Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday's Musings on Sports - Esther, the NCAA Tournament and Syria or Who Knows Why You Are Here?

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.

While driving to work this morning, I heard an interesting discussion on ESPN's Mike and Mike in the morning program which centered on whether the NCAA Tournament was the best way to choose the nation's top college basketball team. At the heart of the discussion was Mike Greenberg's assertion that the team which won the tournament was not necessarily the best team in the nation, just the team which was able to prevail in the six matchups in the tournament. Greenberg underscored his point by making reference to two of the more memorable NCAA Championship games - the 1983 victory by NC State over Houston's Phi Slamma Jamma and Villanova's 1985 victory over Georgetown. In both of these games, the winner was not the best college team in the country as had the teams played a best of five or best of seven series the underdog would not have prevailed. The hosts of the show eventually decided that the NCAA Tournament champion was the team which was playing the best at the end of the season. However, in so doing they hypothesized that the NCAA regular season had little value as it did not matter whether the team had a good season, as long as it made the dance.

The argument itself has some merit as Cinderella team VCU did not win its conference tournament and had to win a play in game in order to even make the tournament. The flaw in the argument is that the 68 teams which make the tournament still have to do well enough in the regular season to qualify for the dance. More importantly, the same argument made by the Mikes in relation to the NCAAs would apply to the Super Bowl. If a team goes undefeated in the regular season but loses in the Super Bowl to a team that barely made the playoffs, does it mean that the undefeated team was the "best team." Of course not, its just the best team during the regular season.

The Mike and Mike argument made me think of two seemingly unrelated items from the last week or so. Over the last few days, news has broken about the dissent in Syria and the riots and anti-government protests which are occurring there. I wondered to myself, could the rebellion in Tunisia which led to the overthrow of Mubarak in Egypt and in turn inspired the current fighting in Libya and Bahrain been the Divine way of setting up the dominoes so that Syria could fall? If so, then much like the positioning of VCU to play the series of teams that it did to advance to the Final Four, the pattern of world events could have been arranged by Hashem to lead to the overthrow of the Syrian government and the uncoupling of Iran from the forces which threaten Israel.

A similar concept with ancient Persia was seen in in Megilas Esther. In the megilla there is a discussion between Mordechai and Esther, wherein Mordechai asks Esther to go to the king and ask for the Jews to be spared from Haman's plan. Esther indicates that she cannot go because no one can go before the king without permission. Mordechai responds - who knows if for this very reason you have become the queen? Mordechai in effect tells Esther that her positioning through seemingly normal events could have occurred just so that she would be able to save the Jews. Who knows if the steps from Tunisia to Syria follow the same theme? Only time will tell.

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