New York Sportscene was in attendance as three of the greatest leaders, world champions and most revered figures in New York sports history – Derek Jeter, Eli Manning and Mark Messier – made a rare appearance together at the “Captains of New York” event by Steiner Sports. Contributing writer Ben Horney put together a nice story on how the different Captains ruled New York and we also have some great photos from the event at the bottom of this article in case you missed it.
Three Different Ways To Rule New York
by Ben Horney
Three completely different, yet somehow (sometimes) equally effective leadership types were on display during an hour-long discussion featuring Derek Jeter, Mark Messier and Eli Manning at Steiner’s “Captains of New York” event held at the Marriot Marquis in Times Square earlier this month.
The talk, moderated by Steiner Sports founder Brandon Steiner himself, focused on how each athlete showed leadership on their respective paths to parading down the Canyon of Heroes, a feat all three accomplished. But while their resumes all read “Captain” of a championship-winning New York sports team, the way each athlete went about their captaining was vastly different.
Jeter is quiet and reserved, the leader who expresses disappointment instead of anger, which inexplicably makes you feel 10 times worse. During his career, Jeter was famous for being the rare superstar athlete who didn’t speak simply to hear the sound of his own voice.
“If you talk all the time, no one’s gonna listen to you when you say anything,” Jeter said. “You want [people] to value what’s coming our of your mouth.”
The main scrutiny Jeter faced in his career, besides jealousy-induced claims that he was overrated, related to the fact that he never gave the media what they wanted.
He chose his words very carefully, and never betrayed his teammates publicly. He wouldn’t comment one way or the other about A-Rod, despite our desperate desire to tell the story of how two best friends became enemies. He wouldn’t lash out at *insert player who was in the midst of struggles* He wouldn’t get too excited after a huge victory and he wouldn’t get too angry after a tough loss. He wouldn’t make unnecessarily long lists to hammer home a point that’s already been made.
“I think you speak up when it’s necessary,” he explained.
For Jeter, being a leader wasn’t about publicly shaming his teammates into doing what he wanted. Nor was it about making movie-style speeches in front of the entire squad in the clubhouse. Instead, it was about getting to know each of his teammates personally, and then privately saying what needed to be said.
“You have to take the time to get to know the people that you’re leading,” Jeter said. “Some guys you can yell at and they’re fine with it. Other guys you gotta put your arm around. I always took the time to get to know people.”
Messier does not share Jeter’s calm demeanor. He’s a stoic giant whose gaze burns right through your skin into your soul. He looks like the type of guy who you’d feel comfortable following into battle – like a real battle in a war, where your life is actually in danger.
“You become a winner through habit,” Messier said. “The habit of competing no matter what the stakes are. There are no nights off. Losing is not accepted.”
Messier, unlike Jeter, chose to sometimes take to the public airwaves to pump up his teammates, most famously 20 years ago when he guaranteed that the Rangers – who were facing elimination – would win Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the New Jersey Devils.
“I knew we had a good enough team to win,” Messier recalled. “I knew how close we were. I knew we could push harder. I wanted the team to know I believed we were good enough to do it, and that I believed in them, more importantly.”
Messier had a hat trick in Game 6, by the way. And a few weeks later, the Rangers won their first Stanley Cup in more than half a century. Talk about putting your money where your mouth is.
If he wasn’t sitting right there in front of you, a living, breathing human being, you might honestly think Eli Manning was merely a made up combination of quarterback stereotypes, with his “aw shucks” attitude and the self-depreciating humor he slings in his southern drawl.
Manning preached the importance of making his teammates comfortable, no matter the pressure of the moment, even if that sometimes included making a joke at the expense of one of his linemen in the huddle.
“In crucial moments, when guys are nervous, you gotta do something to loosen them up,” Manning said. “Make fun of someone a little bit, give a little tweak.”
And Manning doesn’t come from the Ray Lewis school of “rah rah” speeches, either.
“I’ve never thought a pregame speech has won a football game,” he said.
Manning said that a big part of the leadership he provides is an attempt to impart the importance of preparation, because that helps you focus when, for example, it’s the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl against an undefeated Patriots team and you need a miraculous, game-winning drive.
“You rely on your preparation, film study, practice hours.” Manning said. “Because then in big situations you’re not thinking of the magnitude.”
THE CAPTAINS OF NEW YORK – PHOTO ALBUM from New York Sportscene
In case you missed it, here are some pictures from the event showing the star power in the room.
All images are credited Michael Priest Photography