This is weird, but I’m pretty sad about the retirement of Derek Jeter.
I’ve never spent much time thinking about Jeter. I’ve been in group interview settings with him, but only had a single one-on-one encounter with the man. It came during the 2000 season. The Yankees were visiting Atlanta to play the Braves. I was covering the series, when my editor at Sports Illustrated, called. “We need you to ask Jeter about his relationship with Mariah Carey,” he said. “There are rumors they’re dating.”
The last thing I wanted to do—ever—was ask Derek Jeter about Mariah Carey. It was a stupid topic that concerned me, oh, not at all. But I worked for SI, and this was my boss. So, when I spotted Jeter alone, I embarrassingly tiptoed up to his locker in the visiting clubhouse. “Hey, Derek, my name is Jeff Pearlman,” I said. “This is embarrassing and dumb and I don’t expect you to answer, but my editor says I need to ask you about Mariah Carey …”
“I understand,” he said. “But you’re right. I’m not gonna talk about it.”
I left, content, dignity somewhat restored.
I digress. That was my Jeter interaction. So why am I down, when ballplayers I’ve covered retire every day … every week … every year? Because, in my eyes, Jeter was youth personified. He was the kid shortstop who lifted the team to shocking heights in 1996. He was the glue in the middle infield. He was born two years after I was, which meant he was younger—but in the same range.
With his exit from the game, it seems pretty official that we’re both old. Which certainly beats being dead, but comes with its own complexities. I remember being a teen, wondering what aging felt like. I remember thinking the same thing at 20 … 21 … 22. I was flexible and peppy and eager. I stayed out late, got up late, played tons of basketball, my body always responded. But 42 isn’t 22. It just isn’t.
And Derek Jeter is retired.