Love and Re2pect

Derek Jeter is arguably one of the best to ever play the game of baseball (just ask any New Yorker), and easily the most respected athlete of modern times. Jeter is the New York Yankees all time hits leader, and has the led the team to a stunning five World Series championships. For his last season, Gatorade ran on ongoing campaign of “respect” and aired the now viral video of baseball fans and players around the nation tipping their hat to him. How could we not help but love this heroic ballplayer, with his kind personality, his respect for everyone, and his unwavering love for the game; the game that was his entire life up until his retirement just weeks ago. But what continously inspired Jeter to play in this renowned fashion? In his essay “Dynamics of Modern Sport”, Eric Dunning argues that as the competitiveness of sports increases, so does the professionalism; thus leaving no room for “fun” in the realm of professional sports. Resultantly, Dunning would argue that our beloved Jeter was working a job rather than playing a game.

Derek Jeter poster proudly displayed in NYC
Derek Jeter poster proudly displayed in NYC

The career and acclimates of Derek Jeter are the perfect antithesis to this controversial belief by Dunning. Perhaps the best way to illustrate this direct conflict is by one of his most quoted lines from Jeter’s retirement announcement: “I realized that some of the things that always came easily to me and were always fun had started to become a struggle. The one thing I always said to myself was that when baseball started to feel more like a job, it would be time to move forward.” Clearly, Dunning’s theory on professionalism in competitive sports had never applied to Jeter as he played the game he loved, the game that was never anything but fun to him.

Dunning also continues to argue that spectators, and their strong expectations, play a significant role in retracting from this play element in professional sports. He claims that as athletes strive to please the audience, they lose focus on the fun aspect of the game. But aren’t there so much more to the games we love then simply awaiting for the players to please us? Don’t athletes who truly play for the game itself gain something from the resolute support and devotion of an audience? Derek Jeter has never been quiet about his love for the state he represented, for the city that motivated him and stuck with him, and always believed in him, the fans that saw him through the twenty long years he dedicated to their beloved team. Almost as a direct contradiction to Dunning’s theory that audiences eliminate play from the game by inundating them with the pressure to perform, Jeter once said “I couldn’t have done it without the people of New York. NY made me stronger, kept me more focused…” also found in his final speech.

The retirement letter of the great and renowned ballplayer, highlighting the unadulterated fun he has always derived from baseball and the great respect with which he regards his fan-base, in fact serves as the perfect counter argument to Dunning and his theories on competitiveness and professionalism. Derek Jeter always has and always will love the game that provided him with such joy and happiness as we can only gain from the purest form of play.

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5 thoughts on “Love and Re2pect

  1. Your blogpost is really understandable and entertaining to read. It shows the difficulties within Dunning’s argumentation that professionalism and fun cannot be combined in a very illustrative way that involves a present event in the world of baseball. However, I am not sure whether I agree with you with regard to the point that Jeter’s career also illustrates that Dunning was wrong with respect to his claim that the spectators and their expectations help to diminish the fun factor in the professional sports. As Deter has a very tight connection to his city and his spectators, this might produce pressure and could have a negative influence of Jeter’s joy while playing. However, I get you point that the support can increase the fun factor for the players – an argument that Dunning’s argumentations lacks, as you have illustrated.

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  2. I agree that Jeter is the perfect antithesis to Dunning’s argument, but I think a player like Jeter is very hard to find. The average athlete isn’t as successful or as widely loved as Jeter is. Most professional athletes have to work super hard to maintain the level or performance expected of them or to even remain a member of the team. In leagues like the NHL, where the average player makes chump change compared to the average baseball player, making it their job to show up to play every single game.

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  3. I love your description of Derek Jeter in the beging. I am a die hard red sox fan and i have nothing but respect for Derek Jeter. I would argue however that Jeter is the exception not the rule when it comes to the professionalism of the game. When we talk about athletes, we talk about the best of the best and for many of them i agree that the sport they play is there life and often times something they get a deep sense of enjoyment and satisfaction from. However, we don’t talk about the players at the bottom of the depths charts. The ones of the practice squad who stress every day about staying on the team and having enough money to support there families. And that is the players who have made it professionally, not to mention the countless players who devoted there life to making it big time and never did. For these players i believe that the game is no longer fun. I disagree with Dunning in that i believe the fans make the game more fun and enjoyable for players. Players get so much energy and passion from the fans. in some cases fans are a large part of why players keep going even when they have lost some of there love for the game

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  4. I completely agree with your point that Jeter’s career was not a reflection of Dunning’s argument about professionalism in sports. Athletes like Jeter are rare, and it is because of their rarity that we grant them with such praise. Jeter gained the respect of so many because he understood the balance between professionalism and fun. The importance of calibrating that balance exists in every field of work—athletic and non-athletic. In politics, Congressman and congressional candidates often find themselves amidst controversy as they misinterpret the “rules” of fun with regard to professionalism. Stories of sex scandals and corruption in politics surface because politicians lose sight of their passion for public service. They instead become victims to external pleasures that work in the opposite direction of productivity. You also make an interesting point about the role fans play in establishing an athlete like Jeter’s career. In your post you disagree with Dunning’s point that, “audiences eliminate play from the game” by adding unwanted pressure. Similarly, in politics, Dunning’s words do not apply as the “play” of elections are often won or lost as a result of fan support.

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  5. Derek Jeter is once in a decade type of player. From his exceptional play on the field, to his role model type behavior off the field, Jeter is the epitome of a talented and respectable athlete. His professionalism was second to none. But unfortunately, every athlete today is not like him. Today we see so many players getting arrested for domestic violence and possession of marijuana. We see athletes who dont put much effort into their ‘job’. The love they once had for the game has disappeared, as it has become a business for many athletes. It is sad to see how the love for the game has been taken away like that. That’s partly the reason why so many sports fans prefer college sports. These college athletes are not getting paid for what they do, there solely playing because of the love they have for the game. It is very unfortunate how many players have made sports into a business.

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