Monday, February 2, 2009

Max Kellerman's Monday Musings Vol XL - Let the comparisons begin!

Having watched last night's Superbowl in its entirety, I was fairly certain how Max Kellerman would open his show today. When a game is as tight as SB XLIII was, with two Fourth Quarter comebacks, the pundits will inevitably call it the greatest SB ever. Of course, this presented a problem for Max, since there was no way that any SB could top his beloved Giants upset of the Patriots in SB XLII.

Max opened the show with numerous attempts to prove that SB XLIII was inferior to the Giants win in SB XLII. This included an argument that there was more of a media circus surrounding SB XLII due to the fact that the Patriots entered the game undefeated (true). He also argued that the natural rivalry of Boston-NY in SB XLII created a greater story (also true).

I must respectfully disagree with some of Max's other arguments for why SB XLII was supposedly the greatest SB of all time. Max asserted that the teams involved in SB XLIII were inferior to last year's teams. This argument must fail for two reasons. First, Pittsburgh was the No.2 seed out of the AFC playing against the NFC West division winner. Yes, Pittsburgh was not the #1 seed like last year's Patriots. On the other hand, the Cardinals were the NFC West division winners and not just a wild card team. The second reason why the quality of the teams is irrelevant (Max called it a battle of a very good team against a good team) is that the pedigree of the team is irrelevant when it is playing at a high caliber. Indeed, were Max to be quizzed about the greatest boxing match of all time, he would have to admit that it would not need to involve an undefeated champion against a scrappy fighter with a number of losses along the way. While it may make for great theatre (Rocky, anyone?) the best game involves two teams playing their best and putting on both an offensive and defensive show.

Max also attempted to argue that the Eli - Tyree catch (known to Max's fans as the "immaculate reception") was the greatest play in SB history. While it may have been a great example of how athleticism and luck can combine to dazzle an audience, it cannot go down as the greatest play in SB history because they did not score on the play. Indeed, what would have happened if the Giants went three and out after Tyree caught the ball against his head? It was a great play which was a key event in the game winning drive. But it did not hand the victory to the Giants like Holmes' fully extended toe tap. (For my money, the greatest SB catch is still Jerry Rice's one handed TD grab against the Bengals in SB XXIII which tied the game in the Fourth Quarter).

Of course there is a way to explain Max's view of the greatest SB of all time. Max's belief that SB XLII is the greatest SB of all time merely reflects that to him as a Giant fan, SB XLII is the greatest SB of all time. Meanwhile, to a Patriots fan, SB XXXVI is the greatest SB of all time because the Patriots won the game with a field goal as time expired. To a Jets fan, the upset of the Colts in SB III is the greatest SB of all time because the Jets were not even expected to compete in that game, let alone win (also because the Jets haven't gotten back to a SB since then).

As always, there is a Torah lesson to be learned from Max's show. When choosing a Judge to hear a halachic case, the gemara bends over backwards to try to regulate that the Judge should be disconnected from all parties so that he could impartially resolve the dispute. The gemara in Kesubos 105b relates stories about various Rabbis who refused to judge cases because of personal interactions which could have hindered their ability to be impartial. These stories include Shmuel who was crossing a bridge and was assisted by another passerby. When informed that the man had a case to be heard before him, Shmuel refused. Similarly, Ameimar was sitting as a Judge when a feather fell on his head. A person removed the feather and Ameimar then asked - why are you here? When the man responded that he had a case to be judged by Ameimar, Ameimar refused.

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