A FAN’S NOTES
That’s not the way Otis Redding wrote it. That’s not the way Aretha Franklin sang it. But they were not ghosts in Nike’s massive marketing machine. During tonight’s telecast of Major League Baseball’s annual all-star game the American sports and lifestyle brand will pay homage to one of its most enduring and reliable celebrity assets, New York Yankees team captain and shortstop Derek Jeter. The 1:31 commercial is already up at Nike’s Jordan.com site and at Sports Illustrated’s Extra Mustard.
Jeter is 40 now. At the mid-summer break of his 20th season, he’s hitting a solid .272 but that’s almost 40 points below his current lifetime battering average of .311. Hardcore seamheads disparage his defense on the shale between second and third even though he has won five Gold Gloves. And five World Series championship rings. He will retire as one of the greatest New York Yankees ever. This is substantial praise in baseball’s modern era of free agency and expansion. This is very different from retiring as the greatest Florida/Miami Marlin ever. Nike marketing execs never once had a whiff of scandal, not sex, not violence, not steroids. And yet, Jeter is an easy player to loathe. Primarily because the New Jersey native is a Yankee, always has been and because he did not wear number 2 on his back for the Montreal Expos (insert your club here).
The RE2PECT spot opens with Jeter walking to the plate at home in the Bronx. He adjusts the brim of his batting helmet. The opposing pitcher looking in to his catcher for the sign tugs the brim of his Boston cap down lower. The Yankees’ third base coach taps the brim of his helmet to relay a dugout message to the hitter. The fans in the stadium, including director Spike Lee and 9/11 Mayor Rudy Giuliani, then tip their caps to the Yankee captain. On the streets of New York City cabbies, cops, firemen, a hotel doorman in an elaborate uniform, more fans and sundry celebrities pause to tip their caps to Jeter. It’s enough to make a middle-aged and sentimental sports fan grow misty eyed. Instant nostalgia is neatly avoided with instances of humour akin to a fade-away slide: the faces of three Jeter-saluting cross-town rival New York Mets along with their hydrocephalic mascot Mr. Met are conspicuously pixilated to ensure anonymity.