Derek Jeter's House is ...
Watching the Red Sox and Yankees play in New York this week reminded me of a bone I'd like to pick with the Bronx Bombers' longtime star Derek Jeter.
It's his new 30,875-square-foot waterfront mansion in Tampa, Fla. That figure is not a typo. His "home" is comparable in size to a Best Buy electronics store and larger than many resort hotels. It has a fence around it to keep fans and architecture critics at bay.
In a word, it is obscene.
While the captain and shortstop of the New York Yankees is not — to his credit — on steroids, clearly his new abode is. It has two three-car garages and nine bathrooms. It is twice the size of the nearby mansion of the Yankee's late and imperial owner, George Steinbrenner. Jeter is rarely home, being single and on the road much of the year on business.
In the interest of full disclosure, I hold the Bronx Bombers in utter distain; have since Eisenhower's first term. I preferred Willie Mays, along with his lifestyle, to Mickey Mantle and his. There are exceptions to this pinstripe bias: Yogi Berra, of course, and, until recently, the nouveau estate-owner. I admired Jeter's unassuming style and down-to-earth persona.
Where have you gone Derek Jeter? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you. Is this house the message that you want to send America's youth: build it just because you can?
Photographs of his grotesque residence raise questions that transcend the narrow boundaries of sport and taste. Never mind our nation's youth, and architectural scolds, what does the edifice that Jeter built say about our society, about who we are?
Is this what success in America comes down to, what our nation wants to be known for? Accumulate as many resources as you can, whether you need them all or not, and then erect a big fence to separate yourself from the great unwashed?
Jeter's conspicuous consumption, which is not all that unusual for the uber-rich, stands out for several reasons. He has never been a glitzy, rabble-rousing, egomaniacal kind of guy. He goes about his business quietly, without drawing attention to himself. He doesn't trash talk or tell the world how great he is.
He is respectful of his teammates, of his opponents, too. He grew up in a stable, middle class, two-parent household. He could have gone to college and become a success in another field.
Nor does he lavish all of his millions on himself. In 1996, he established a foundation to inspire young people to make healthy lifestyle choices, to stay off alcohol and drugs — and in school. I don't doubt that Derek Jeter is a decent person or that he is generous in ways the public never sees. He is a very private man. As the child of a white mother and a black father, he has experienced prejudice throughout his life. More than a few have tagged him with the "n" word. Others suggest that he is "too white." But most think he has turned out just right.
But I still can't get past the house. My wife and I, and the bank, own a house where we raised our son. It's a nice three-room, one-and-a-half bath place out in the country. We are fortunate, and I wouldn't trade it with anyone. Compared with 99.5 percent of humanity, we live extravagantly. You could, however, fit our house and 14 others just like it inside Derek Jeter's.
Jeter's manor, big as it is, is just the tip of the iceberg of excess. There are municipalities around the country that have been grappling with the proliferation of outsized residences and compounds. On Martha's Vineyard, for example, hotel-sized homes litter golf courses and beachfronts, and most sit unoccupied for all but a month or so in the summer, if that. In all likelihood, many of the owners have other homes of similar size hither and yon. Some may not be able to recall how many.
In an uncertain world where America consumes an inordinate percentage of the planet's diminishing resources, building palaces suitable for third-world despots is the not the way to go. In the end, it comes down to common sense and decency. Derek Jeter and his fellow travelers should mind their manors.