Why I Hate Derek Jeter

In case you haven’t heard, Derek Jeter has retired from baseball.  Thank God.  I have been a Jeter Hater for most of the last 20 years.  The past six months have been really rough.  One of the worst things about it has been the way I’m immediately attacked for the fact that I don’t like Jeter.  He’s just an athlete.  My not liking him is kind of like my hating The Matrix, it doesn’t matter.  I can hate Derek Jeter and it in no way affects anyone else’s love or hate of Jeter.  There’s no need to feel threatened.  I have my reasons just like other people have their reasons for loving Derek Jeter.  But, since I’m always having to defend myself for my Jeter hatred, I thought I’d go over the reasons here.  This way, whenever anyone expresses disbelief at my feelings, I can just direct them here and forget about it.

A whole lot of my Jeter hatred comes from the whole New York thing.  I’ve said this many times, but New York City should have a real shot at being the greatest city in the world.  It’s not, though.  The single biggest reason why it’s not the greatest city in the world is because New Yorkers are constantly reminding the rest of us that it is the greatest city in the world.  Their excessive pride comes off as annoying insecurity.  Frankly, even though it has far less to offer, I’d rather visit Philly.  For the past 20 years, people have been telling me, “You gotta love Jeter.”  Well, this may come as a shock, but no, I don’t.  He was the shortstop for my least favorite sports franchise.  Why would I have to love him?  Every single time someone said it to me, it made me like him a little less.  Over the course of a 20 year career, I heard it more times than I could count.  It was probably sometime in 2001 when the constant barrage of, “You gotta love Jeter,” tipped me over into hatred.

My next biggest reason for hating Jeter is at least baseball related.  I’ve been watching baseball for most of my life.  I recognize that Jeter is a Hall of Famer.  If I had a vote, despite my hatred, I would vote for him.  However, he is not the greatest shortstop ever.  For his last ten years, he was the second or third best shortstop on his own team.  When I look at other great players like Cal Ripken, Carl Yaztremski, Jackie Robinson, Craig Biggio, and Chipper Jones, they were all willing to switch positions to help the team.  Not Captain Jetes, though.  He was going to play shortstop every day, no matter how bad his range got.  That’s not a quality I like in a player.

Then there is the off the field issues. He’s a great role model! I can tell you, I wouldn’t want my daughter dating Derek Jeter. Someday she’ll turn 25 and get traded in for a newer model (get it?). I may be weird, but I don’t like the fact that he keeps getting older, but his girlfriends never do. He’s a player (or playa). That’s not a problem as long as the girls know what they’re getting in to. It’s just not what I think of when I think of a role model.

He’s also a terrible interview and unbelievably boring.  He went to the Crash Davis school of baseball and never deviated from the text.  I watch baseball to be entertained, so I want my players to be entertaining.  A PR professional couldn’t have delivered better talking points.  It would be nice if, once or twice in 20 years, he expressed an actual opinion. Give me Johnny Damon or Nick Swisher or Rickey Henderson any day.

I know I shouldn’t be, but I’m also annoyed by the way the baseball press covered him.  His most famous home run was really a fly ball to the warning track.  If anyone else hit it, we would have had non-stop talk of the need for instant replay.  He would not have been dubbed a hero.  The flip was unspeakably bad base running by Jeremy Giambi.  Hear the press talk about it, though, and you’d think it was Vince Coleman in his prime running the bases.  Even the home run that got him the title Mr. November came in a series he lost.  Would Reggie Jackson be known as Mr. October if his teams lost the world series?

And there’s also the whole class thing.  This isn’t really Jeter’s fault, but he’s constantly described as classy.  There are two reasons why this bothers me.  The first is I don’t want my baseball players to be classy.  If you offered my team 25 Yasiel Puigs, I would be the happiest fan on the planet.  I want more flair, not less.  It annoys me the same way as when the music press can’t stop talking about a musician’s outfits.  I don’t listen to the outfits.  Who cares if Jeter is classy?  How does he play baseball?  The second reason it bugs me is that you can’t do a year long farewell tour, making yourself the center of attention, and shilling for Nike and Gatorade and still be considered classy.

Finally, there’s an old trick I try to use to tell if I should be bothered by something or not. Basically, I imagine someone else did the action to see if I would have the same reaction. If my boss says something that bothers me, I imagine my wife saying the same thing. If I still find it annoying, I’m justified. If I no longer find it annoying, I’m being unfair to my boss. Jeter doesn’t do well with this technique.  If anyone else dated the girls he dates, the New York press would tear him apart.  Arod caught constant grief for dating Cameron Diaz.  At least they’re the same age.  When Bob Sheppard died, Jeter chose to use a recording of Bob Sheppard for his at bats.  Everyone ate it up; what a touching tribute.  All I can see is that Jeter is obviously too good for the new guy.  I can’t help but think if any other player had tried it, the team would have said no.  And if, by some weird oversight, the team didn’t say no, the press would have killed that person for drawing attention to himself rather than honoring the deceased.

