Monday, April 27, 2009

Monday Musings on Sports - NFL Draft and Timing

As regular readers of this blog are aware, the Monday post was usually devoted to sports with highlights and analysis of the Max Kellerman show which formerly aired on 1050 ESPN Radio. As Max has resigned from 1050 and has not yet resurfaced on the NY area airwaves (although, I see that Robin Lundberg has rejoined 1050 as the host of the "Around the Herd" segment) I have decided to continue the tradition of linking sports to Torah which I believe was an undercurrent of the Max Kellerman show.

Yesterday afternoon, the NFL finished its annual dog and pony show known as the NFL draft. For months leading up to the draft, players are poked and prodded, their histories analyzed and anyone from their parents to their eighth grade phys ed teachers are quizzed about the players propensities. When the analysis is complete the teams then begin a massive misinformation campaign where they leak information to the media about players who they might or might not be interested in. This is done to throw off other teams and prevent lower drafting teams from trading up and grabbing the player the team covets.

I always find the draft circus to be a humorous event. Invariably, certain prognosticators will predict that xyz player was a "reach", meaning that he was not worth being selected at (for example) #18 of the first round because the commentator believes that the player was really the twenty-fifth best player in the draft. The problem with this logic is twofold: (1) the commentator has no clue how the player will perform relative to the other two hundred and fifty four players in the draft and (2) the value the team places on a player is also in relation to that team's needs at the time. To illustrate the second point - if a team has two solid quarterbacks, but the player touted as being the best remaining player on the board is a quarterback - does that mean that the team has made a mistake by not drafting him? On the other hand, if that same team desperately needs a pass rusher, but the highest rated DE/OLB is rated four slots lower, should the team pass on their need?

In the end, the only way to truly evaluate a team's performance at the draft is to look back five years later and see how many of its picks are still with the team or are even still playing professional football. Only with the benefit of hindsight can one truly understand whether the decision made on draft day was correct.

The controversy over whether a player has been picked in his proper slot - whether the team reached for him or whether the player "fell" and the team which eventually drafted him got "good value" for the pick, reminds me of a story I heard Rabbi Zev Cohen tell in Chicago over Pesach.

Rabbi Cohen told a story (which Rabbi Cohen was able to confirm through conversations with the author) about a man who was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The best doctors in his country told him that there was nothing which could be done for him. The man and his wife then travelled to America to meet a Dr M who was the only doctor who could perform the surgery. When they got to the Dr's office, his receptionist told them that the man must wait his turn in line for surgery as the Dr had many other patients who needed surgery and each patient was required to wait for his turn, regardless of condition.

The man's wife was unsatisfied with this result so she followed the doctor to learn his routine. She then showed up with her husband at the Dr's parking garage and blocked his car when he tried to get out. The Dr exited his car and asked - who are you and why are you doing this? The woman told the Dr her name and he recalled that an appointment had been made. He told the woman that she and her husband should go back to their country as there were many fine doctors there. The Dr then looked at her husband and said - come in on Tuesday and I will do the surgery.

The Dr asked the man - do you recognize me? The man answered in the negative. The Dr told the man about how years earlier the man was praying on a bus with his tefillin while the Dr (then a medical student) was seated next to him. They began to talk and the Dr gave him his tefillin which the medical student wore and began to use in prayer while the man dozed off. When the bus reached its destination, the man awoke and was startled as he could not find his tefillin. He spent a week trying to track down the medical student but was unsuccessful.

Years later, the Doctor now saw the man who he had taken the tefillin from in Israel so many years before. Aware of his debt to the man, the doctor agreed to take the man for surgery immediately rather than make him wait his turn on the list.

If one were to have asked the man twenty years prior - were you in the right place at the right time when your tefillin was stolen, how would the man have reacted? However, knowing now that the Doctor who stole his tefillin would be saving his life, would the man have answered the question the same way?

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