Thursday, September 16, 2010

Why I Don't Think About Tulo

Call it superstitious, lazy or pathological, but I've never looked at a photo of Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki because I won't pay attention to any shortstop that isn't Derek Jeter. However, tonight while making a list of baseball players whose first and last names start with the same initial,* I decided that it was time.

While scrolling through the trove of Google image thumbnails, I felt overcome by a sadness that I quickly realized had nothing to do with young Tulo and his unremarkable appearance and everything to do with the inevitable decline of Derek Jeter. Things haven't been going well for DJ recently. Not only is he batting well below his usual average, but he's also failing to get the crucial game-changing hits that once earned him the nickname Captain Clutch.** Maybe it's just a bad year. That's okay. These come and go. It also happens to be the last year of his contract with the Yankees, and this fact has provided an irresistible news hook to what could have otherwise passed as a season as forgettable as Troy Tulowitzki's face.

Personally, I think that the end is still a long way off and that the near future holds at least two or three more truly great Jeterian years. Then, in his final season, the Yankees will win the World Series and even non-Yankee fans will cry because we'll all know that the team did it for him and that he did it for us. This kind of maudlin hokiness is exactly why people like sports. As W.G. Sebald once said:
It is a characteristic of our species, in evolutionary terms, that we are a species in despair, for a number of reasons. Because we have created an environment for us which isn't what it should be. And we're out of our depth all the time.... And I think there is no way in which we can escape it. The only thing that you can do, and that most people seem to be able to do very successfully, is to subdue it. And if you can do that by, I don't know, playing baseball or watching football on television, then that's possibly a good thing, I don't know.
What happens when the diversion from sadness and despair becomes its own source of sadness and despair remains to be seen. I'm a fairly new sports fan, and Derek Jeter will be my first sports hero to pass his prime, retire and eventually die. And then what will I do? Look at photos of the new nondescript shortstop who reminds everyone of Troy Tulowitzki in his prime? Or give in and write a book about walking around England, failed artificial lights, silkworm noises and driving on the wrong side of the road?

Or, do as I've grown accustomed to doing and continue to follow Derek Jeter's advice, which, of course, was always meant to be applicable beyond baseball: never treat your life like an old t-shirt. Not even past the glory days.

*Here is the list I made without using an external reference: Alfredo Aceves, Billy Butler, Chris Carpenter, Carl Crawford, Coco Crisp, David DeJesus, Edwin Encarnacion, Gio Gonzalez, Josh Johnson, Jair Jurrjens, Kila Kaaihue, Kenshin Kawakami, Mark Melancon, Melvin Mora, Ramon Ramirez, Stephen Strasburg, Troy Tulowitzki
**I used to think his nickname was Captain Crunch because his head looks like a peanut.