We all need heroes. For some, our heroes can be our father, brother, uncle, or cousin. Others, see firemen and policemen, soldiers, and astronauts as heroes. In our earliest memories, a lot of us had heroes on T.V. or the movies that inspired us.
For most of the kids that I grew up with, athletes were the most popular heroes. We couldn’t grow up to be Superman, after all. So we idolized our favorite athletes: Larry Bird, Joe Montana, and Wayne Gretzky. These men were and, in many cases, still are our heroes. We need them. They help us get lost in a moment, forgetting troubles, bills, deadlines, and illness.
But if we need heroes, then we also need villains. As much as we don’t like to admit it, we need someone to root against, someone who will make our heroes work harder, stand taller, and look better. Villains have to win sometimes, or else the game would be boring. Oftentimes, the villain is just as good, if not better than our hero.
Derek Jeter is my favorite villain. I can’t stand the Yankees. I hate everything that their organization stands for, and I get no better pleasure than watching them lose. And in my life, there has never been a better Yankee, and therefore better villain, than Derek Jeter. He has ruined my day so many times. He has bested the Red Sox time and time again. For 20 years, I have had to put up with his greatness, and finally, it is ending.
20 years ago, Jeter was still a teenager when he got called up to the Yankees. Baby-faced and skinny, he was without a doubt, the most unexpected threat to the Red Sox. In 1994, the Ted Williams Baseball Card Company put out a set of cards that included some inserts of Derek Jeter. To bring things full circle, my wife surprised me last night with a hobby box of this set. After opening a few packs I stumbled across this card:
# DG3, Derek Jeter
Created by Dan Gardiner, this is a sketch card of “The Captain.” Who would have believed it when this card was produced that 20 years later, Jeter would have had the career that he did. Looking at this card, there is something about this 19 year-old that doesn’t bode well for the rest of baseball. There is a look of confidence, that says, “Yeah, I am going to win 5 World Series rings.”
Finding this card last night, moments after he had his final game at Yankee Stadium was disgustingly coincidental. Jeter gets his walk-off and I get a sketch card of his from 20 years ago. I want to tear it into 20 pieces, one for every year of his career.
They say there is a thin line between love and hate. I don’t want to examine that line for fear of finding out what that might mean. I know I hate Derek Jeter. I hate the accomplishments, World Series rings, and “The Flip.” But most of all, I hate the fact that like my favorite heroes, my favorite villain will no longer make me get lost in a silly game of baseball.