Monday, November 15, 2010

Monday's Musings on Sports - When Not to Follow One's Nature

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.

Over the last few weeks, the National Football League has begun to crack down on blows to the head, tackles where the aggressor leads with his helmet, and hits on players who are defenseless or otherwise unprepared for the shot. This enforcement was not the result of any change in the rules, but rather an attempt by the NFL to deter players from being too agressive in their play.

Following the NFL's announcement in Week Six, the pundits began to speculate as to the cause of the NFL's actions and whether it would impact on the quality of play. Most writers suggested that the league was cracking down as a result of the number of concussions and other serious injuries which had already been incurred this year. But the main focus of discussion was whether the league's enforcement would cause players to change the way that they tackled. While players had been taught since high school the method to maximize impact when hitting other players (glorified on sports TV networks), the rules change/enforcement would penalize players severely for those hits, regardless of whether the tackled player was hurt.

In the first few weeks since the NFL's announcement, the early returns indicate that players are forgoing the "knock out" hit and are attempting to tackle lower or in some cases, slower.

The discussion as to whether players would change their method of hitting made me think of a vort that I heard from Rabbi Mansour about Avraham and Yaakov. Avraham's nature was one of chesed - kindness towards all. Hashem tested Avraham by making him believe that he would have to sacrifice his son Yitzchak on an altar. When faced with this test, Avraham could have said - sorry, this is against my nature and I can't do it. Had Avraham taken this tact, he would have demonstrated that the motivation for his chesed was not divine, but rather was because he felt that he needed to be a nice guy. Therefore, Hashem tested him to see if he would go against his nature.

Similarly, Yaakov's nature was one of truthfulness. As such, Yaakov was tested in that he was told to dress as his brother Esav in order to obtain the bechor's bracha. Yaakov could have resisted this test by stating that he could not lie. Instead, Yaakov davened to Hashem that he should not be influenced by this single act of deception.

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