Posted: Wednesday July 7, 2004 6:11PM; Updated: Thursday July 8, 2004 7:52PM
Derek Jeter doesn't have the best stats, just the most style.
I'm always asked: What's your favorite sport? It's a logical question for someone like me who covers the sports waterfront. The answer I always give is that -- as a fan -- the best sport to watch is a good game of baseball.
I simply believe the national pastime has elements of depth and mystery and pace that make a good baseball game better than any of the back-and-forth contests in other sports. (And just for the record: there's nothing worse than a bad baseball game.)
For instance, anybody who was lucky enough to see last Thursday's game between the Red Sox and Yankees knows what I mean about great baseball. Sure, it was just another midseason game, but it went 13 innings, see-saw, with clutch home runs, great fielding plays, surprise pinch hits, bizarre strategy, the works. It was mesmerizing.
In the midst of it all, Derek Jeter jumped flat-out, full-speed into the stands. Even for people who can't stand the Yankees, I think Jeter has developed a special reputation as the quintessential modern sporting gentleman. Here it was, this extraordinary moment of his framed by this whole evening of athletic art.
In olden times, before radio and television, sportswriters wrote poetry. The most famous of this doggeral was Franklin P. Adams' tribute to a 6-4-3 double-play combination, which began: "These are the saddest of possible words/Tinker to Evers to Chance/Trio of bear Cubs and fleeter than birds/Tinker to Evers to Chance ..." And so on. Anyway, as an ode to our popular sportsman, I now give you:
He's no match for Annika or Tiger or Lance. They're all more accomplished at whatever they chance. The blonde Sharapova is more pretty by far, And so is Tom Brady, the Super Bowl star. Both Sosa and Bonds hit much further spheroids. (Whether or not they might be on steroids.) More endorsements are given the Cavalier James And even to Jordan, though he's departed the games. And there's Schumacher, Michael and Iginla, Jarome -- Champs at their sports -- just like -- yeh! -- Smarty Jones. Taurasi and young Wie, Federer; bend it like Beckham, All those are one-offs, not anyone's second. But our guy is never at the top of the stats, He just makes the plays and takes his at-bats. Even at short, he's no way the best, Because everyone knows that's A-Rod-riguez. But for all the hot-shots, there is no one neater. Than the guy who wears the deuce, the ace, Derek Jeter.
Sports Illustrated senior contributing writer Frank Deford is a regular contributor to SI.com and appears each Wednesday on National Public Radio's Morning Edition. He is a longtime correspondent for HBO's Real Sports and his new novel, An American Summer (Sourcebooks Trade), is available at bookstores everywhere.