Yesterday was a pretty tough day for me. I am having to make a very big decision about something really important. Typically when I do this, I will watch a good movie, get a nice drink going, and eat salty foods. It’s a college thing. It’s like my go-to for thinking. Brain food, for me, anyway.
Last night, I watched as Derek Jeter, my favorite baseball player since Ripken, had his final at-bat at Yankee Stadium. I remember those home runs in the early to mid 1990s. I remember the hit in the World Series the year the towers fell (and I was furious at the stupid Arizona Diamondbacks for winning that year – New York needed and deserved that win). I remember all those times with the guys – the group of Yankee players who made the game great and made me enjoy baseball, standing up for the National Anthem in my small apartment living room, honoring those guys through song. I loved watching them play, and especially Jeter. He was only a few years younger than I was, and he had such a good and clean character that no one could soil. He was what baseball and sports are supposed to be like.
The Yankees, through those years especially, were a clean-cut crew. No one with long stringy hair. No tattoos. No beating kids or girlfriends in elevators. If someone on the team did anything to harm the reputation of the league, George made sure they were gone in short order. The other guys on the team might have also had something to do with that as they didn’t seem to put up with a lot of riffraff in general. They were just good guys.
Watching last night was like watching Cal play his 2131 game. Like that night, I stood up in my living room, in honor of a player who made me love the game again. A player deserving of my admiration. I cried for about 15 minutes when I saw Joe Torre, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, and Andy Pettite standing there, waiting for Jeter to come off the field, welcoming him to retirement and to being a “former” Yankee. Funny thinga about being a “former” Yankee is that he will always be a Yankee, even in retirement.
To all of them, standing there, gray creeping into their hair, lines forming around their eyes, a bit more weight on their physiques that in years past, it was like a group of my heroes all waiting at the end of the day, saying everything is going to be okay. In life, you get very few second chances. Sometimes people don’t recognize them when they come along. Some people are afraid, too afraid, to jump out there and say, “Yes, I will do this thing, even though it’s scary.” That’s me. I’m scared to death to do this thing, but I know it’s the right thing to do. I know I won’t fail. I can’t. It’s my second chance at what I wanted to do so many years ago. Just think of where I’d be now if I had. But then, again, I’m glad this is the path that got me here, as it’s been a hell of a ride.
Sometimes doing the thing that scares you the most makes you a better person. It makes you stretch out, go beyond your comfort zone, and discover a part of yourself that you really didn’t know existed. It’s an amazing feat, and when you get through to the other side, you wonder why it was so scary, why it took you so long to do it, and how you could have ever lived without doing it. My own journey is only about 14 years behind where it should be. 14 years with him. 14 years with it. So goes. 14 is apparently my breaking point.
So, here I go, to do this thing. Exciting. Fun. Amazing. It will be a journey of great things, just like Jeter’s 20+ years in the majors. I just know it.