeter. I won't deal with the former here, but I would like to make one comment on the latter. Or, more accurately, I'll let someone else make the comment:

Ironically, Charles Barkley has become my hero for his "I am not a role model" statement, which was certainly not his intent. We should not be holding up Charles Barkley, or Derek Jeter, or Donald Trump, or Bill Gates, or any "public figure" as a role model. All humans err, and we're bound to be disappointed.
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