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Recommended: The Captain on ESPN

Derek Jeter gets the Last Dance treatment in a compelling (if occasionally overlong) new docuseries.
  • New York Yankees legend Derek Jeter. (Photo: ESPN)
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    The Captain | ESPN
    Seven-Episode Sports Docuseries | TV-14

    What's The Captain About?

    ESPN takes an in-depth look at the life and career of Derek Jeter, the celebrated captain of the New York Yankees. Along with Jeter himself, the series features exclusive inteviews with his family, teammates, and rivals as it charts his journey from Midwestern prospect to global superstar.

    Who's involved?

    • Derek Jeter, who speaks candidly about his upbringing and two decades in the league.
    • Jeter’s parents, Dorthy and Dr. Charles Jeter; his sister Sharlee; and his wife Hannah.
    • Former teammates Roger Clemens, Tino Martinez, Jorge Posada, Alex Rodriguez, and Mariano Rivera.
    • Randy Wilkins directs.
    • Spike Lee serves as an executive producer.
    • Mandalay Sports Media, a producer on ESPN’s The Last Dance, also executive produces.

    Why (and to whom) do we recommend it?

    In the aftermath of The Last Dance, their wildly popular and critically lauded doc about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, ESPN is hoping to score again in a different sport, and for the most part, they succeed. While it covers the expected topics — Jeter’s celebrated career, the price of his fame, and his struggle to navigate the league as a biracial player— The Captain delivers fresh perspectives alongside the standard archival footage of playoff games and press conferences.

    The Captain is incredibly effective when it evaluates Jeter’s role in the Yankees organization as a whole. Director Randy Wilkins often zooms out to explore the larger factors contributing to the team’s historic success — or in the case of the 2004 ALCS, its historic collapse — and this makes the series feel more comprhensive than typical, athlete-specific sports documentaries.

    That said, the seven-part series could cut at least an hour of its running time and it would still feel quite thorough. Episode 5, in particular, feels expendable. It dances around the many iterations of Jeter's love life, without explicitly discussing how his revolving door of girlfriends impacted his career in the early aughts. This wishy-washiness contributes to the feeling that parts of this installment could have been included elsewhere, while others could have been left out entirely, including an extended moment in which an ill-informed sports reporter refers to Jeter as "colorless."

    Despite its occasional flabbiness, The Captain is thoughtful in its approach to Jeter's legacy, particularly as it relates to his role as an athlete of color. It may not be as tabloid-esque as The Last Dance, but the series stands as a captivating look at one of baseball’s most iconic figures that viewers of all stripes are likely to enjoy... well, except for Red Sox fans.

    Pairs well with

    • The Last Dance (Netflix), ESPN's Emmy-winning docuseries about Michael Jordan’s final season with the Chicago Bulls that dominated the cultural conversation in 2020.
    • Man in the Arena: Tom Brady (Disney+, Hulu), about another ultra-successful athlete with a historic legacy.
    • Fever Pitch (Hulu), Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore’s rom-com about the Boston Red Sox’s 2004 World Series run, which saw the team overcome a 3-0 deficit to beat Derek Jeter’s Yankees in the American League Championship Series.

  • The Captain
    Premieres on ESPN and ESPN+ July 18 at 10:00 PM ET before moving to Thursdays through August 11.
    Starring: Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Roger Clemens.
    Directed by: Randy Wilkins.

    TOPICS: The Captain, ESPN, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Randy Wilkins, Roger Clemens