Monday, January 2, 2012

Monday's Musings on Sports - Santonio, Larry and Ryan (Not that Ryan)

At the tail end of the Jets final game of the season, the cameras focused on WR Santonio Holmes who was sitting on the bench while the rest of the starting offense was trying to salvage the game. Soon thereafter, CBS showed a replay of what appeared to be a fight in the huddle between Holmes and some other player, but the camera angle did not reveal who he had been fighting with. As the game wound down, CBS continued to cut away to Holmes, looking as if he was pouting while he was sitting on the bench. However, the announcers did not have much information as to why Holmes was relegated to the bench.

Today, more of the story about Santonio's activities were revealed. ESPN Radio reported that last week Mark Sanchez held meetings with the wide receivers to try to work through problems with the passing game. According to the report, Holmes was uninterested in attending the meeting. Additional reports indicated that Holmes had been expressing his displeasure over the last few weeks and had called out his coaches and teammates in various meetings. All of this childish behavior culminated with the fight on Sunday, after which the offensive coordinator had Holmes pulled from the game.

In contrast to Santonio's juvenile behavior, there was a story on Sunday about a different highly paid wide receiver who played for another under performing team. When the season began, there were high expectations for the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals had traded for highly regarded QB Kevin Kolb and it was thought that WR Larry Fitzgerald would justify his massive eight year - $120 million contract. Although the Cardinals won their first game of the season, they lost their next six games in a row. Although the streak was partly due to QB injury (twice during the season, the Cards were forced to use Richard Bartel from college juggernaut Tarleton State at QB), the stretch of games was disheartening to a veteran player like Fitzgerald. Rather than publicly complain or sit out games or practices, Fitzgerald continued to work hard and finished the season with 1400+ yards (fourth best in the NFL). However, the most startling contrast was how Fitzgerald approached the final game of his season. Although the Cardinals had been eliminated from possible post season play, Fitzgerald refused to stay out of the game after he was seen coughing up blood on the sidelines. Indeed, it was learned today that Fitzgerald had suffered a bruised lung, yet he played the entire game and made three catches for forty-six yards during the overtime drive that won the game for the Cardinals.

Our third player being contrasted in this post is Ryan Clark, a free safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Clark is infected with the genetic defect, sickle cell anemia, which he has been able to overcome when playing at normal altitudes. However, during Clark's last game at Denver, the combination of exertion and the sickle cell trait caused him to become so ill that doctors were forced to remove his spleen and gall bladder. Despite the history of illness and possible dangerous repercussions, Ryan may still play this weekend in the Steelers' road playoff game at Denver.

The contrast of Clark/Fitzgerald's determination and Holmes' juvenile activity was particularly ironic to me. Having read the conclusion of the Joseph story this past shabbos in Parshas Vayigash, we had seen numerous instances where Joseph could have given up and not continued in the path of Torah. Starting from the beginning of the saga, Joseph knew that his brothers hated him and that the errand that his father had sent him on to find his brothers was fraught with danger. Yet Joseph willingly went looking for his brothers and wound up in a pit. In the following parsha, Joseph resisted the advances of Potiphar's wife and wound up in jail. Later, having interpreted the butler's dream, Joseph remained in jail for another two years, until he was summoned to Pharaoh to interpret his dream. In each of these instances, Joseph could have simply given up on life, or at the very least, could have decided that there was no point in staying on the derech. However, Joseph chose not to sulk or abandon hope and ultimately became the second in command in Egypt.

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