Why I Dislike Derek Jeter

It isn’t anything personal, mostly because I have never actually met the man, but I dislike Derek Jeter, (the professional baseball player).

Derek Jeter
Derek Jeter

I actually have a very hard time articulating this fact because my personal belief is that it is a waste of time to like or dislike people I have never met. What is the point? I don’t know them. Obviously, I lack information, and any lack of information leads directly to a weak or false conclusion, especially about people. How then do I continue this post without hypocrisy? I am not really sure, but I have this theory: people are constantly and naturally making evaluative decisions every day, about things and people we encounter and so this is, if not completely rational, at least consistent with basic humanity.

Feel free to judge me similarly without knowing me; I assure you, I will be unperturbed for as long as I know nothing about your judgments, and if I do become aware of them I am certain my reaction will be to arch an eyebrow (or possibly run off to a corner in which I will huddle and weep annoyingly while rocking back and forth). Either way, you are free to your own opinions.

Anyway, back to Derek Jeter. Derek Jeter plays the shortstop position for the New York Yankees, and has for his entire professional baseball career which began in 1995. Coincidentally, I really started to be interested in baseball as a sentient being in 1994 (when I was seven) and have, consequently, been watching Derek Jeter play baseball my entire life, especially during the 90s when it seemed like almost every year Derek Jeter and the Yankees were in the world series (96, 98, 99, 00, 01, 03) and Jeter was in the All·Star Game (98-02, 04, 06-10). Furthermore, Derek Jeter is unquestionably one of the greatest shortstops to play the game, purely from an athletic and statistical point of view. Just recently he capped his career to this point by reaching a mark never before attained by a shortstop or a New York Yankee: Jeter hit his 3000th hit.

But my problem with Jeter lies not in his performance on the field, but rather his persona off the field, and his revealed personality in interviews and the public forum, the most recent example of which revolves around the 2011 All·Star Game. Jeter won the popular vote for starting shortstop for the American League All·Stars by a large margin. He then proceeded to decline to play, or even to appear during the opening ceremonies, citing fatigue and a recent injury. He then proceeded to play several games in which he hit several more hits, including a home run for number 3000.

I can fully understand a player declining to play in an exhibition game for reasons of injury or fatigue. But, the players who show up for, and who have the option of playing in, the All·Star Game are voted for by the fans, fellow players, and coaches. Being selected for the All·Star Game means that a great number of people want to see you there, in that context, and cheer your success as a baseball player. Declining to play is understandable (some are even forced to not play due to rules to protect player health) but declining to show is a snub.

Jeter absolutely was recently injured. I understand that. But, he returned from injury to play long enough to reach a personal and professional milestone (3000 hits), and become one of only 28 hitters to reach such a milestone in over 114 years of professional baseball in America. If he could return from injury to hit a few more hits, and in so doing endure the rigor of a few games in order to do so, why could he not merely be present for the opening ceremonies of an exhibition game?

Declining to even be present, stay in a nice hotel for a few days, enjoy some exclusive privileges, put on a uniform and tip your hat to millions of cheering fans when they call your name is just arrogant and an extreme lack of class. Baseball players would be nobodies without a job if it were not for the fans who pay them to play a boy’s game via ticket sales and other revenues. Derek Jeter’s name would not be a household name if it were not for his millions of fans. And he just told them he did not care about them at all.

Lastly, while Jeter may be a future candidate for the Baseball Hall of Fame (based on his stats and records), and he may, in the past, have been an All·Star calibre player, this year he is playing well below form and well below the level of many other shortstops in baseball. This year, despite his 3000th hit, his performance did not merit an All·Star invitation. And when he was invited anyway, Jeter then spurned the invitation.

Derek Jeter displayed his arrogance and his contempt for the very people that employ him and make it possible for him to have the money, prestige, and acclaim that he enjoys. His is the insult of the kid given a present that he did not deserve by a loving caregiver who then turns up his nose at the giver and says “no thank you, I don’t feel like opening it, give it to someone else, I can’t really be bothered” and then goes to play in a corner.

