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Eli Manning is a Breath of Fresh Air in Jeter’s City

By Mike Silva ~ February 4th, 2012. Filed under: New York Yankees.

For over 15 years Derek Jeter has been the sports symbol in this town. The Yankees shortstop benefitted from being in the right place/right time, as the Bombers won a World Series his first season in the big leagues. Jeter was young, playing for an up-and-coming team, and produced big moments on the big postseason stage. He joined the likes of Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, and Mantle in the pantheon of New York sports. No one in the four major sports has challenged his throne, but that may change in just over 24 hours as Eli Manning could lead the Giants to their second Super Bowl in the last five years.

In a lot of ways Manning is everything that Jeter pretends to be. He isn’t a great quote or dynamic, but I get the sense that Manning is exactly the same on camera as off- I don’t believe the same of Jeter. There is a certain charm to “Peyton’s little brother” that Jeter lost sometime around Y2K. For years, Jeter’s stoicism has been packaged as class. The Yankees success since 1996 has largely been credited to him, despite the fact there are so many contributors that make up a winning baseball team. To his credit, Jeter has put together one of the best public relations campaigns since Mantle and DiMaggio. What’s even more astonishing is how he’s done it in the new media world where camera phones, social media, and gossip journalism reigns. I still don’t know how he was able to have HBO do an “all-access” documentary and have himself portrayed as a boring, stay at home bachelor that waits for his movie star girlfriend to return from set?

We now know its phony, and I believe Jeter’s Q-Rating has taken a bit of a hit. He came across as greedy and out of touch during his contract negotiations, skipped the All Star Game, and appeared on Page 6 story that claims he exchanges autographs with his “female friends.” You would think I am talking about A-Rod, but no, it’s Derek Jeter, the prince of New York.

Even with his faults, Jeter still outshines other stars that have made their way through this town the last 25 years. Strawberry and Gooden blew their opportunity to drugs and alcohol. Mark Messier had his 5-minutes, but the Rangers play a fourth tier sport and couldn’t sustain success. Jose Reyes and David Wright never could make it past first base. Patrick Ewing? His personality was more suited for Indiana than the big city. I don’t have to tell you why Lawrence Taylor or A-Rod couldn’t reach that plateau. The closest we have seen to Jeter is Don Mattingly, but George Steinbrenner ruined his window of opportunity.

Eli Manning has the opportunity to become what we thought Jeter was. I admire Manning more because he didn’t come into a “ready-made” situation like The Captain. Manning was drafted with the football version of the Kennedy last name. The Giants were a terrible team with sour personalities. He was almost run out of town before his career started. Jeter had the Yellow Brick Road paved for his glory; Manning has laid the bricks himself. I think of Manning as a combination of Jeter and Mattingly. The star-power of Jeter, but with the real blue collar work-ethic of Mattingly. What’s Eli’s secret? The NFL.com nails it when they say “it’s all about being himself.” I don’t even know if Jeter knows who or what he is.

It’s tough for any non-baseball star to be the prince of this city. The 24/7/365 nature of the sport gives anyone an unfair advantage. If Eli Manning loses tomorrow’s Super Bowl matchup with New England- especially if his performance comes up short- this column falls on the side of ridicule- that’s ok. I am rooting for Eli Manning because I like real sports stories. I like someone who’s the underdog and builds his own narrative. Do you respect the man who inherited the penthouse, or the man or built it himself?

This is not about taking anything away from Derek Jeter, the player. I respect the consistency of his play. I just think he’s viewed to be more important and a bigger reason for Yankees success than what is reality. As for Jeter, the person, you can have him. He is not my cup of tea.

Eli Manning doesn’t need a PR team to paint a picture to New York City. He just needs to be himself. That’s enough for me. It might be enough to catapult him to the top of New York sports.

If not Manning, then who? I hate to say it, but Jeter is about all we have. David Wright and Mark Sanchez are lost puppy dogs. Carmelo Anthony and A’mare Stoudemire have their own issues to work out. The Rangers are a great story, but again, it’s a fourth tier sport and the most popular person on that team is the coach. Manning is the most logical heir apparent for the foreseeable future.

It’s been a long time since we have been represented by a grass roots sports hero. The one thing I envy about Boston is the blue collar and real nature of its stars. I have grown weary of the PR-induced nature of the Jeter brand. His stoicism, once admired, now just comes across as boorish. Hopefully, Eli Manning gives us a reason to debate on Monday morning whether he belongs in that class. Maybe he can expose the Jeter brand for what it is. Maybe we can all get behind a New York star; not a PR brand.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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12 Responses to Eli Manning is a Breath of Fresh Air in Jeter’s City

  1. voIII

    Well done… I think you have captured what a lot of people in this city feel about Jeter and Manning. Even as a die-hard Yankee fan I always thought Jeter’s legend overshadowed his true talent level. His consistent level of play should not be disparaged. However, during the past 17 season’s Jeter was never even the best player on his own team (with the exception of maybe two seasons). His phony good boy image is also overdone. In addition, the way he handled the A-rod situation left a bad impression with many who followed it.

