During the World Series I was talking with 1 of my buddies when I said something to the effect of "if we win the World Series there's a good chance the Captain will be SI's Sportsman of the Year". He responded with something to the effect of "who gives a flying ferret".
Of course this wasn't priority one for me since we still had a World Series to win, but it was in the back of my mind and moving closer to the front these last few weeks.
As anyone who knows me even a little bit should be able to tell you, Derek Jeter is my favorite player. Any sport, any team, no, forget favorite player, the man is as close to an idol as my religious conscience will allow me to have. The story has been often told but on an occasion such as this it bears repeating. In 1995 my favorite Yankee was Jimmy Key. During that season he got hurt and needed Tommy John surgery while also during that season we called up this kid shortstop. After dealing with the devastation that was the Martinez boys (and Griffey, and Joey freaking Cora, and scary Randy Johnson etc) ruining my Succos that year, 1996 began with said kid shortstop being our new starting shortstop. And I just knew. I just f'ing knew that he was going to be awesome, and that this was my new favorite player. (Could I have told you how awesome, or that he would be the absolute perfect role model in every respect imaginable? Of course not, only he's that good.) Sure enough in the first game of that magical year he hit his 1st career HR and made a sick over the shoulder catch.
He came at the perfect time. For most kids there is no stage in your life that you are as completely obsessed with baseball as much as ages 8-11, give or take a few months. That's when you can really appreciate baseball cards, your balls haven't dropped yet so girls still have cooties, when you have no responsibilities whatsoever and can therefore memorize your favorite player's stats (.314, 10 HRs, 78 RBIs in '96, I'll never forget that stat line). Opening Day 1996 I was 9 years old and the last 14 years rooting for Derek Jeter (and the other pinstriped people of course) have been as great as it gets. All of the jumpthrows, all of the Jeterian swings, The Jeffrey Maier HR, The Flip, Mr. November, The Dive (along with the moments that most people don't remember at all, like when he scored from 1st on a routine single) etc. etc. etfreakingcetera are all ingrained in my memory, and hopefully always will be.
For whatever reason SI's Sportsman of the Year has always mattered in some way to me. I guess part of that is because in most cases when you think back to any year since 1954 there's a decent chance the Sportsman of the Year selection will have been the greatest, biggest story of that year. Whether it was the first winner Roger Bannister, who ran the first sub-4 minute mile, or the 1980 US Hockey team, to last year's winner Michael Phelps. The combination of lifetime achievement award and still gettin' it doneness is very well acknowledged.
And now the man, the myth, the legend, the best there was, the best there is, the best there ever shall be, The Captain, Jeter Christ Almighty, 7-time American League Champion, 1996 Rookie of the Year, 2000 All-Star Game MVP, 2000 World Series MVP, 10-time All-Star, 4-time Gold Glove winner, 4-time Silver Slugger winer, 2-time Hank Aaron Award winner, 2009 Roberto Clemente Award winner, and most importantly 5-time World's Champion, Derek Sanderson Jeter is what we'll take from 2009.