“It sounds terrible,” says Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, “but if you have a family around a table, somebody eventually is gonna see every other person around that table die.”
That line came back to me like a screaming line drive the other day, as I watched Derek Jeter standing in the dugout at Fenway, waiting for his career in pinstripes to come to an end. Posada and Pettitte and Rivera — and the rest of the World Series teammates — had moved on. The captain was the last man off the ship.
You can’t feel sorry for him; The end of a celebrated career doesn’t exactly equate to death (I can certainly think of worse things to be than a forty-year-old Derek Jeter). Still, amid the celebrations, as his career and the season came to a close — as summer gave way to fall — I couldn’t help deriving some larger lessons. Nothing lasts forever. Our ability to hold on to things is tenuous. Learning to let go. To sometimes lose. And then bounce back … is all part of life. Even for the greats.
That a children’s game can still teach us something about life is important to acknowledge, inasmuch as sports — especially football — has come under attack of late. And while some of the criticism is deserving, let’s not forget the positive values and life lessons that sports — even mere fandom — can bestow. The great players still must reluctantly exit — and even storied franchises will go into the wilderness. Such is life. Since our time is short, and glory is fleeting, how then should we acquit ourselves?
The Derek Jeters of the world demonstrate values like hard work, commitment, character, dedication, and leadership. And now that it’s all over, he can take solace in the fact that his was a baseball life well lived; a game well played. Maybe that’s as much as any of us can hope for?
This, of course, isn’t unique to baseball. Every field of work has its greats — people to whom we tip our hats. But since football is under such scrutiny, I’ll just note that everything said here could just as easily apply to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady — whenever he hangs it up. There’s a the great Vince Lombardi speech, which ends: “[I] firmly believe that any man’s finest hour — his greatest fulfillment to all he holds dear — is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.”
Reminds me of Jeter’s career.