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Must-Click Link: Derek Jeter opens up. Seriously, he really does.

Derek Jeter

This is pretty notable, actually. After 20 years of somehow managing the trick of being in the center of baseball’s spotlight yet revealing little if anything about himself, Derek Jeter has opened up a bit. Just a bit, but it’s still a notable amount. It comes in the course of this story by Chris Smith at New York Magazine, which goes into Jeter’s West Village home and provides us a glimpse of his life.

Among the highlights are friends and family talking about Jeter’s need for control and structure. About how, even at age 21, he was a mature and full-formed adult uniquely capable of charting the path he did, in which none of the things which trip up most young superstar athletes -- especially those in New York -- managed to trip him up. Maybe the biggest highlight are the numerous candid photos of him by New York Magazine’s Christopher Anderson in and around New York which are a preview for a full book of photos chronicling his last year as a ballplayer which will come out soon. They’re excellent.

Some great quotes from Jeter:

  • On reporters who say he’s a boring interview: “If I was giving them headlines all the time, I wouldn’t have been here for 20 years. But they ask boring questions. Give me a different question, and I’ll give you a different answer.”
  • On politics: “I don’t have to get into politics,” Jeter says sharply. “I voted for Obama. But another thing I realized is my job is as a baseball player, so I stick with what I know the best.”
  • On preferring Old Yankee Stadium to New Yankee Stadium: “It was a different feel . . . The old stadium, if you were at the stadium, in the stands, the only place you could see the game was in your seat. Now there’s so many suites and places people can go. So a lot of times it looks like it’s empty, but it’s really not. The old stadium, it was more intimidating. The fans were right on top of you.”
  • On Hal and Hank Steinbrenner’s relative absence from the team: “They’re not around as much as the Boss was. The Boss would pop in frequently during the course of the season. Hal and Hank, they don’t really come in too often.”
  • On Alex Rodriguez: “Jeter glares. ‘This is not an Alex story.’”

The quotes about A-Rod and Yankee Stadium and that he voted for Obama will get all of the immediate press here, but my biggest takeaway is that Jeter seems keenly aware of sports figures, teams and leagues increasingly bypassing traditional media, eliminating the middle man and reporting their own stories.

Part of this is just in the example of privacy and control he has set his entire career. Part of this is his comment about how reporters “ask boring questions.” But it’s not just that. He talks about the potential future of his publishing imprint which, in addition to conventional titles, will seek to “find formats that are suitable for personalities who want to reveal more about themselves without feeling too exposed.”

I have written about this sort of thing for several years now. More sports news is being broken by and even sports features are being put out by primary sources. The role of the reporter is becoming more narrow, with the rote things which take up a lot of a reporter’s time -- telling us the basic facts, providing the lineups and game stories, telling us that a trade happened -- being taken over by the newsmakers themselves. Newsmakers like Derek Jeter will not just allow someone to take photographs of him during his farewell tour, he’ll publish it himself. And I feel like that’s just the beginning for him.

Just about everything about Jeter seems smart. And, ironically, given all of the tributes and remembrances and retrospectives currently flooding the mediaspace, forward-looking.