Monday, April 26, 2010

Monday's Musings on Sports - Of Sacrifices and Sickos

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. Although Max resigned from 1050 almost one year ago, I have tried to continue the tradition of linking sports to Torah which I believe was an undercurrent of the Max Kellerman show.

This past weekend saw the unofficial start to the 2010 NFL Season. I say that because as one General Manager said on the Mike and Mike in the Morning show a few years ago - the next football season starts the day after the Super Bowl. Obviously, the general public is not privy to the post Super Bowl planning (for obvious reasons). Indeed, to many the football season does not begin until the start of training camp or the first preseason game in August. However, those who are a little more football oriented begin to pay closer attention at draft time -- when we recall our team's weaknesses from the prior year and hope that the needs will be addressed in the draft.

This year the NFL turned the draft into a three day long dog and pony show. While the draft used to be a one day affair, the NFL chose to stage it over three days, including having the first round in prime time on Thursday night. This was actually quite beneficial to me, since the Jets were picking 29th and by the time they picked I had already gotten home from the Rabbi Frand shiur.

When the draft eventually ends there are always two types of stories which make the headlines. One of these stories usually involves a player who came from a poor upbringing and now that he has made it big he will buy a house, car (small island?) for his family. The other type of story involves a collegiate athlete who was not taken in the draft due to various reasons (injury, failed drug test, etc...). Occasionally, an undrafted player will make an NFL roster either as a free agent or after performing exceptionally in a secondary league (AFL, XFL, CFL), but usually things don't turn out well for those people as undrafted players rarely become NFL stars.

On Sunday night a story broke about Scott Sicko (yes that really is his name - here is a link to an article about him,236491). Scott had decided that since he was not drafted by any NFL team, he would pursue a post graduate degree in history. In so doing, Scott turned down a few teams who tried to get him to join as an undrafted free agent. To me, Scott's act of declining the offer indicated one of two things: (1) that he was unwilling to make the sacrifice required of undrafted free agents who are generally cannon fodder in training camp, or (2) that he was willing to sacrifice the dream of an NFL career in order to move on with his life.

The varying perspectives on what constitutes a sacrifice reminded of a vort which I heard from Rabbi Mansour on the two goats which are offered on Yom Kippur. The Torah teaches us that on Yom Kippur, the kohain gadol took two goats and held a lottery. One goat was sacrificed on the altar in the Beis Hamikdash. The other goat (the seir l'azazel) was taken to a mountain and thrown off a cliff.

R' Mansour cited R' Shimshon Rafael Hirsch who theorized what the seir l'azazel was thinking during this process. The goat sees the lottery and thinks - there must be a winner and a loser. He then sees that the other goat is slaughtered, flayed, dismembered and finally burnt on the altar. The seir l'azazel thinks - I must be the winner of this lottery.

Not long after the other goat is brought as a sacrifice, the seir l'azazel is led out of the Beis Hamikdash with an entourage in tow. He is accompanied out of Yerushalayim and up a mountain which allows him to see the whole city. The goat now thinks to himself - I really am the winner in this lottery. Of course this is the last thing that the goat thinks before he tumbles down the mountain to his death.

R' Mansour then connected the two goats to people's perspectives on Judaism. To an outsider, a religious Jew seems to be the one making sacrifices - he can't eat whatever he wants. He can't work on Saturday. He has to get up early and go to prayers every morning.

However, the religious Jew does not feel that he is making sacrifices. Instead he recognizes the value of his actions and sees the positive that comes from the "sacrifice." By way of example, when I was in my first year of law school everyone studied until late into the night every night as we were competing for grades on the bell curve. A classmate once remarked to me - I'm jealous of you that you have shabbos when you are not killing yourself to study. This still holds true today as I value my shabbos and look forward to its coming as I know that I won't be working that day. Is it a sacrifice not to work on shabbos? Or is everyone else worse off for not having one? Its all a matter of perspective.

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Anonymous said...

Do you know if Innis Gunn oak barrel beer is Kosher?

Love what you do!

Neil T said...

Sorry, but I have no information on the kashruth of Innis & Gunn. I did email them a few years back after a reviewer on BA said that he tasted shellfish in the brew. They responded to my email that they don't use shellfish, animal byproduct or grape extract in the beer. But as far as I know, no Rabbi has given them a kosher certification.