ESPN’s “The Captain” Attempts to Unpack Derek Jeter: TV Review
” The Captain” is in its fifth episode. ESPN acknowledges that it has been difficult to find the right subject. Derek Jeter was a great shortstop and an iconic Yankees player, whose meteoric rise to prominence and declining career followed the trajectory of his team as a New York sports franchise. He is, however, a very careful (read as boring) interviewer, both according to himself and many frustrated journalists who couldn’t get past his surface.
Jeter says, “That’s by design,” and lets loose a genuine smile at the admission. Jeter even says that there are still things he won’t discuss for the docuseries on his life. It will air seven episodes and premiere July 18, after the Home Run Derby. This contradiction is at the core of Randy Wilkins’ “The Captain,” a series that can only go so deep as Jeter will allow.
Jeter’s early episodes show Jeter as a consummate professional, who worked hard and earned success while avoiding distractions. Jeter is not allowed to reveal anything personal. However, he does acknowledge how his childhood in Kalamazoo, Michigan influenced his “gotta do twice as well as everyone else” mindset. Interviews with Jeter’s Black father, his white mother and biracial brother underline this fact. It is clear that Jeter was not considered “colorless” by white journalists, a quote that Jeter received from a Yankees beat reporter on a later episode.
The discussion on Jeter’s perceptions as both a star and a Black athlete, is particularly interesting, as one would expect from a series with Spike Lee as executive producer. The series’ investigation of Jeter’s success only comes several episodes in. This feels far too late, even though it’s designed to keep casual ESPN viewers engaged.
Jeter keeps his baseball quotes simple, as is his career standard. He is clearly different from Alex Rodriguez, his more flamboyant rival and teammate. Jeter smiles tight while Rodriguez tries to put his foot in his mouth, while Jeter squints. Jeter is far from the most candid interview in the series. “The Captain” becomes more of an examination of the Yankees of late nineties and early eighties as cultural juggernauts, while still being anchored to Jeter as its narrative constant.
There’s plenty here for anyone who is a fan of baseball in general or just casually aware of the Yankees’ dominance at the turn. Jeter is joined by A-Rod as well as Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera, Joe Torre, Dave Winfield, and Joe Torre, who are Jeter’s favorite players. Sometimes, sports writers and New York’s mainstays at the time of Jeter’s peaks will join Jeter to provide context about how and why this team or player became what it was. Jeter is the main character. However, “The Captain” cannot really delve into the details of why the Yankees were so great or how they lost to teams like the 2004 Boston Red Sox. You won’t find Jeter’s thoughts about A-Rod and Jason Varitek in the article.