    Derek Jeter will be a first ballot Hall of Fame inductee and is deserving of that honor. I just wouldn’t want him as a friend or confidant unless it was for the privilege of hanging out with so many beautiful women. Manning however, is like the little brother we all wish we had.

  2. Michael

    GREAT article!! Well done.

  3. Kevin

    It’s been a long time since we have been represented by a grass roots sports hero. The one thing I envy about Boston is the blue collar and real nature of its stars.

    And who would those be? Many of the biggest sports stars in the past decade in Boston have been shown to be arrogant jerks and in some cases,cheaters.
    Is Jeter perfect? No, but certainly not deserving of the hatchet job you’ve given him here.
    Should also be noted Eli has given Jeter a lot of credit for reaching out to him at the start,funny you don’t mention that in your article at all.

  4. mister d

    WTF is a “grass roots” sports hero?

  5. Brian

    great point at the end there kevin…

  6. Alexis

    ITs all so true. As a new yorker & a new york fan I back my city 100% and I love the yankees. But I really think that derek is just a more put together a-rod who knows when to keep his mouth shut. But he’s clearly a womanizer, and I really think his overhyped image is unfair to the Tinos, Bernies, Posadas, Marianos, O’Neils, Boomers, and many other great players he played with. Jeter did not carry that team. He was not THE leader, he was one of many. You give credit where its due, but lets be honest, he gets much more than his due. Tho I’ll defend him to the moon to any bostonian.

    I’d love one guy to prove they’re not all the same. They’re not all over-paid, over-hyped, self-indulgent, and self-important athletes who care more about their public persona than the actual game and their fans. I really hope Eli Manning & Tim Tebow are such guys. For NY, I’m pulling for Manning, win or lose

  7. Saket

    Great Article Mike. However, in my view, the person who has always been what Jeter has pretended to be is Mariano Rivera. I consider him to be the greatest athlete of my lifetime, and one of the greatest people of my lifetime. And…I think he is the one player that if the yankees lost, they wouldn’t have their 5 championships.

  8. Pablo

    Mike, you really come off as hater here. I don’t know what Jeter ever did to you personally, but its clear there is a lot of envy directed toward him from you in this article. I say this as a diehard Mets fan, who has grown to respect Jeter for the way he plays the game. Is he the greatest player i ever saw? No, not by a long shot. But he is one of the most clutch and remarkably consistent players I’ve ever watched. As far as his off the field persona, are we really going to criticize him for being a single man well into his 30s who dates some of the hottest women on earth? Most of us would trade our lives for his in a nanosecond. To my knowledge, Jeter has never gotten a DWI, has no public record of domestic violence, no women have come forward saying he fathered a child with them who he is not taking care of financially, no criminal record to speak of, he contributes to various charities. So why the hatchet job? You seem to take delight in the fact that he has FINALLY received some negative publicity in the last year or so. It smells like envy to me.

    With all that said, LETS GO GIANTS!!!!!

  9. Saket

    What Pablo describes sounds like Steve Garvey.

  10. TW

    you sound like a real jealous Jeter hater. Just because he opted out of the stupid All Star game does not make him a bad person. If case you forget , mister know it all he had just came back from being on the DL. Also I noticed you have no problem with Mariano skipping the All Star Game.
    Guess you won’t be voting for Jeter when he is eligible for the Hall Of Fame. When I think about , I doubt that he will lose much sleep over your opinion and it is just what it is , your opinion and NOT actual fact.
    Jeter has more class in his thumb than you have in your entire body and I guess you can’t stand that . What happened ? Did you ask for an inteview or an autograph and were turned down? Boo Hoo and that makes him such a horrible person. Yeah right.

  11. Matt

    Seems like a truly miserable existence being a Mets fan. You are now questioning the class and merit of Derek Jeter? How about your team full of hot dogs with one handshake dumber than the next. Jeter plays the game the right way and for you to site Page Six as a reason to support your cause is simply an embarrassment on your part. He missed the All Star game because he is contractually obligated to play Yankee games and lead HIS team, not some collection of random players in a borderline meaningless game. There was simply an uproar because Selig and MLB wanted to honor his 3k accomplishment, something Jeter probably never wanted in the first place. Basically, your post is riddled with stupidty so congrats on proving how miserable of an existence rooting for the Flushing squad is. I think our Yanks should take a page out of the Jose Reyes, Pedro Martinez, Luis Castillo book of class and then maybe we will really be able to stoop the level of the Flushing crew.

  12. Mike Silva

    I really don’t know what the Mets have to do with this? It has nothing to do with my analysis or judgement on this site.

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