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2009 SPORTSMAN of the YEAR Derek Jeter
Tom Verducci
December 07, 2009
It is not so much what he accomplished at 35—a fifth World Series ring capping a historic season, to be sure—as how the Yankees' shortstop arrived at his iconic place. Being the ultimate team player and a role model synonymous with winning has brought him still another title:
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December 07, 2009

2009 Sportsman Of The Year Derek Jeter

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Somebody fetched a plastic spoon and a jar of cinnamon. Jeter allowed Berg to examine them, then loaded the spoon with the spice, doing his level best to maintain an air of seriousness. He had arranged similar wagers earlier this year with teammate Brian Bruney and then one of the clubhouse attendants, not to be confused with his other favorite wager that involves asking someone if they think they can eat five saltines in one minute. Berg couldn't believe his luck; all he had to do was swallow the cinnamon and Jeter would have to give him 10 takes toward getting the perfect jump-throw shot.

As soon as Berg shoved the spoon in his mouth, Jeter jumped away laughing. Quickly, Berg gagged, his cheeks puffed, his eyes watered and cinnamon smoke began spewing from a crack in his pursed lips. He looked like a man about to burst. Berg grabbed a bottle of water and began gulping from it.

"That's it!" Jeter shouted. "You lose! The deal was no water until you swallowed it."

After several minutes to recover, Berg asked Tiernan, "He's not serious, is he?"

"Oh, he's serious," Tiernan replied.

Another victory, however small, for Derek Jeter, today's superstar most synonymous with winning. But none of the accoutrements of his success—the five rings, the $189 million contract, the national endorsements and the starlet on his arm—capture the essence of his success. In the difficult days of the Philippines campaign during World War II, General Douglas MacArthur wrote A Father's Prayer, which begins, "Build me a son, O Lord." MacArthur prayed for a son with, among other traits, "humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness." Therein lies true victory. The great wonder is not that Jeter has won so much but that he has won so well. He is the good son, the good winner.

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