The Time I Tried and Failed to Profile Derek Jeter


An qualified at deflecting.
Picture: Lynne Sladky/AP/Shutterstock

On Monday evening, episode 1 of The Captain, a 7-element miniseries chronicling the vocation of Derek Jeter, premiered on ESPN. I have not seen it nonetheless, but the display, clearly patterned just after the pandemic hit The Final Dance, is directed by Spike Lee protégé Randy Wilkins and seems to have all the gloss and crisp generation of a typical, higher-high quality ESPN documentary. For enjoyment needs, it’ll do the trick.

Even though The Captain guarantees to be a thorough portrait, I cannot help but speculate how considerably of the “real” Jeter we’ll get to see due to the fact he has been so damn very good at hiding it for the previous quarter-century. This opacity is portion of what manufactured him amazing: Jeter was equipped to disguise in plain sight for a long time even however he was the star shortstop for the New York Yankees. There was the moment a “Page Six” report about how he gave “commemorative autographed-memorabilia gift baskets” to his just one-night time stands, and the story someway did not hurt his reputation a single whit.

This is to say, Jeter was untouchable. As I acquired.

When I joined New York Magazine in 2008 as the main sportswriter for a non-sports publication, just one of the very first assignments from my non-sporting activities-fluent editors was to “write a profile about Derek Jeter as he methods retirement.” I think they assumed the publication’s status, and the lure of a deal with tale, would encourage Jeter to grant a long, reflective sit-down. We’d hire an avant-garde photographer to shoot him, he’d pour his coronary heart out, and we’d all acquire a bunch of awards. I was pretty acquainted with Jeter’s push reticence, even though, and I understood that receiving them the tale they wanted would be extremely hard. (When I asked for “an hour-very long in-depth interview with Jeter” to the Yankees’ publicity division, they were well mannered enough not to giggle in my facial area. But I know they desired to.) My editors then instructed 50 percent an hour and a image shoot. That was not going on both. The only way I’d get any opportunity to speak to Jeter would be through the ordinary pregame locker-rooms scrums with all the other reporters, in which Jeter spouted the kind of generate-by vacant athlete-discuss at which he excelled.

But I did want to give my new editors a thing. So I came up with an notion: I would request press obtain to 30 consecutive Yankees home game titles. Ahead of every single one particular, I would head to the Yankees’ locker space and talk to Jeter a single dilemma. Immediately after 30 times of every day one particular-minute interviews, I’d have adequate Jeter insights to cobble collectively some sort of profile. It was not a traditional technique, but possibly that would get the job done in my favor. At the really least, it would be some thing unique.

The to start with 4 times developed interviews about as banal as you’d be expecting. “We gotta participate in a very good match tonight,” “It’s distinctive currently being a Yankee,” “You just take it a single day at a time” — that sort of things. But by the fifth recreation, with the same kid popping by his locker to request him a single minute’s truly worth of inquiries at the identical time every working day, Jeter sensed some thing was up.

“Hey, didn’t we just do this yesterday?” he requested me as I approached with my steno pad.

“Yes, but I have a unique issue this time,” I reported.

“Well, I would hope so,” he explained.

I never recall what I questioned, but the answer I received was, inevitably, a well mannered, canned 1. But I returned the up coming working day even so, to Jeter’s bemusement. I spelled out that I was striving to compose a profile of him by interviewing him for a person moment every day.

“That’s odd,” he explained.

“I know,” I mentioned.

“All correct, go forward then. What is today’s question?” he stated, smiling. “You have one minute.”

It retained on like this, with me supplying it a fantastic-faith work and Jeter cheerfully but bloodlessly offering me with absolutely nothing in return. By the 20th day or so, it was noticeable it was not actually heading to perform. But I experienced started to enjoy running up the hill every single working day, and I sensed it type of tickled Jeter, much too. As the times ticked by, he began chuckling the next I began walking up to him. One time, he known as me 60-Second Will. Yet another time, he joked, “You gonna inquire me about my mother? I’ll check out to sum her up in one particular moment for you.” He was obviously amused by my determination to this definitely failing gambit. My favored instant was the working day when, in advance of heading out for batting observe, he pretended to get my notebook and my pen ahead of turning to me and declaring, “Okay, convey to me about your expanding-up practical experience.”

On the final working day of this experiment, I went up to Jeter’s locker, as common, and instructed him this was it — I wouldn’t be bothering him any more. He grinned.

“Did you get something?” he mentioned.

“No, actually,” I admitted. “I have no strategy what I’m heading to compose about.”
He clucked his tongue and gave a slight nod, as if to say, Very well, then my work in this article is carried out. I thanked him for his time and explained to him I hope he likes the piece, any time I figured out what it would be. “Yeah, great luck with that,” he stated. “Sounds like you’ll have to have it.”

The story I ended up producing is the pretty definition of a create-around: It is a profile of Jeter without having a single Jeter quotation that did not arrive from a press conference. (Meanwhile, Jeter strike .334 that period with 18 homers and completed third in MVP voting, at the age of 35. You could argue it was his past good year.) I did not even point out my dumb interview-a-day task, cementing its best failure. But I continue to feel the piece retains up. It does a very good career of describing that you-see-me-but-you-never-see-me character of Jeter’s, the way he stood in front of each and every digicam for 20 several years and by no means gave away everything. That in by itself is an unbelievable accomplishment of willpower and caution. Heck, it is the sort of repeatable ability that helps make a fantastic baseball player.

I introduced a copy of the magazine with my aspect in it to the clubhouse all through that year’s postseason, which would stop with a Yankees Globe Series championship, nevertheless the team’s most recent to day. Jeter wasn’t at his locker, so I just still left it there for him with a Article-it take note: “Thanks for your assistance.” (I resisted the urge to put the phrase assistance in quotes.) The up coming day, I came back again and noticed his teammate Mark Teixeira doing the magazine’s crossword puzzle. Jeter wasn’t at his locker that working day, possibly. In point, I have not interviewed him given that. I feel like I know him just as well right now as I did then. That in all probability must make me feel like a lousy reporter, but I can choose solace in the actuality that I’m not absolutely sure any person else has gotten to know him any greater considering that then both — which, as normally, was by his possess style.

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