CHARLOTTE, N.C., October 2, 2014 — Earlier this week, two guys named Derek inspired millions of fans with their dedication and skills while living their dreams.
Derek Jeter ended a 20-year baseball career as a future Hall of Famer with style, class and dignity.
A day later, Derek Hough performed his own choreography to “Singin’ in the Rain” as a tribute to his idol, the late Gene Kelly.
Both were “feel good” stories that captivated the hearts of Americans, but there was something more deeply personal in their accomplishments than merely hitting a ball and stepping lively between raindrops.
Years ago a show called “A Chorus Line” became the longest running Broadway musical in history. That record has now been surpassed, but one thing that made the show so popular was the storyline about living your dreams.
“A Chorus Line” was about dancers and the struggles to make it big on the “Great White Way,” but it was really about anyone who has ever sacrificed to accomplish seemingly unrealistic goals.
One of the many popular songs in “A Chorus Line” is a tune called “What I did for Love”:
“Kiss today goodbye
The sweetness and the sorrow
Wish me luck, the same to you
But I can’t regret
What I did for love, what I did for love”
Those words echo in the ears of anyone and everyone who strives to become a success at what they love. Many try. Few succeed.
The myth about people like the two Dereks, Jeter and Hough, is that they are motivated by money. The financial rewards are certainly great, for Jeter far more than Hough, but deep down the money is secondary to the dream.
With his baseball days behind him, Jeter’s focus may now turn to the world of investing in new business ventures, but as a player, dollars were just another way to keep score.
With a lifetime batting average of .310, a whopping 3,465 hits and five World Series rings, Derek Jeter had a storybook life, and he did it under the scrutiny of one of the most media savvy cities in the world with virtually no controversy.
DJ prided himself on his ability to stay beneath the radar though his off-the-field relationships with well-known female celebrities occasionally aroused the curiosity of the paparazzi. Most of the gossip was traditional “star gazing” media sensationalism that never amounted to much.
It certainly did not stifle his performance on the field.
Perhaps most amazing to Jeter during his “curtain call” final season was the appreciation he received from fans outside the city of New York. He accepted those receptions with his usual graciousness.
In his final at-bat in Yankee pinstripes, Jeter appropriately slapped a wrong field single to the right to drive in the winning run in a walk-off victory.
Three days later in Boston, home of the Yankee’s biggest rival for decades, Jeter dribbled an infield single to third to account for the final RBI of his storied career.
A fitting end to an illustrious career.
With similar modesty, Jeter’s Derek-counterpart, Derek Hough, performed a dancing homage Monday night to his idol Gene Kelly with his own rendition of “Singin’ in the Rain.”
Kelly came along during a golden era of dancing, which showcased stars like Fred Astaire, Donald O’Connor, Ann Miller and Ginger Rogers. Kelly had a smoothness to his style that was almost as if he was “crooning” with his feet.
It was that style that Derek Hough captured Monday night.
Hough, Jeter and every athlete or dancer knows all too well that their fields of endeavor are the domain of youth. And the window to attain the opportunity to perform or compete at the highest level is even more fleeting.
For all of his dancing skills, Hough is obviously a student of his craft, as he designs steps for amateur celebrities that incorporate whatever dance abilities they possess and, regardless of how minimal they may be, turn them into polished dancers.
Hough understands the history of his art. He knows what his predecessors achieved to pave the way for his career in the 21st century.
No matter who he is paired with in any given season, he projects an image of giving his all for the person with whom he dances. Perhaps that is why their fans relate so well to their talents.
Years ago, a dying Lou Gehrig stood at a microphone in Yankee Stadium and said, “Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”
Many people still do not understand how someone who was dying could say that.
But Derek Jeter and Derek Hough do.
And so to those two gentlemen, may you indeed always “Kiss today goodbye … softly.”
Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com). Read more of What in the World and Bob Taylor at Communities Digital News. Follow Bob on Twitter @MrPeabod