And that is why I don’t like Derek Jeter.

I sincerely hope that if I ever get a chance to meet Jeter, I may come away with a completely different perspective. Knowing someone has the potential to make all the difference in the world in the way that person is understood.

Reflections in Film: Transformers 3

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

T3
T3

History: Transformers began as Hasbro toys. Then they became a much beloved TV show. In the past four years Transformers was remade into the action fest, explosion orgy that are Michael Bay films. The first movie was released in 2007 and resembled Bay’s 1998 success Armageddon: plenty of senseless action, a little heart and emotion, and almost everything blowing up. It was a solid pop-corn, summer blockbuster action flick. The plot centred on hapless Sam Witwicky (Shia Lebouf) who buys his first car in high school which turns out to be an incognito alien robot, Bumblebee of the Autobots. The Autobots are locked in a centuries long conflict with a bunch of evil robots, the Decepticons. Once the Decepticons realize Bumblebee and his Autobot friends are hiding on Earth, they launch an all out assult, hoping to destroy the Autobots and reclaim a powerful alien tech cube called the All Spark (also hidden on Earth).

The film was good, for what it was.

Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen was released in 2009. By this time, Sam had entered college, the Autobots, having vanquished (but not destroyed) the Decepticons are partnering with the American military to hunt down and destroy any remaining enemy robots. Unbeknown to them, an ancient evil robot called the Fallen has been waiting in stasis on a broken starship. He returns to earth hoping to find an ancient tomb of powerful dead robots and reclaim a powerful object that will allow him to harness the sun’s power, but destroy earth in the process. The Autobots, and Sam, rally with the US military to overcome this new, and more dangerous, threat.

The second Transformers film had much more action, a little more emotion, and a lot more things exploding. It was as good of a story as the first film, but suffered from an unrestrained Michael Bay. There really is a certain level of over-the-top filmmaking that Bay can get away with, but T2 really pushed that boundary.

Hype: I was expecting another solid entry in the Transformers franchise with Dark of the Moon. Early trailers showed some sort of NASA coverup involving more alien robots on the moon, which seemed like an interesting plot device. Trailers also showed completely absurd action sequences inside of falling building. I was at once intrigued and dismayed.

Megan Fox, who had played Sam’s love interest in the first two movies, had been replaced for the third movie. While Fox has sex appeal, she seemed increasingly bored in her scenes, and her contempt for Bay and Shia off camera oozed into palpable distaste for Sam on camera and I was glad to see her go. I was hoping for a stronger female character to counteract Sam and the rest of the male characters (ie, every other character). Mostly I was wishing that the story would be strong, and the action restrained to normal Bay amounts.

The Good: Alan Tudyk was in this movie. He had a bit part, but it was a hilarious part, to me anyway. I know Tudyk from Joss Whedon’s TV shows Firefly and Dollhouse. In Firefly he played a space ship pilot who was a funny, wacky, oddball. In Dollhouse he played a psychotic serial killer named Alpha who had multiple personalities, some of which were funny, oddball, wacky, creepy, weird, hilarious, or pyschopathic. In this film, he seemed to be continuing his performance as Alpha, albeit reformed somewhat. Whenever he talked, I totally lost it. There was one scene in a bar when Tudyk’s character, for no reason whatsoever, snaps and does some awesome kung-fu and snatches a few guns away from some bad guys only to suddenly “wake up” and mutter “Sorry, that was the old me” and that was pure Alpha. I wonder if the writer’s did in fact rip off the Whedon character, but even if they didn’t, Tudyk was funny as hell.

Oh yeah…the good. Hmm. Megan Fox was not in this movie. Some of the action scenes were restrained and more on par with T1 than T2.

I’m still thinking.

Oh, the recreation of the Apollo 11 moon landing was fantastic. I loved seeing that intercut with archival footage and recreations of JFK in the White House. Best cinematic opening sequences and the movie only went down from there into a deep, dark, hellish abyss from which there was no escape.

