You’ve got your misogynist felons, your hideous husbands, your congressional I-love-my-own-crotch grabbers, your coaching cheats and your Miami Heats. That’s just the past month or so on the timeline of men behaving unpleasantly or worse.
This story first appeared in the June 16, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Then, you’ve got Derek Jeter. Thank God.
At this particular moment, when high-profile men are not faring well as a news-making genre, the fact that Jeter is approaching his temporarily-on-hold 3,000th hit should be a joy for all, a significant teachable moment for parents and others who interface with kids in mentoring roles. And a relief for the rest of us who, no matter how much we enjoy salacious tabloid-ism and reality TV follies, cling to the notion that public decorum need not be owned by old ladies and unblemished clerics alone.
Whatever behavior one shows to the world is part of his or her personal style. It’s a choice. These days, when it plays as genuine, a celebrity’s good behavior merits notice; when it impacts accomplishment, as in Jeter’s case, all the better. He was deposited by fate and a savvy draft pick into the most high-profile situation in sports at an age when succumbing to various big-city temptations is understood by most people, both participants and elder observers, as a right of passage. But from the start, he seemed impervious to trouble. Conducting himself with decorum back then, as a kid under the bright glare of newfound celebrity, was an accomplishment (“newfound” being relative; most early draft picks were local celebrities throughout adolescence, but Kalamazoo famous is different than Bronx-legend-in-the-making famous). To have maintained that decorum through an ascent to deified status at a time when celebrities’ personal freedoms are under constant assault by a 24-hour news cycle and tweeting, camera-phone wielding civilian scandal chasers is nothing short of miraculous.
Yet Jeter-jabbing has become something of a mini sport unto itself. As throughout his contract negotiations, in the current baseball season, references to age-related diminished skills abound in the media and sports bars alike. According to a Sports Illustrated survey a few weeks ago, anonymous players voted Jeter the game’s third-most-overrated player behind teammates Alex Rodriguez and Joba Chamberlain. (A little anti-New York bias at play there, maybe?) Sports journalists routinely note Jeter’s blandness of sound byte; on Tuesday, Daniel Barbarisi of The Wall Street Journal called him “the most vanilla man in baseball.” Read: boring; expected.
Boring — not unless you consider five World Series wins boring. Expected — without question. And happily so. Jeter is someone who, due to circumstances of his own making, must live up, rather than down, to expectations. For 16 years, he has given us good manners, a stiff upper lip, productivity and a tremendous work ethic. As they say in baseball, he runs hard to first. (It’s perhaps ironic that running to first landed him on the Disabled List for only the second time in his career.) If inherent in some of that is a certain guardedness, so what? Isn’t discretion preferable than being caught on camera spewing a homophobic slur you don’t mean? What a fabulous message to send to kids and others, that not only the loudest, most obnoxious person in the room gets noticed. That being respectful doesn’t make you a dork. That not cheating and lying makes you not a cheater and not a liar. And, drum roll please, that apparently there are ways to date and break up with a series of gorgeous women (he’s Derek Jeter, not the Dalai Lama) that instill in those women the inclination not to kiss and tell.
Most of us will never know nor can we imagine the upside of being Derek Jeter. Most of us do know what’s it like to have to perform at work day-in, day-out, year after year, sometimes when we don’t feel like it. In most fields, long-term accomplishment involves a little luck, some natural aptitude and a lot of hard work. Though it’s easy to exclude rich, overly indulged athletes from that conversation, in fact, 3,000 hits in baseball are its very epitome. That accomplishment isn’t about power or short-term spurts. It’s about working hard, respecting your body and grinding it out over the long haul. How fabulous that the next guy to do it is praise-worthy for his long-term work ethic and ever-elegant countenance alike.
Move over, DSK, Sperminator, Weiner, Tressel and LeBron. Derek Jeter is six hits away from his latest news cycle. Thank God.
• • • • •
On to a different kind of season: Resort — it’s just too long and random. Under its various names — resort, cruise, pre-spring — this endless range of openings is now officially a big enough deal to be presented as a formal, industry-wide season. Chanel showed in Antibes, France, in early May. A full six weeks later, will anyone carry a rush of anticipation into Valentino next Tuesday? And for that matter, representatives of some smaller houses are still calling or e-mailing to say, “We’re showing tomorrow,” or, “We’re showing next week.” Why?
By now, everyone knows about the importance of resort, the longest full-price selling season, blah, blah, blah. So why treat it like a quasi-season, presentationwise? I’m not suggesting the addition of a third round of major editorial shows, Lord no. But why not codify the randomness into a defined period with a firm beginning and a firm end? The CFDA got the ball rolling by encouraging the Americans to cluster into a two-week period. (Not all complied.) Then, the European day at Milk Studios got under way. Those two efforts are a strong start, but only a start. Realistically, two weeks aren’t enough. It would take at least three weeks of formally scheduled slots — and ample international cooperation. While there would be some initial adjustment pains, history has proven fashion folk an adaptable lot. (Some of us remember when the New York fall shows were the first week of May.) Karl could kick things off with Chanel in whatever locale he fancies at the moment, with the bulk of houses following, most showing here in New York as happens now. A tighter time frame would make it easier on all who cover the shows, not just logistically, but in terms of evaluating the season as a whole, and thus treating resort like the big deal it is.