Monday, January 18, 2010

Monday's Musings on Sports - The Rivers, Frogs & George Costanza

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.

Yesterday's Jets - Chargers game had all the elements of a classic novel. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. OK, maybe not that much of a classic, but there were two quarterbacks who dealt with pressure and frustration in two different ways.

In the first half, the Jets were unable to move the football. It was repeated incessantly during the telecast that the Jets had not made a first down (until they did midway through the second quarter). Having said that, Mark Sanchez, the Jets rookie quarterback, did not try to force the ball down the field and threw no first half interceptions.

On the other side of the field, All Pro QB Phillip Rivers was having problems of his own. Although the Chargers put up one TD in the first half, Rivers was not marching his team down the field and his team wound up using two time outs and taking multiple delay of game penalties as the Jets defensive scheme was confusing and frustrating the Charger offense.

In the second half, the Jets continued their game plan of running the ball with occasional passes. To use a hackneyed expression, Sanchez and the Jets offense "took what the defense" gave them. That is, until the running game wore down the Charger defensive front and the team started ripping off chunks of yards.

Meanwhile, Rivers began to show his frustration, both in his demeanor on the sidelines and with his pass selection on the field. The normally unflappable QB threw two interceptions and was trying to force the ball when he had no truly open receiver.

The need to stay cool under pressure to prevent turning a difficult situation into something much worse can be seen from this past week's parsha. Moshe tells Pharaoh that the plague of frogs will befall Egypt and that frogs will be everywhere. However, when the Torah discusses the result of Aharon hitting the river, the Torah recites that one frog emerged from the water.

Rashi explains that one frog came out of the river, but that each time the frog was struck by the Egyptians it would divide again and again until the land was filled with frogs.

This past Friday night, my friend Dan L. told a vort in shul in the name of the Steipler Rav which taught a lesson in relation to how one should act when under pressure. The Steipler asked the question - why did the Egyptians keep hitting the frogs? Since it was fairly obvious that the frogs were going to keep multiplying, the Egyptians would have been better served to stop hitting the frogs.

The Steipler answers that it is a lesson in human nature. When a person gets angry it becomes all consuming and he ceases to act logically. While he may be aware that his actions are causing the scenario to worsen, he needs to cool down in order to stop himself from repeating the same acts which are causing his problem.

After shul, a number of were talking to Dan about the vort and the famous Seinfeld episode where George Costanza starts saying the mantra "Serenity Now" to try to calm himself. If the Egyptian or Phillip Rivers had tried this tact, who knows where we would be right now...

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