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The Hollywood Insider The Captain Review Derek Jeter

Photo: ‘The Captain’

On the Record in his Own Words

As a lifelong die-hard Boston Red Sox fan, the last thing in the entire world I want to do is heap praise onto a player who single-handedly ripped my heart out more times than I can possibly put into words. However, in the purest form of objectivity and unbiased journalism possible, I have to give credit where it is due. ‘The Captain,’ the documentary series just released by ESPN films that follows retired Yankee great Derek Jeter’s life and career, is absolutely delightful. 

I, along with I’m sure many other baseball fans, was excited when this documentary was announced for the sheer purpose of getting to actually know the story of Derek Jeter on a deeper level. He has long been considered an enigma of a modern-day athlete, by somehow finding a way to keep most of his private life hidden from the public. By going on the record with this docuseries, he is opening up to not only baseball fans that followed his career, but also all people of the world by sharing his unique life experiences growing up bi-racial in Kalamazoo, Michigan

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Jeter was incredibly well known for his amazing exploits on the field (hurts to admit it), but became even more famous for being able to keep his private life under wraps, even while living and playing in the biggest city in the world where the lights shine the brightest and constantly seek to find your dirty secrets hidden in the shadows. For Jeter, he was lucky to have, for the most part, missed the social media age and scrutiny of today. Jeter is refreshingly human and forthcoming in ‘The Captain.’ He is poised and unabashedly honest about his struggles both on the field getting his start in professional baseball, but also about his challenges off the field. His parents and sister are also featured as interviewees in the piece, and they help to shine a light on the difficulties the entire Jeter family faced in the way of racism in their interracial family. One of the more sobering moments of the first episode is when Jeter recounts being one of the top picks in the first round of the draft, and then being called the N-word that same night while out with friends, and he expresses his genuine shock and hurt to hear that from someone in his hometown. 

The first episode has set an amazing scene of how the audience will come away from the series with a better understanding of both the player and human that is Derek Jeter. A new and very welcome format in the age of social media and with so much access to different streaming platforms now, Jeter is the latest high-profile athlete to get their story out there. 

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Access Like We’ve Never Had Before

ESPN films first made a big splash over a decade ago with their ‘30 for 30’ series of films. This series featured 30 films from 30 filmmakers about events, games, teams, or seasons of significant value to different eras of sports history. With acclaimed Hollywood directors taking up these projects, ESPN was able to create some absolutely awesome content that helped launch a full-scale film division for side projects like this. The Disney-owned company has proven itself to be the place to go if you are an athlete wanting to tell your story. 

It’s a concept that has really become much more mainstream and accepted in recent years in the era of “player empowerment,” where athletes feel more inclined and able to tell their story and let an audience and fans into their world. Much different than the sports documentaries we made even 20 years ago, this new concept has proven itself a viable option.

ESPN has been on a nice run of these in recent years and has found themselves uniquely capable of getting the most talented athletes from their own sports. ESPN was able to lock down Peyton Manning, who was widely considered to be able to go to any network he wanted when he retired for a docuseries, and the GOAT of GOATs Tom Brady, who also did his own version of ‘The Captain’ called ‘Man in the Arena,’ which was very well received. ESPN continued to set the bar even higher for themselves with their series ‘The Last Dance,’ which followed Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls run of championships throughout the 80s and 90s. ESPN has done a brilliant job of leaning into the age of player empowerment, and giving these athletes a platform for their voices to be heard. 

With so many streaming platforms these days, in order to survive you need to have a niche of content at the ready. ESPN+ interestingly enough seems perfectly primed and to have cornered their own market share with sports documentary content. Whether they continue existing independently in the long haul, or become an asset for someone else, they are in an incredible spot. 

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Family Home Video, the Original Documentary 

Aside from the incredible footage from on the field and behind the scenes of the Yankees organization during his time both coming up in the minor leagues, and then being an established big leaguer, some of the best scenes of the series feature Jeter and his family in home videos. One of the aspects that really stands out in terms of how open he is willing to be for this series is how he puts his full personality growing up and that of his immediate family on display. 

A very refreshing and cool touch that both metaphorically and actually brings you into the heart and home of him and his family, we are introduced to a young high school Derek and then his turbulent emotions around the beginning of his MLB career where he second guesses himself, feels homesick, and wants to pack it all up and call it quits. These behind-the-scenes home videos really play to help get to the core of the person in the uniform and show everyone watching that he is no different from them, he just has an insane talent and work ethic. 

The first episode of ‘The Captain’ is streaming now on ESPN+, and I encourage all to give it a watch, even if you are not a sports fan. It’s a fascinating story about perseverance, heart, and will about one of the greatest athletes of our generation. 

Stars: Derek Jeter | Directed by: Randy Wilkins | Produced By: Jenna Carey, Alex Cirillo, Spike Lee, Connor Schell, and Mike Tollin 

By Mark Raymond

Click here to read The Hollywood Insider’s CEO Pritan Ambroase’s love letter to Cinema, TV and Media. An excerpt from the love letter: The Hollywood Insider’s CEO/editor-in-chief Pritan Ambroase affirms, We have the space and time for all your stories, no matter who/what/where you are. Media/Cinema/TV have a responsibility to better the world and The Hollywood Insider will continue to do so. Talent, diversity and authenticity matter in Cinema/TV, media and storytelling. In fact, I reckon that we should announce “talent-diversity-authenticity-storytelling-Cinema-Oscars-Academy-Awards” as synonyms of each other. We show respect to talent and stories regardless of their skin color, race, gender, sexuality, religion, nationality, etc., thus allowing authenticity into this system just by something as simple as accepting and showing respect to the human species’ factual diversity. We become greater just by respecting and appreciating talent in all its shapes, sizes, and forms. Award winners, which includes nominees, must be chosen on the greatness of their talent ALONE.

I am sure I am speaking for a multitude of Cinema lovers all over the world when I speak of the following sentiments that this medium of art has blessed me with. Cinema taught me about our world, at times in English and at times through the beautiful one-inch bar of subtitles. I learned from the stories in the global movies that we are all alike across all borders. Remember that one of the best symbols of many great civilizations and their prosperity has been the art they have left behind. This art can be in the form of paintings, sculptures, architecture, writings, inventions, etc. For our modern society, Cinema happens to be one of them. Cinema is more than just a form of entertainment, it is an integral part of society. I love the world uniting, be it for Cinema, TV, media, art, fashion, sport, etc. Please keep this going full speed.

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