Monday, January 10, 2011

Monday's Musings on Sports - Neutrality is for Dogs, not Coaches

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.

Over the course of the past week, the New York and national media carried sound bites of Rex Ryan quotes about the Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning. One story contained a quote from Rex Ryan that the game against the Colts was "personal" to him because he had played Manning seven times and had never beaten him. Another story included a quote from Ryan that Manning was the top quarterback in the league. This was of course viewed as a slight to Tom Brady.

Following the Jets victory over the Indianapolis Colts, stories began to percolate about Rex and his thoughts about New England Patriots' coach Bill Belichick. Much like the quote about the game against Manning, Ryan also indicated that this game was personal and that the game would come down to Ryan against Belichick.

There are two schools of thought about speaking publicly about an upcoming opponent. One very strong opinion is that you never provide "bulletin board fodder" for the other team - don't say anything boastful which could wind up on the bulletin board in the opposing locker room as motivation.

The second viewpoint is that the players on the opposing squad are professionals who don't require extra motivation in order to beat you. Coaches/players who subscribe to this theory will not shy away from making statements about the other team and will do their best to motivate their own players by making outlandish statements.

Its obvious which way Rex Ryan leans...

The question about whether its better to be neutral or to take a position links back to the story of the dogs from last week's parsha. The Torah teaches that the dogs did not bark when the Jews left Egypt on the night of the last plague. As a reward for the dogs having kept quiet, the Jews are instructed to give their neveilos (animals which are improperly slaughtered or which have certain defects) to the dogs.

I heard a story told over in a R' Mansour shiur about the Brisker Rav. There was once a fight in Brisk between two wealthy men. The Brisker Rav approached a third wealthy individual and asked him to intervene in the argument and try to make peace. The third man told the Rav that he did not want to get involved and preferred to stay neutral. To this the Rav exclaimed - neutrality is for dogs! The Rav explained that the gemara teaches that when dogs see the angel of death they become very loud. However, when they see a good herald such as Eliyahu Hanavi, they become playful. On the night that the Jews left Egypt, the dogs saw the mashchis roaming the streets of Egypt, but also saw that the Jews would be leaving Egypt that night. The dogs chose not to act in either manner and instead stayed quiet or neutral. The Rav concluded - neutrality is for dogs, people need to take a stand.

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