Now, I hope everyone understands that I’m talking about Derek Jeter, the baseball player and media persona.  At the beginning I mentioned that hating Jeter is like hating The Matrix.  As a movie, it failed to entertain me.  At the end of it, I was out ten bucks and got nothing for it.  I’ve never met Jeter.  He’s probably nice, smart, funny, and engaging.  As a baseball player, though, Derek Jeter was never my type, but that never stopped half the world from trying to fix us up.  He’s out of baseball now.  Hopefully, I can go most of the next five years without hearing about him.

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Thoughts on the Scottish Referendum (Sort Of)

The Scottish independence referendum left me disappointed.  That’s funny because I would have voted against separation if I had been able to vote.  I didn’t have any kind of stake, but it looked to me like Scottish independence would have been bad for the UK as well as for Scotland.  Divorces are almost always messier than the parties anticipate.  So, the vote went the way I believe it should have, but I’m still disappointed.  I think the reason for my disappointment is that Scottish independence would have been a real change that Americans would have noticed.

Americans have become profoundly conservative since World War II.  I don’t mean the Republican type of conservative.  I mean that we seem to have this idea that the way things are is the only way they can be.  Sure there are changes, but not the kind of changes that really change anything.  Even a change as dramatic as the fall of the Soviet Union didn’t really register for most Americans.  Russia and the Soviet Union were always pretty synonymous.  Americans don’t see why the Ukraine situation is troubling because most of us think they are all Russian anyway.  And it’s not like we dismantled the military/industrial complex that resulted from the Truman Doctrine.  We just kind of subbed China in for Russia and kept plugging along as if nothing had changed.

We talk about change a lot in America, but we are a horrible combination of fearful and cynical about it.  We are fearful because we seem to think that any change will be a change for the worse.  Socialized medicine will obviously result in long waits and death panels.  Any kind of robust social safety net will make everyone lazy and stupid.  It’s a, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t,” idea that has become pervasive.  We are cynical because we never believe change will make a difference.  Don’t quit smoking because something else will just kill us instead.  If we raise taxes, they’ll just find another loophole.

I’m not just talking about Republicans either.  Liberals in America are just as conservative.  That’s a big part of why politics is so predictable.  It doesn’t matter what scientists say about fracking or whether expanded use of natural gas would be good for the environment, it’s a new technique that could completely disrupt the fossil fuel market and there might be an accident, so it must be bad.  GMOs might be our best way to survive climate change and feed the hungry, but apparently it’s better to not try than to maybe, possibly do something bad.

Looking at the Great Recession, everyone’s goal, on the left and the right, was to get things back to normal as quickly as possible.  Why did we want to go back to what caused the problem in the first place?  Because we are too conservative.  It’s like it never occurred to anyone that systematic failures might be the result of a bad system.  Instead of bailouts and regulation, maybe we should have tried something new.

Education reform is another area where everyone is conservative.  Most people seem to think there are problems with education, but nearly all of the proposed solutions are downright timid.  Most of them come down to more: more teachers, more math, more homework, more tests.  Rather than worrying about how many teachers there are, how to assess the teachers and students, and who should pay for it, let’s look at the model itself.

Anyone who has read this far is probably wondering what any of this has to do with the referendum for Scottish independence.  There are two things.  Scottish independence would have been real change that actually changed things and I think Americans would have actually noticed.  We would have noticed because we share a language and we have real and deep ties with the UK.  They are not an adversary like the Soviet Union, and Sally Struthers has never asked us to help them.  Our banking system uses the London InterBank Offered Rate.  HSBC, Lloyds, Standard Charter, and RBS are all hugely influential in America and are all British.  I know I’m being naive, but I just feel like if a real change happened that people noticed, maybe we’ll wake up and realize that we can change, too.  50 isn’t a magic number, maybe we could add some states.  Capitalism isn’t part of our constitution (and it wasn’t on the minds of the founders), so maybe we could experiment with other economic systems.  The point is, we have a lot of longstanding problems in this country and in this world.  They are not going to get fixed with the same ideas that haven’t worked before.  We need something new.  And while I think the Scots made the right decision, I feel like we missed a real opportunity for change.

Work Friends

Friendship has been a subject for philosophical thought since there has been philosophical thought.  This only makes sense since friendship is such an important part of human life.  As with much of philosophy, Plato discussed the topic, but Aristotle’s views are what dominate the landscape.  Aristotle saw three different types of friendship.  There are friendships based on pleasure.  Basically, these are people who are friends because they entertain each other.  There are friendships based on utility.  These are people who are friends because they can help each other.  Then, there are friendships based on virtue.  These are cases where people recognize the inherent goodness in each other and become friends.

