Monday, August 9, 2010

Monday's Musings on Sports - There is no I in Team, but there is one in Revis

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 more than a 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.

One of the major stories in football this year has been the Darrelle Revis holdout from Jets camp. I write that this has been a major story not only because I am unabashed Jet fan, but because the Revis watch is at the top of every NFL news site, be it on line or on satellite radio.

To those who do not know the genesis of the controversy, here is a thumbnail sketch. Revis is a cornerback, a position which essentially shadows the receiver on the other team so that the quarterback wont be able to throw him the ball. Last year, Revis was consistently matched up against the top receiver on the teams that the Jets were playing and performed so well that he finished second in the voting for defensive player of the year.

As last season progressed, Revis' star took off as he was praised by his coach, the national media and even opposing players for the job that he did in shutting down the other teams' top weapons.

It has been reported that following the Jets' AFC Championship loss to the Colts, Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum told Revis that the Jets would rework his contract to make him the highest paid player at his position. This unprovoked offer would prove to be highly damaging to the Jets 2010 training camp. Revis is currently under contract for another three years (including 2010-2011), so the Jets were not under any obligation to negotiate with him.

Seven months later, the Jets and Revis have not come to an agreement and Revis has not reported to training camp. Since Revis is under contract, he is being fined about $16,000 a day for missing camp and has forfeited some money which was guaranteed under the contract.

More importantly, to the rest of the team the Revis situation has been an incredible distraction. Every player is asked his opinion as to whether the deal will get done before the season starts. Every day the coach is asked whether the deal will get done. And mysteriously, there are 'leaks' from each camp on a daily basis.

The ironic part is that football, perhaps unlike any other of the major professional sports, is the most "team oriented." In baseball, a pitcher can have a dominant day and it will not matter if his team scores runs for him. Similarly, a hitter can have a productive day and drive in many RBIs and it will not matter if his pitcher did not pitch perfectly. In hockey a goalie can shut down the other team or an offensive player can score many goals. Of course in basketball, one player can dominate a game and hit many shots.

In football there can be dominant players, but no one player can control the game. A quarterback relies on his receivers to catch the ball and his offensive line to block for him. The running back can hit the holes, but he needs the line to block and open lanes for him to run. On the defensive side a defensive end can rush the QB, but if he is double or triple teamed he will be neutralized. Even the great Revis can be marginalized if the other team decides to run the ball most of the time and their offensive line is able to dominate the line of scrimmage.

It is no wonder that the most inspirational sports speeches and motivators were football coaches. In order for a team to succeed, they need the players to play as a team, one cohesive unit.

The concept of the group is a central theme in Judaism is well known as well. An individual who prays to Hashem for help is judged on his own merits and his prayers may not make it to shamayim. However, a person who prays with a minyan (a quorum of ten men) is guaranteed that his prayers will be heard above. Indeed, the concept of Tzibur is readily apparent from the very letters of the word which are rashei teivos (an acronynm) for Tzadikim, Beinonim and Risha'im. The three classes of people come together in the prayer group and their prayers are heard.

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