Monday, February 28, 2011

Mondays Musings on Sports - Of Prodigies, Prospects, Prognostications and Pisces

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.

As the expression goes, hope springs eternal. In sports, the inverse is true - in spring hope is eternal. Baseball teams go into spring training loaded with hope that their prospects will turn into major leaguers and that last year's rookies will blossom into all stars. College football teams hold their spring practices when their coaches and fans begin to dream that the team can make a run at the BCS.

I read a story on Saturday night about a different form of prospect, but first a short introduction is required. In college sports, school can recruit players to attend their school, regardless of the age of the player and how far away they are from being college age. If the recruit is in high school, then depending on his year of school he can sign a letter of intent or verbally commit to the school. If he is younger, the player can be extended a scholarship offer which is not worth the paper it is printed on because either side can back out. Still it makes for good publicity at the very least.

The story that I read about involved Michael Avery. In 2008, Michael was an eighth grader from California who was invited to a summer basketball camp tournament with kids considerably older than him. Based on Michael's performance it was "suggested" that he call Billy Gillespie who was then the coach at Kentucky. Once Michael called him, the coach offered a scholarship to Kentucky, with the understanding that it was not binding.

As more fully detailed in the article (, following the offer from Kentucky, life became very difficult for Michael. He transferred to a school in Florida which had a great reputation for academics and basketball. But after one year at the school, he switched back to school in California because his family could not afford the $35,000 tuition. Then, the California Interscholastic Federation would not allow him to play ball at his old school under a rule which was meant to prevent students from shopping for schools.

The article concludes with a discussion about Michael's positive attitude, his acceptance of where he is at the present and his plans for the future. It is refreshing to see his maturity in the face of adversity and I highly recommend the piece.

The story about Michael Avery reminded me of a vort that I heard from R' Mansour about the reason that the mazal for Adar is two fish. R' Mansour explained that there are two kinds of fish - large and small. If one cuts open a large fish, they will see small fish - all of which appeared to have swum directly into the mouth of the large fish. R' Mansour explained that the small fish say to Hashem - please help us and watch that we are not eaten from behind by the big fish. Hashem obliges and does watch out that the fish are not eaten from behind. However, since the fish rely on themselves to watch what is in front of them, he does not protect them from swimming straight into the mouth of the big fish.

The lesson of the fish is that we need to understand that we are not the masters of our destiny and that there is a higher power which controls all. If we completely put our trust in Hashem and do the hishtadlus which He requires, He will take care of us. But if we feel that it all comes from our own actions without any need for his help, we will get eaten by the big fish.

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