Monday, August 15, 2011

Monday's Musings on Sports - NFL Tidbits - Lovie, Osi and The Whole World

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.

One of the pleasant side benefits of doing the long drive back and forth to Camp M is the time that I spend listening to interesting things on my car stereo while doing the three plus hour drive each week. For the trip up, its R' Mansour parsha shiurim which I download from For the trip home from Camp M, I listen to almost the entire Mike & Mike in the Morning program on satellite radio (with the exception of 7-8 AM when I am at minyan in Monticello).

As NFL preseason has officially begun, the guys had a lot to say about the slate of games which were played this past weekend. While I was intrigued by many stories, I would like to highlight just two of the topics of discussion.

The first item relates to the Chicago Bears. As avid sports fans may know, the NFL has recently changed the rules for kickoffs. Although kickoffs had been traditionally from the 30 yard line, the NFL has moved up kickoffs to the 35 yard line in an effort to avoid injury due to the fierce collision which occur during kickoff returns.

Bears coach Lovie Smith had decided that he did not want to kick off from the 35 and had his team kick off the first two times from the 30 yard line. The guys explained that Lovie did this so that he could better assess his kick coverage unit. After a few kickoffs, one of the NFL executives called down to the referee and instructed him to warn Coach Smith that he would be penalized if he continued to kick off from the 30 instead of the 35. The remaining Bears' kickoffs all were made from the 35 yard line.

Speaking of kickoffs, its humorous to me that the dysfunctional Oakland Raiders managed to mess up the opening coin toss and wound up having to kick off to start both halves. Apparently, after the Raiders won the coin toss, the Raider player did not defer (which allows the other team to decide whether it receives the ball to start the first OR the second half). Instead, the Raiders player said that the Raiders elected to kick off. As this was a decision on the first half kick off, the Arizona Cardinals were allowed to decide what would occur at the second half kick off. Predictably, the Cardinals elected to receive.

The other intriguing story which I wanted to discuss involved Osi Umenyiora, the NY (football) Giant player who was unhappy about his contract and held himself out of practice due to a supposed injury. As reported in numerous media outlets, Umenyiora is unhappy that his contract has not been renegotiated/extended and asserts that he has earned the right to a new contract based on his performance over the last few years. Umenyiora is scheduled to earn $3.125 million in salary this year and $3.975 million in salary next year, which is the final two years of a six-year, $41 million extension he signed in December 2005.

After Umenyiora's complaints began to publicly surface, the team announced that it was giving his agent the right to negotiate with other teams, provided that the teams would give the Giants a first round pick in return. After no team was willing to pay Umenyiora's asking price, the team revoked the permission and he was required to report to training camp, however after he reported, Unmenyiora "developed" a knee injury which prevented him from practicing and caused him to miss the first preseason game.

Yesterday, Umenyiora announced that he would begin practicing with the team. In so doing, Umenyiora rejected contract incentives which were offered by the team, stating that "I will play under my current deal because I love and respect my coaches, my teammates, the fans, and myself...Not for those incentives."

Umenyiora's statement that he was willing to play for "myself" brought to mind an interesting hashkafic thought about the meaning of bishvili nivra ha'olam - because of me the world was created. The concept that one should consider that the world was created for him is at first quite puzzling. Judaism is about doing things for others and rarely must one put himself first. A person must honor his parents, visit the sick, assist in burying the dead, return lost objects, etc... Furthermore, Judaism shuns hedonism and the concept of "living for today" as we are taught that this world is merely a conduit to the world to come and one should use the opportunity here to do good deeds which we will be rewarded for in the next world. How can a person do all of the above (and more) and still consider that the world was created for him.

I heard an interesting take on this in a Rabbi Mansour shiur (available for download at He explained that the concept of bishvili nivra ha'olam does not mean that I am more important than everyone else. Instead, a person should consider that everything he does has an impact on the world and that the world's continued existence depends on his doing mitzvos. R' Mansour connected this to the concept of tikkun olam - that Jews are charged with the responsibility of fixing past misdeeds by doing positive corrective acts. When a person does a mitzva in a specific location he does more than just a good deed, he corrects a flaw in that spot. By realizing that we are responsible for the world and that the world depends on our acting properly, we can understand how the world was created for (us).

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