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Derek Jeter and The Bubble

Anybody see the 30 Rock episode a few years ago where Liz Lemon suddenly realizes that her doctor boyfriend, played by Jon Hamm, is lacking numerous common-sense everyday skills, but has coasted through life protected from this knowledge by “The Bubble” of his good looks and charm?

I always figured Derek Jeter for something of a PR genius. Almost never a lick of bad press or a public misstep; I assumed he’d worked hard at image maintenance and reaped the rewards. But now it occurs to me: was that really due to skill and intent on Jeter’s part? Or is it possible that, instead, being that he’s Derek Jeter, things have simply fallen into place for him along the way?

See where I’m going with this?

Honestly, I don’t think the Jeter negotiations have gotten all that “nasty” or “ugly” yet, despite the headlines; nothing much worse than “I find their stance baffling” has actually been said thus far, and if you’ve never worked extensively with agents, then trust me, that’s nowhere near their standard for nasty. Still, things could certainly be going smoother, and for the first time in a long time — maybe ever — Jeter seems to be making some tone-deaf and… well, for lack of a better word, baffling public miscalculations.

Unlike Jon Hamm’s Dr. Drew Baird, Jeter is in fact talented and good at his job, and he’s certainly no publicity naïf, either. But I do wonder now if circumstance, and Jeter’s very Jeter-ness, conspired to give him an aura of selflessness, or at least business- and PR-savvy, that he didn’t really do much to earn.

Of course this is only relevant in a contract year, and once Jeter and the Yankees have found some sort of compromise and put this behind him, we can all go back to criticizing Jeter’s defense again and, hopefully, praising his hitting technique. There is nothing remarkable about a team and a star athlete playing hardball in the press (see Mickey Mantle and Babe Ruth, for starters). It is only remarkable in this case because we’ve come to expect an ineffable smoothness from Jeter — and now, looking back, I wonder if that may have been in our heads more than it was his actions.

As we saw in 30 Rock, it can be dangerous to pop The Bubble (“Careful, Lemon. You wake a sleepwalker, you risk getting urinated on“). On the plus side it seems safe to assume that whatever happens, unlike Dr. Drew, at least The Captain won’t end up with two hook hands.

(Whether he’ll play shortstop as if he did, though, is another question.)

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver