Nostalgia is a powerful drug. The neighborhood that once was, the restaurant that got boarded up, that TV show you used to spend hours and hours watching in your youth. Spending time revisiting a place, a moment, a feeling, is always going to be more enjoyable than living in the moment.
There are more responsibilities, more sacrifices, more complications. And that simplicity, that grasping for a time where things were simple and made more sense is really an illusion, a mirage in time. That’s because it’s gone, and while those times may have been great and may have made you feel a certain way, it’s better to focus on creating new moments, moments that will create their own nostalgia.
The Yankees, as a rule, market this nostalgia. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Reggie Jackson, Don Mattingly, and Derek Jeter are not only very important players of their time but demarcations of an era, and when the Yankees market that person, they sell everything that comes along with that.
Now, it’s the Derek Jeter fanfare. Jeter is getting his number retired this Sunday, and frankly, I was initially excited. It’s already been a couple of years since Jeter retired, and it seems only fair enough to do a ceremony that’s basically inevitable. The lead-up to the event, though, is where I have an issue.
On Twitter, MLB is running a marketing campaign called #JeterWeek, posting moments from Jeter’s career and, in particular, promoting a “Jeet 16” bracket where fans can vote in a bracket-style contest of career highlights.
My question is simply: why? There was a ton of pomp and circumstance surrounding Jeter’s retirement and fantastic last moment at the Stadium, and rightfully so. He was an important player to baseball and the Yankees, and the final game had a poetic quality that the media couldn’t resist. Even the haters had to quietly grumble and shut up for just a second. But now, what’s the point? One day and a ceremony is one thing, but a week-long hashtag campaign and career highlights tournaments? That, I think, is living within nostalgia.
There are so, so many exciting stars in baseball right now. Mike Trout is the greatest player on the planet, Aaron Judge has been a fun story and should continue to be, and the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Bryce Harper, Francisco Lindor, and Kris Bryant should be household names, and I bet you the average person doesn’t know a baseball player other than Alex Rodriguez or David Ortiz. In fact, the most well-known active player is Tim Tebow.
I’m not here to rain on anyone’s parade, because people enjoy basking in the excitement that was the late-90’s dynasty years. They were fun! However, this isn’t something the league should be pushing; fans should be cultivated by creating memorable moments and promoting dynamic players.
If we’re going to focus on arbitrary periods of time, might as well play Game 7 on MLB Network on loop. In today’s game, I’d rather people know about Rajai Davis than Derek Jeter. The past may be fun, and I’ll certainly embrace that on Sunday, but living in it is the league missing what’s right in front of their noses.