Royalty was crowned across the boroughs of New York City Sunday afternoon, as coronations honoring two of sports all time greats took place in front of legions of adoring fans.
In the Bronx, titans past and present came out to celebrate the Captain at Yankee Stadium. Names like Ripken. Torre. Jordan. Icons from the world of sports gathered on the field to acknowledge the many accomplishments of a player Derek Jeter whose sterling reputation and leadership off the field and in the clubhouse often overshadowed his truly remarkable career on the field where over the course of 20 seasons in pinstripes he collected over 3400 hits, 5 Gold Gloves and 5 World Series rings. With retirement only a few weeks away, and regardless of how his WAR continues to sputter, Jeter rides off into the sunset as one of the greatest Yankees and shortstops of all time.
As baseball celebrated a member of its pantheon, 10 miles away in Flushing Meadows at the United States Tennis Center, a queen was crowned as Serena Williams won her 18th Grand Slam championship, tying Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova for the most women’s single titles of all time. In dispatching the overmatched Caroline Wozniacki in straight sets Serena demonstrated yet again the near flawless combination of power and precision. There has never been, nor in all likelihood will there ever be again, a tennis player so physically gifted, so competitive that opposing players rarely seem like they belong on the same court. To say that Serena is in a class of her own is not an overstatement but rather an acceptance of fact.
As sports fans we typically wait to appreciate greatness until after it’s gone. With Derek Jeter and Serena Williams however it is important to acknowledge today that we are watching two of the best athletes to ever compete in their respective sports.
Both will continue to have their detractors. Jeter’s overrated because he plays for the New York Yankees and Serena’s on court outbursts an indication of an underlying petulance that prevent her from a universal embrace.
Yet, beyond the flaws and envy, what cannot be argued is that video reels and second hand stories will not do justice to their remarkable careers.
Therefore it is better to celebrate them in the now before it’s too late and we’re forced to look back with reverence and remorse, our memories offering nothing more than a fleeting glimpse of greatness.