Monday, November 2, 2009

Monday's Musings on Sports - Being Prepared for The Moment

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 year's World Series has not been without controversy. While Yankee pitcher CC Sabathia has made it known that he wants the ball on three days rest, Cliff Lee (the top Phillies pitcher) has not been willing to forgo the extra day of rest and will only be pitching twice in the World Series. Pundits have questioned whether this has to do with Lee's mettle, or whether he is being practical about his body's need to recuperate in order for him to pitch effectively.

The questions about the readiness for the big show have gone beyond each team's top pitcher. Tonight's game featured a rarity - both AJ Burnett and Lee were 1-0 in the series before game 5 started. Usually pitching matchups stay the same, but because Joe Girardi felt that only his top three starters (Sabathia, Burnett and Pettitte) were up to the task, he used Burnett on three day's rest as well. This move did not work out so well, as Burnett got pounded early.

Meanwhile a late breaking story came out about Cole Hamels, a Phillies pitcher who "could not wait to have the season end" and speculation abounded as to whether he would be used to start a game 7 given his attitude.

The speculation about whether the players could handle the big stage made me think about a shmooze I had heard from Rabbi Zev Cohen and the preparations athletes made for their one shot at the spotlight. Rabbi Cohen talked about how when he was in Virginia (I believe he said Berkley Springs) he was walking around the high school track and he heard a sound like a shot. The football team was practicing and the players would catch the ball and then get whacked with a chest protector to see if they could hold onto the ball.

Rabbi Cohen connected this with a mussar sefer which talked about being conscious of the day of death and preparing "tzedah l'derech." The twin concepts are not novel, but they are integral to mussar. One should be aware of his own mortality and treat each day like it may be his last so that he will be ready for judgment. In the same vein, taking tzedah l'derech meant would be doing the most possible mitzvos to take with him for olam haba.

L'havdil, these players are doing the same thing in being prepared for the moment. They are doing their best to be ready for the day that they will be on the stage. If we can harness the same type of energy and dedication as these players, who knows how many great things we could accomplish and how much of a kiddush hashem we could make.

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