Monday, December 13, 2010

Monday's Musings on Sports - The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same

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.

Two stories from today's sports news caught my attention. In yesterday's Jets game (debacle), a Miami Dolphins player who was running down the sidelines attempting to cover a punt, was tripped by a Jets coach who was standing along the sideline. The player took a very bad fall and remained motionless on the ground for quite a few minutes, but did not appear to suffer any significant injury. After the game, the perpetrator was identified as the Jets strength and conditioning coach, Sal Alosi. He has since made a public apology to the player, the Dolphins and Jets and the NFL. Late this evening, news broke that the coach had been suspended without pay for the rest of the year and was fined an additional $25,000.

Also on Sunday there was news of a Dallas Cowboys player (Tashard Choice) who approached Philadelphia Eagles QB, Michael Vick and asked for an autograph. Although the two teams have a long and bitter rivalry, Vick obliged Choice's request. When news broke today about the signing, Choice was bitterly criticized by many for making his request from Vick. The critique of Choice was not based on the autograph request (it is not rare in professional sports) but instead focused on the fact that Choice made his request in the public light of the playing field, instead of in the locker room later after the game.

The illegal trip in the Jets-Dolphins game was hardly a new phenomenon. Coaches are always looking for illegal ways to influence games, be it by stealing signs, surreptitiously video taping practices, buying playbooks or even tainting food in opposing locker room. The only reason that this story made the headlines was that the coach's illegal "participation" was caught on TV and amplified by eagle eyed Dan Fouts.

Similarly, the fawning of younger players over the "stars of the game" is not a new phenomenon. I can recall during the early days of the basketball dream teams (when the players actually cared) as the players from other countries sought after the NBA stars for autographs during Summer Olympics. Again, the difference here is that the teams are bitter rivals and the autograph request was made on the playing field.

The concept of "the more things change the more they stay the same" is hardly unique to sports. Last Thursday night, Rabbi Frand pointed out the same concept in relation to leadership. In Parshas Vayigash, Yosef instructs the brothers that they should tell Pharaoh that they are shepherds and that their families' occupation has always been sheep herding. Yosef explains to the brothers that the Egyptians abhor shepherds (since the Egyptians worshiped sheep) and that by overtly being shepherds the brothers could live apart from the Egyptians in the land of Goshen.

However, when the brothers have their talk with Pharaoh in Bereishis 47:6, Pharaaoh responds that if there are any good shepherds they should watch over what he has (es asher li). Rashi fills in the gap and explains that (notwithstanding the Egyptians' worship of the sheep) Pharaoh had his own flock.

Rabbi Frand then made reference to numerous dictatorships in the modern era where people starved, while their leaders gorged themselves on delicacies and lived in the lap of luxury. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

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