Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday's Musings on Sports - How to Avoid Shooting Yourself in the Foot

In the fall of 2008 I wrote at least two posts which were critical of Plaxico Burress for his personal conduct which led to his arrest and ultimately his two year prison sentence. After serving his time in prison, Burress rejoined the NFL and currently plays for the New York Jets. Two stories from this weekend's NFL games demonstrate how far he has come.

In Thursday's second NFL game, the Detroit Lions took on the Green Bay Packers. During the game, Lions' Defensive Lineman Ndamukong Suh, pushed a Packer player's head into the turf, before attempting to stomp on him. Suh's infraction was caught by the referee and he was ejected from the game. After the game, Suh attempted to apologize to the fans, but did not seem contrite about his actions. [He has since been suspended for two games by the NFL].

Suh has not been a player above controversy. In his short time in the league, the former 2nd pick overall has earned a reputation as a dirty player. After being fined numerous times by the league, Suh asked for and received a meeting with the league president earlier this year so that he could learn the proper way to conduct himself. Evidently, he did not learn very well and now he faces the prospect of missing important games during his team's playoff drive.

Another interesting event occurred during the NY Jets - Buffalo Bills game on Sunday. After scoring a touchdown, Stevie Johnson pretended to shoot himself in the leg, before mimicking the Jets touchdown celebration and diving to the ground. Johnson earned himself a 15 yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, which (when added to a poor kickoff), gave the Jets a short field and resulted in the Jets scoring a touchdown.

[Johnson's misdeeds in blaming G-d for his inability to catch a potential game winning pass were highlighted in this post last year -].

After the game, Burress was interviewed and asked whether he had any reaction to Johnson's attempt to make fun of Burress' self shooting which led to his incarceration. Burress responded that the "old Plaxico" would have met Johnson in the parking lot after the game, buyt he was not like that anymore.

The gemara in Shabbos (105b) teaches that one who become angry is akin to worshipping idols. The reason given for this comparison is that one who becomes angry is challenging or expressing displeasure for Hashem's decision that things should turn the way that they did. Through Suh's unchecked anger, he has hurt his team and himself and has earned the ire of the league and the fans. In contrast, Burress' maturity which came at the expense of his freedom has allowed him to accept the events as they happen and earned him respect of the fans.

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