Of the three types of friendships, the third is obviously the ideal.  Some even argue that friendship based on virtue is the only true friendship.  That doesn’t seem right, though.  There are two problems with this view.  The first is that friendship would be too rare.  Friendship is an integral part of most people’s lives.  Redefining friendship in a restrictive way eliminates all of those friendships.  The second is that it is ideal rather than real.  The separate categories serve a function.  They allow discussions and help to illuminate different features of friendship.  But, all real life friendships are a mixture of different categories.  To define only one as real misses what actual friendships are.

Failure to see friendships of pleasure and friendships of utility as true friendships also misses the way actual people experience friendship.  When it comes to utility or pleasure, if the experience is fungible, it is not a friendship.  If any carpenter can do a job, there is no friendship between the carpenter and the client.  If there’s only one carpenter that can do the job, because she is trustworthy, skilled, and clever, then the carpenter and client are on the way to becoming friends.  If the carpenter turns around and uses the client’s gardening service, rather than any other, because the client is also trustworthy, skilled, and clever, then they have a real friendship.

There are several things that all friendships have in common.  Some of these are shared experiences, common interests, intimacy, reciprocity, and caring.  These are needed to see the difference between friends and non-friends, especially with the pleasure and utility categories.  For example, many people are entertained by Steve Martin, but very few of those people are friends with Steve Martin¹.  The simple reason is that the relationship is completely one sided.  People have experiences with Steve Martin, they have common interests with Steve Martin, they care about Steve Martin, but they don’t share these things with him.  And there is no reciprocity or intimacy.

Work friends do not fit into any of the three basic categories, at least not necessarily.  The phrase “work friends” sounds like it would fit into the category of utility, but that is wrong.  Depending on the place of business, co-workers often cannot do anything to help each other.  They might work in different departments or with different products.  Work friendships are also not built on pleasure.  If a person spent her time entertaining her co-workers, she probably wouldn’t last very long in the job.  Work friends are the people that meet the basic criteria of friendship, but with a twist.  That twist is that the only reason for the friendship is a shared job.  This twist is enough of a change to make work friendships an entirely new category of friendship.

Work friends have all of the basic criteria of friendship.  They have shared experiences, often 40 hours a week worth.  They have common interests, these can be anything from the actual work they do to NCAA sports.  There is an intimacy that develops just from spending time around another person.  And if their relationship goes beyond co-workers to work friends, there is reciprocity and caring.  Also, work friendships are not fungible.  If a person leaves a business and a replacement is hired, there is no guarantee that the replacement will have the same work friends as his predecessor.  There are two ways that work friends are different than all of the other types of friendship.  The first is that the work friends’ relationship takes place solely at work.  Otherwise they would just be friends.  The second is that the relationship is between people who would never have had a relationship if not for work.

With most friendships, it is obvious why the people are friends.  They are roughly the same age, speak the same language, live in the same place, participate in the same leisure activities.  Work brings together people of all ages, cultures, languages, and economic situations. Work can create friendships between 18 year olds fresh out of high school and 65 year olds counting the days until retirement.  It can create friendships between single mothers trying to put food on the table and trust fund kids trying to pad their resumes.  This isn’t to say that all co-workers eventually become friends.  However, the 18 year old and 65 year old would never meet without work.  The single mother  and trust fund kid would never discover a common interest without work.  Like utility and pleasure, work is a facilitator of genuine friendships.

Work as it is thought of today is relatively recent.  Prior to the Industrial Revolution, most people did not go to a place of work with complete strangers.  Most people worked on farms or in small village centers with family and people they had known all of their lives.  It is this change that has given rise to a new category of friendship.  It is sad if a work friend leaves.  It is happy if a work friend has a child.  These feelings are the result of an actual connection, a genuine interest in the other person.  Work friends help make day to day drudgery tolerable.  Since most people spend most of their time at work, it is good that this new category developed.

 


Barbara Roth was a work friend who died earlier this week.  I am sure we would have never connected if not for work.  I am closer to her kids’ ages than her age.  She’s New York through and through while I’m adamant that Connecticut is part of New England.  The things that we had in common were that we were both tutors and both had a strong interest in philosophy.  I literally never saw her outside of the Academic Success Center at Capital Community College.  Yet, we were friends.  Writing a philosophical essay justifying that feeling is the best way I could think of to pay tribute to our friendship.

 

¹If anyone reading this is actually friends with Steve Martin, please give him my best and please suggest he contact Oteil Burbridge about a banjo album.  It would be amazing.

Never Forget?

Every September 11th, I dread going on social media.  It’s bad enough that I’m forced to relive an awful experience every year, but it seems like everyone is exhorting me to, “Never forget!” Aside from the fact that I bristle at people telling me what to do, the vagueness of it is annoying.  Am I supposed to never forget the attacks themselves?  Or should I never forget the people who died?  Or should I never forget the depression, anger, and powerlessness of that day?  Or maybe I shouldn’t forget any of it.  Personally, I’d rather forget all of it.

