Monday, January 31, 2011

Monday's Musings on Sports - All Star/All Pro Edition

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 (he has recently resurfaced on ESPN Radio in Los Angeles), I have tried to continue the tradition of linking sports to Torah which I believe was an undercurrent of the Max Kellerman show.

When I was growing up, I always looked forward to the All Star games. Whether it was the midsummer classic, the Pro Bowl in Hawaii or the various versions of the NHL game, it always seemed cool to watch the best of the best play together for once. Of course, this was before the days of Olympic Dream Teams when players every two years join together to represent their countries.

Two stories from this past weekend's games stood out and I would like to briefly discuss them in this post. Towards the end of the Pro Bowl, there was one play which really made me chuckle. The game was already decided as the NFC had a three score lead. The AFC was attempting a final drive down the field with about two minutes to play. Matt Cassell lined up to throw a pass and many of the players stood around idly. There was no pass blocking and no one rushing the quarterback. Cassell threw the ball to Dwayne Bowe who ran a few yards before lateraling the ball to another player. Just before the second player was about to be tackled he lateraled the ball to Alex Mack, an offensive lineman for the Cleveland Browns who was only playing in the Pro Bowl because Nick Mangold had been injured in the AFC Championship game. Mack caught the ball and rumbled forty yards into the end zone. Only one NFC player tried to tackle Mack and it seemed like most of the players just wanted to see him score. It kind of reminded me of the scene in the Replacements when John Madden talked about how he loves to see a fat guy score. (Fumiko Scores! Fumiko Scores!).

The second story involved the NHL All Star game. Unlike its many previous incarnations, this year's NHL all star game had a schoolyard format. Two players were selected as captains and they were allowed to "choose up" their teams from the remaining players who had been selected for the All Star game. As part of the fun, the player who was chosen last would be given a new car and the right to choose a charity which would receive a $20,000 donation. The player who earned this dubious distinction was Phil Kessel, but he was a good sport and looked at the bright side.

The two stories made me think of a vort that I heard about last week's parsha. Although Mishpatim has many mitzvos which involve diverse aspects of life, the first mitzva in the parsha deals with the rules of eved ivri - Jewish slaves. As discussed in the parsha, a Jew can become a slave if he steals and is unable to repay the victim. This slave should be freed after seven years and he must be given gifts when he leaves servitude. Furthermore, during his time of enslavement, the master must support the slave's wife and family. The vort that I heard from R' Mansour asked - why is this mitzva mentioned first in Parshas Mishpatim. R' Mansour answered (I don't recall in who's name) that the Torah mentions this mitzva first to show that the man who was enslaved as a punishment was treated well because the purpose of the sentence was rehabilitation. As such, the slave is sent free with gifts and with family intact, to demonstrate that the sentence has worked to reform the thief.

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