Director of "The Captain," Randy Wilkins during the pre-screening reception...

Director of "The Captain," Randy Wilkins during the pre-screening reception at the Roxy Hotel in New York City on June 13, 2022. Credit: ESPN Images/Jessie Alcheh

“The Captain,” ESPN’s upcoming seven-part documentary on Derek Jeter, has been and will continue to be compared with “The Last Dance,” the 2020 series that focused on Michael Jordan’s 1990s Bulls.

Both focus on iconic figures from multiple-championship teams, both highlight the stars’ tendency to hold grudges from slights or perceived slights, both series were made with the collaboration of the athletes themselves and both rely heavily on archival game footage.

One big difference: Jordan was an international superstar playing an international sport, interest in whom extended far beyond Chicago and even beyond the sports world.

Jeter was a baseball player, beloved by Yankees fans, but perhaps less of a draw for an ESPN viewer than Jordan, not only in Peoria but everywhere from Washington D.C., to Washington State. Mets fans also might take a pass. (In an unscientific poll on Twitter, about half of people said they did not plan to watch a second of it.)

Jeter also won four of his five World Series more than 20 years ago, so fans under 30 might not remember the details as well as older ones.

In assembling the sprawling documentary, director Randy Wilkins had to keep all of that in mind and satisfy an array of potential audiences.

Asked in a recent interview with Newsday about the heavy use of game video, Wilkins said, “It’s still a film about a baseball player. So I think that including these moments, these highlights, is crucial to give context to Derek's personal story as well.

“So some of it is nostalgia for Yankees fans, some of it is making sure that we cover enough so that non-baseball fans understand what's going on. Because we want this to be a universal story as much as possible.

“Some of it is showing non-Yankees fans the journey that the Yankees were on at that time to become who they were, or who they became. So I think, as a filmmaker, you have to balance a lot of things between multiple audiences.

“If you're a hardcore baseball fan, you might say, ‘OK, I know some of this stuff.’ But even then, they're reliving a nostalgic period of time, and then if you don't watch baseball it has to give you enough so that you understand what's actually going on and why this is important, and why you're watching it in the first place.”

“It's finding a balance where you don't want to overwhelm people with too much baseball, but you have to give them enough so that they understand why this thing exists to begin with.”

The series premieres on Monday night, following the MLB Home Run Derby, and continues with six episodes over the following four Thursdays.

Wilkins established a rapport with Jeter before they sat down for a series of four interviews. Jeter is far more open and relaxed than he was publicly during his playing days.

Among the topics the series explores in detail are Jeter’s relationships with Alex Rodriguez, Brian Cashman and George Steinbrenner. It goes light on his dating history, other than Jeter refuting an oft-told story about how he would provide parting gifts for women who visited him.

There are some moments likely to raise eyebrows, including Jeter’s recollection that the Yankees were not as worked up over the notion of a Subway Series in 2000 as most of New York was, looking at the Mets as “just the Mets” and not being particularly worried about the matchup. The Yankees won in five games.

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