The Ugly: The first hour of the movie consists of Sam living with a Victoria Secret model who works for a car museum and who totally despises him for not having a job. Sam then whines about not having a job despite having marginally helped to save the planet twice and having got a medal from Obama. Sam whines a lot. And then he meets a totally psychotic John Malkovich who has no reason to be in the movie. At all. There is some very unfunny stuff in the first hour with employees at a place where Sam does some stuff. I seem to remember something about the color red. Oh, and a murder that involved a man flying out of skyscraper window which the writers tried to make quite a few jokes about, but the scene was played sort of seriously, but then they also tried to make jokes. It was awkward and wrong and bad and clunky and completely unnecessary.

After Sam stopped whining about not having a nice car and a job working with the Autobots, the Autobots find the alien robots on the moon which nobody thought to mention to them, and then they find this ancient robot who they revive thinking he will be nice and helpful for them in their fight against the Decepticons, except that this guy made a pact with the evil robots back in the day and he totally betrays everyone and goes to the dark side.

Then for no reason he and his Decepticon pals destroy Chicago (for no reason) and demand that Earth expel the Autobots. The Autobots then leave on a special space shuttle (despite the fact that they themselves can fly into space or transform into space flying robots) which the Decepticons then destroy. But not to worry, because right as Sam is infiltrating Chicago basically on his own to rescue his uncaring girlfriend, the Autobots return, declaring that they allowed Chicago, and millions of humans to be murdered horribly, simply to show the Earth that the Earth really needs them…to save millions of humans from being murdered horribly.

Then some action happens, none of it believable, which is par for the course on a Bay film except that half the time it seemed like Bay was directing normal Bay scenes and someone else was directing totally-off-the-charts scenes. Seriously, this movie felt like it had 3 directors all fighting with Bay who was trying to make a T1/Armageddon scale movie.

Eventually, the incredibly evil former-good guys and the criminally inept US military win the day, and Optimus Prime, the leader of the Autobots, stands as victor over his original enemy, Megatron, and his new enemy, Sentinal Prime. Both surrender, and Optimus Prime pulls the spine out of Megatron and shoots Sentinal Prime in the head execution style. After both surrendered to him.

The story was good, except for the bits where Sam whined about being unemployed for an hour, the irrelevant characters, and, oh yeah, the events of the first two films being completely invalidated because if the facts of this film really were known by people during the first two films, then the first two films would not have happened like they did. This was one of those sequels that makes the prequels incomprehensible.

The Personal: I didn’t connect with this film at all. Sam whined like a bitch. One of the heroic soldiers from the first two movies transformed into a coward. And the heroic leader robot turned into an accomplice to mass murder before he summarily murdered two of his enemies who had just surrendered to him.

Final Thoughts: Sentinal Prime, the new villain, was voiced by Leonard Nimoy, Spock from the Original Star Trek. The writers used this as an excuse to steal Spock’s most famous lines from Wrath of Khan and completely misunderstand them and misuse them, which in addition to making the writers look stupid, also made them look completely lazy.

Sam whining about a job seemed selfish in the wake of massive national unemployment, especially when he had a few good job offers that he completely pissed on because he felt he deserved better. When millions are out of work, it makes your writers look like douches when their “hero” character won’t work available jobs.

There is a low standard for Michael Bay films, and this film worked way too hard to not meet that standard. This film could have been as “good” as Armageddon but whatever was happening with the especially horrible writing and inconsistent directing made this movie so much worse. All the way through, it seemed like there was a Michael Bay Transformers movie in there somewhere, but it kept getting interrupted by someone else’s idea of what would make a funny, or cool, or something scene, most of which didn’t belong or have anything to do with anything else in the film. Shia Lebouf has said that he is done making Transformers movies, and I hope that Bay is too. I think that someone else could bring a fresh vision to Transformers, but hopefully not for 20 years. We need more original stories right now and we need to forget about giant fighting CGI robots for a while.

Final Score: 1.5 of 5 transforming car robots (entirely due to Alan Tudyk’s presence and Megan Fox’s absence and the uber cool recreation of Apollo 11 and a cameo by the real Buzz Aldrin).