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 radio waves, I have decided to continue the tradition of linking sports to Torah which I believe was an undercurrent of the Max Kellerman show.
This week's post discusses the debacle which is the New Jersey Nets and how Lawrence Frank lost his job through no fault of his own.
Following the NBA lockout, I decided that I could no longer root for the Knicks and began to look for another team to follow. I was never a big NBA fan, but I had attended a few Knick games and hung a poster or two in my room when I was in high school. After Patrick Ewing said his now infamous line "Sure NBA players make a lot of money, but we spend a lot too" I knew that I could never root for the Knicks again.
I began to root for the NJ Nets and soon thereafter they began to improve their play. A few short years later they acquired Jason Kidd and then made the playoffs for the next six years. Their coach for much of the time was Lawrence Frank who started his career with a bang, taking a .500 team and directing them to 13 straight wins. They made the finals a couple of years in a row and it seemed like the NBA championship ran through the swamp every year. Perhaps his best (but least heralded) year was in 2004-2005 when the team played without Kidd and RJ for most of the year and he somehow brought the team from ten games out into the playoffs.
Over the last few years the job became exceedingly more difficult for Coach Frank. The team ownership became obsessed with a planned move to Brooklyn and less interested in fielding a competitive team. Jason Kidd was the first player traded, but RJ went a few months later. A year later it was time to dump Vince Carter. Although Rod Thorn was always able to acquire value in return for the stars they traded away, the talent was young and at times raw.
Despite these issues, Coach Frank was consistently able to get his players to practice and play hard. However, the Nets were struck by an early injury bug this season and many nights only fielded seven or eight players. The losses began to mount and suddenly the Nets were looking at the real possibility of breaking the NBA record for futility to start a season. The only thing left to do was fire the Coach, as to paraphrase Michael Kay - you can't fire all the players.
Was Coach Frank responsible for the team's injury bug? Of course not. Was he the one who engineered the trades which dumped All Stars in exchange for prospects? The same answer applies. But sometimes there needs to be a scapegoat and this time it was Lawrence Frank - mercifully fired before the team tied the record for futility.
The concept of scapegoat draws its origin from the Yom Kippur service. The Torah tells us that the Cohain Gadol would have two goats - one of which was slaughtered and the other sent to the desert to be thrown off a cliff. The gemara in Yoma (41 and 67) explains that there was a red string tied around the goat and another around a rock at the top of the cliff. After the goat died from its fall, the string tied to the rock would turn white as a symbol that Hashem had forgiven the Jews. Thus was born the concept which was commonly known as the scapegoat.
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