Monday, November 7, 2011

Monday's Musings on Sports - Discipline, Messier and Shoelaces

This morning I did something that I normally do not do. As regular readers of this blog know, I am a big fan on Mike & Mike in the morning and my radio is usually locked into ESPN radio most mornings so that I can catch the show on my way to work.

This morning, I was sitting at a traffic light about five minutes before the hour and the ESPN guys made it sound like they were going to commercials and the next guest would be after the hour's update. So I switched my radio to WFAN (660) a station which I usually avoid in the morning as the Boomer and Carton show is usually too off color for my tastes.

Upon switching to 660 I heard the tail end of an interview with former NY Rangers captain Mark Messier. The fifty year old former hockey player was being interviewed about the NYC marathon which he had run on Sunday. The interviewer drew out information including that Messier had to be treated at the medical tent after the marathon and the details of the treatment.

What really caught my interest was a series of questions about Messier's attendance at the Ranger game on Sunday night. One of the hosts asked Messier why he was wearing a suit and tie at the Ranger game just a few hours after he had completed the marathon. Messier responded at first with one word - discipline. He quickly followed this with the explanation that the Rangers require all staff attending the game to wear a suit and tie and that although he was sore from the run, he wanted to follow the team's dress code for employees.

Listening to this interview, I could easily picture Messier giving these answers. With his shaved head and intimidating glare, Messier always gave the image of being determined and singularly focused on his goal. Although he has been retired for seven years, he does not sound any less determined or focused. If the Rangers require a staff member to be dressed in a certain manner while at the Garden, the rule needs to be followed.

Messier's response made me think about a halacha that we learn from last week's parsha and a story told by R' Frand. After Avraham assists the four kings in defeating the five kings, he is offered a share of the plunder, but declines. In so doing, Avraham states that he will not even take a shoelace from the spoils of war. From this we derive the halacha that when putting on shoes we are to tie our left shoelace before our right shoelace.

R' Frand told a story last week about a boy whose father took him out of day school because of the shoelace rule. The boy's father had been in a rush and wanted to leave, but the boy insisted that he first needed to retie his shoes. The father asked why and the boy said that he had learned in day school that shoes must be tied left and then right. The father was incensed and pulled the boy out of Jewish day school.

Years later, the boy had grown up and was engaged to marry a non-Jewish woman. The morning of the wedding, the man was tying his shoes when he flashed back to the conversation with his father. The man thought to himself - do I really want to give up my religion and history? He called his fiancee and told her that he could not go forward with the wedding because his Judaism was more important to him.

The man then moved to Israel and began to learn in a Yeshiva. Years went by and the man continued to learn, but was unable to find a proper shidduch. One day, his Rebbi came to him and told him that he had a girl for the man. There was only one catch - she was a convert, would this be OK.

Of course, the girl was the fiancee that he had left behind. She decided that if Judaism was so important to him, she needed to know what it was all about. The girl went to classes and eventually converted, before going to school in Israel to continue her studies and meet her "sole mate."

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