I imagine that the people demanding my memory be elephantine are doing so as a way of honoring those who were lost.  I get that, but never forgetting doesn’t do it for me.  I find it is better to honor people by living my life, trying to be good, helping others, and remembering the good times.  If I fail to move on, if I let the tragedy shape my life, it seems to me I am dishonoring the victims.

Another reason I can see for forcing these memories on me is people buy in to the famous quote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I’m a fan of Santayana, but I have to disagree with him on this.  The French and Belgians remembered World War I vividly when they fell to the same strategy in World War II.  Remembering the Holocaust hasn’t prevented a whole series of genocides since.  Remembering the Soviet war with Afghanistan didn’t stop America from doing the same thing.  Holding on to tragedies is counter-productive.  People in American are still fighting the Civil War and the Alamo.  The Israelis are still fighting the Holocaust and the Six Day War.  When we “never forget” we never move on.  Never forgetting keeps feuds and bigotry alive.  If forgiveness is a virtue, and I think it is, we should all work on forgetting.

Famous Pictures of Naked People

Apple had a rather famous security breach not too long ago. The iCloud accounts of a bunch of celebrities were hacked and the hackers stole naked pictures and posted them to the internet. While I don’t know the people involved or the circumstances surrounding the taking of the pictures, the whole ordeal has highlighted just how different celebrity culture is from the culture of the rest of us. This difference might be important. A lot of ink is spilled discussing PhotoShop and body image, but what if this cultural disconnect gives people the wrong ideas about all kinds of things?

Before I start, I just want to make it clear that I’m not blaming the victims. The hackers are solely responsible and clearly in the wrong. And I’m also not accusing the people who were keeping naked pictures of themselves of being narcissistic or anything else. For all I know it’s a job requirement for actors. Maybe costume designers use the pictures for something or other.

Strangely, to me, the press coverage of the hack doesn’t make much mention of how odd it is that there were naked pictures of celebrities in the cloud.  This is what really got me thinking about this.  This seems to be a fairly normal thing for celebrities to do.  Otherwise, the hackers would not have found anything or the media coverage would have at least had an explanation of what the pictures were doing there.  If the celebrities think it is normal, and the press thinks it’s normal, do we run the risk of regular people thinking it’s normal.  I don’t mean that in a prudish, “Somebody think of the children!” sort of way.  I mean that, in general, people are not exactly open about what normal sexual practices are.  I think we run the risk of people feeling like they are unusual.  There is absolutely a range of normal, but if people think what they see in movies and on TV is normal, then no one will ever measure up to normal.

This is much more confessional than normal for me, but I thought I’d go through some of the common Hollywood themes that are presented as normal and compare them to what I think is normal.  I can’t speak for anyone other than myself, but I’m pretty sure I fall into the range of normal.

Celebrity Culture: Hugh Hefner is presented as living some kind of ideal life.  He’s rich, famous, and always surrounded by young, blonde women.

Gene Glotzer: Hugh Hefner makes me sad.  His lifestyle seems to me like some cruel, twisted torture for having been really, really bad in a previous life.

CC: Movies and TV act like if a person goes a couple of days without having sex, the “dry spell” makes normal human functioning almost impossible.

GG: It is common to go days, weeks, or months without sex.  Sometimes a person is sick, or busy, or doesn’t have a partner.  It’s not that big a deal, and certainly not something to complain about openly.  There’s always masturbation for a release.

CC: Women should be skinny and men should be hairless.

GG: Both women and men should look like themselves.  I’ll bet the ideal look according to most men is to take a typical actress and add 20-30 pounds.  I’ll go even further and say that most men honestly find their partners attractive.  They’re not just pretending to get more sex.  They honestly like what they see.  I can’t speak for what women think of their partners, but I will say that as nice as sex is, it’s not worth the amount of shaving and waxing that would be necessary to look like a mannequin.  And before anyone comments about women shaving their legs, I’m sure if women stopped shaving their legs, it would take men a couple hours to adjust and stop caring.

CC: Condoms are difficult to use and ruin sex.

GG: If a person has trouble putting on a condom, that person shouldn’t be having sex. They are quite easy.  And if a person can’t have satisfying sex with a condom, that person isn’t doing it right.

CC: Men and women can’t be just friends.

GG: This is too ridiculous to need comment. I’m pretty sure literally every person I know has at least one friend of the opposite sex who isn’t a perspective sexual partner.

These are just a few of the things that I seem to see over and over again while watching TV and movies.  When I see them, I always wonder if the writers have ever actually talked to a normal person.  I just hope that everyone else watching has the same reaction.