Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Who's on my "respect" list? Who's on yours?

     If you haven't seen the Derek Jeter "Re2pect" commercial done by Nike's Jordan Brand and tied to tonight's final All-Star Game appearance for the Yankees' No. 2, the Captain, I will give you a one-word description.
     Of course, I'm biased. This is one of the greatest players in the history of the most successful franchise in American baseball, a team I've loved for almost 60 years.
     A tip of the hat to the people who thought of this commercial and developed it, and a tip of the hat to all the people who appear in the spot and tip their hat to the Yankees' shortstop. It is an all-star cast -- family, friends, teammates, celebrities, opposing fans.
     At the beginning, Jeter steps into the batter's box -- against the Red Sox, of course -- and adjusts his batting helmet, as he normally does. But it also looks like a tip of the hat, and that touches off about 90 seconds of the same by everyone in the Western Hemisphere.
     Certainly, Jeter had to be in on the doings, but I'm not sure he knew totally what was going to happen. It doesn't fit into the character of one of the most self-effacing athletes in my lifetime.
     I don't think he relishes all the attention he's receiving this season, in his last trip around the ballparks before his career ends this fall. I think he accepts it. For one thing, Mariano Rivera -- very much the same type Yankees' hero and class act -- received the same treatment last season.
     Rivera -- "Mo" to Yankees fans -- was honored in many special ways and one of those special days was at last season's All-Star Game in New York City. But not even Mo was the star of a commercial such as this one.
     I saw a Washington Post headline today that said Jeter has earned "universal respect during his Hall of Fame career." Which made me think about universal respect. That's a powerful expression.
     Also made me think about who I rate in the "universal respect" category, who I -- like Nike -- would feature in a tribute such as the one to Derek.
     And, I'm asking who you would put on your list?
     First, guidelines. These have to be people with great achievements in their particular field, but also people who are beloved by most, but if not beloved, then greatly respected. Those who handled themselves with almost total dignity, without controversy, with an understanding of themselves and the world around them. These are people who were revered in their day, and still are.
     And a quick disclaimer: No one in American politics qualifies, then or now. If I did include a politician, my choice would be Abraham Lincoln. But you know, he did have a few folks in the South who despised him.
     OK, some names from the non-sports world: Nelson Mandela, Ghandi, Mother Teresa, and although I'm not a follower or believer of his teachings, Rev. Billy Graham. I'd also say some of the Popes, but even they have their detractors in the Catholic Church.
     The celebrity/TV/movies world? Well, my wife thinks Oprah Winfrey is a candidate. When we started trading names, one she mentioned that I think a lot of people would choose is John Wayne. My personal favorite was Jimmy Stewart.
     Of course, as I've written, I loved Johnny Carson. But honestly, he had his critics.
     Back in the sports world -- where I'm a little more qualified to nominate candidates -- when I think of baseball, the first that came to mind was Stan Musial. The statue honoring him outside of Busch Stadium (the old stadiums and the new one) is inscribed with: "Here stands baseball's perfect warrior. Here stands baseball's perfect knight."
     Second, I think of Cal Ripken Jr., who in 2001 received a similar sendoff from baseball as Rivera and Jeter have. My personal list has Sandy Koufax and Hank Aaron. Willie Mays is close, but he was never all that humble about his place in the game. One of my friends suggested the recently passed Tony Gwynn.
     In football, give me Roger Staubach and Emmitt Smith and, yes, two Cowboys' nemesis: Bart Starr and Joe Montana. Football coaches? Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry are obvious, although in each case, lots of people found things to criticize. My personal favorite -- and a favorite of many in Shreveport-Bossier and North Louisiana -- is Lee Hedges.
     In basketball, two old names top my list: Bill Russell and Jerry West. Of course, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird would be many fans' choices; I can make arguments  against them.
     Golf? No question: Arnie and Jack. And from all I've heard and read, Byron Nelson. Fort Worth super scribe Dan Jenkins and others in Fort Worth probably would include Ben Hogan, but I think they'd also tell you he was more aloof and reticent than the others.
     Tennis? My list starts and ends with Arthur Ashe, still so revered. I just don't know enough history of the sports to judge beyond that.
      Ice hockey? No one tops Bobby Orr on my list, although Wayne Gretzky is close. I know one guy who will say Mario Lemieux, and some will say Gordie Howe -- although he did have very sharp elbows.
      Soccer? Well, obviously Pele is the greatest player of all time. But as a recent Sports Illustrated story pointed out, there are those in Brazil who don't regard him as highly these days.
      Muhammad Ali is -- as I've written before -- probably the best-known and most widely popular athlete in the world. But as we found out when I wrote about him a few months ago, there are still many people here in the U.S. unwilling to forgive and forget his 1960s/1970s protest actions.
      I'm sure there are plenty of others I'm forgetting and fields I haven't touched. But for the sake of argument, I've started a list.
       For now, for me, it's enough to give my re2pect to Derek Jeter. He deserves it.                        


  1. From Steve Oakey: How could you not mention Warren Spahn, my boyhood idol and the left-handed model -- along with Koufax -- for my own windup/delivery? Spahnnie was, of course, the winningest left-hander of all time, despite having his major league debut postponed four years by World War II, in which he won a Purple Heart as an Army engineer at the Remagen bridge.

  2. From Tom Marshall: I agree Stan Musial is an easy choice. If it’s possible, he was probably an even better ballplayer and certainly at least an equal to Derek Jeter a sportsman. ... On my list of baseball players, I’d add Lou Gehrig and Ernie Banks. Perhaps Roberto Clemente. In basketball, I could not omit John Wooden. In tennis, I think you’d find a lot of support for both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, even though they are current stars. They have turned back the clock on the spoiled brat image from the McEnroe/Connors days. What about Jim Ryun, Grete Waitz, Louis Zamperini?

    This is a fun subject — thinking about people with both extraordinary skills and class. Good idea!

  3. From Maxie Hays: Just absolutely LOVE the commercial. Incredible!!!!!! It makes you want to cry.

  4. From Chuck Baker: Joseph Carlton Ferguson.

  5. From Elsa Van Thyn: In baseball, what about Jackie Robinson? Also all the men and women who sacrificed their lives to save other, civilian or military. This list can go on and on. Really interesting topic to consider.

  6. From Scott McCoy: Barry Sanders?