Have you ever played that game where you say what youd do with the money if you win the lottery?
The lists are usually predictable. Beach house. Sports car. Kids college fund. Paris.
Ive never heard anyone envision a scenario where they say, No thanks, keep the money. But an autographed shirt would be peachy instead.
Maybe thats why I felt like I needed to clean out my ears when I heard about Derek Jeters 3,000th-hit baseball. My cap is off to Christian Lopez, the Yankee fan who caught that ball last weekend and decided that for some memorabilia and fantastic seats for the rest of the season, hed turn the ball over. Jeter, as likable and classy as any modern-day athlete could be, joined elite company and is more than deserving of the praise being heaped upon him.
But lets talk about that ball, shall we?
Some estimates put its worth between $250,000 and $1 million. For some context, a New York Times story notes that the Barry Bonds 715th home run ball sold on eBay for $220,000 and Mark McGwires 70th home run ball went for around $3 million.
Add into this scenario that the IRS code says when a commercial enterprise gives you goods and services for something, youve got to reduce those goods and services to their market value and pay taxes on them. Reported estimates have Lopez a 23-year-old with student loan debt in six figures -- owing a tax bill in the ballpark of $14,000 for all hes received for that baseball.
In the conversations that have been popping up, virtual and otherwise, so many people seem certain they also would have surrendered the ball to Jeter because it is the right thing to do. Taking all of the above into consideration, and I know it is baseball blasphemy to admit this, I cant say for sure I would have had Lopezs class. In fact, Im pretty sure I wouldnt have.
Certainly I would have given Jeter first shot and maybe even sold it to him for less than I could have gotten on eBay, but give it away? This has a litmus test feeling to it. But a litmus test of what? Does it mean our priorities are skewed if theres a chance to make money and we actually take it? Its one thing to say, would you sell your soul for material gain? Its another to say, would you sell a baseball? How about that line of thinking where God (or fate or the Universe) sends things our way for a reason? Each of us would have a different take on what that means.
This has been making me introspective about things like sentimentality, worth, materialism and even what might be spiritually correct. I spent much of my career as a sports writer and have a great appreciation for the game and its history, but wouldnt consider myself a fan, per se. I worked for the National Hockey League back in 1999 and one day when the Stanley Cup visited I walked into the conference room and gave it a hug when a photographer told me to smile. My hockey fan co-workers were controlled, but appalled at my ease and lack of reverence for what it symbolized.
Yet I am typically a sentimental sort. There are so many things in my home that hold special meaning and bring back memories (including the photo of me hugging the Stanley Cup). Talisman may as well be my middle name, as I am all about assigning magical and miraculous qualities to objects that stir me. So I cant imagine the feelings Jeter might have about a baseball that represents not just achievement but endurance and loyalty. Just watching the footage of him crossing home plate on that historic home run stirs the emotions.
Still, its vexing. I posted a question about this on Facebook and several friends mentioned that the ball is part of Jeters history. But it remains that regardless of any currency that changes hands, doesnt it?
Just to take this away from the warm and fuzzy, I peeked at the Jeter commemorative offerings over at Steiner Sports. They give fans and collectors a chance to own not one, but two items that include authentic field dirt.
Everything Jeter touches or wears as he pursues his 3,000th hit carries value, Richard Sandomir wrote in The New York Times on June 21. So will the bases he steps on. In deciding what to provide for sale, Jeter controls his cleats, wristbands, bats and batting gloves. The Yankees control what they provide to him, like his uniform, warm-up jackets, and caps, as well as the dirt, the bases and the pitching rubber.
Thats a splash of cold water, isnt it?
From the bottom of my heart I hope Christian Lopez enjoys the view from the Champions Suite with his loved ones this season. I applaud his noble act, but for the life of me I dont understand it. Id be sipping a glass of Sauvignon Blanc at a sidewalk caf�, taking in the view of the Eiffel Tower and plotting my itinerary for Tuscany.
Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her Web site is www.nancola.com and you can follow her on Twitter @nancola. Please direct all questions/comments to FOXGamePlan@gmail.com.