Monday, May 7, 2012

Monday's Musings on Sports - LeBron, Leadership and the Parting of the Sea

This morning I went against my usual habit of late. With the Rangers proceeding deep into the playoffs, I have been listening to NHL Home Ice on XM channel 92 when I am driving in my car. Although the hosts can be a bit "hokey" at time (or maybe just Canadian, I can't necessarily tell the difference) they have great insights and Phil Esposito in the afternoon.

But this morning I went back to Mike & Mike on ESPN radio. After picking up my morning iced coffee at DDs, I caught the tail end of a discussion about the Knick-Heat basketball game. The hosts were talking about how at the end of the game, Dwayne Wade had the ball with the chance to tie and/or win the game. Since Wade missed the shot, the guys were talking about whether the play was designed to go Wade and inquired where LeBron James was at the time. One of the guests noted that James was not trying to get free from being defended by Amar'e and was more or less in the periphery.

With this as a launching pad, the guys began to talk about great players and how they want the ball when the game is on the line. The host recalled that if the Celtics needed a basket with the game winding down, Larry Bird would tell KJ or whomever was inbounding the ball that he wanted to take the shot. It made me think about the scene at the end of Hoosiers where they draw up the play to have the ball go to a secondary shooter, but then Gene Hackman gives in and runs "the picket fence" so that Jimmy Chitwood can take the game winning shot.

The desire to have the game in your hands when time is winding down is not unique to basketball. The great NFL QBs like John Elway, Joe Montana and the pretty boy in New England want to bring their teams back in the last two minutes, rather than watch their defense try to keep the other team from scoring. In the most recent Superbowl, Coach Belichick instructed his defense to allow Ahmad Bradshaw to score so that the offense could get the ball back with the chance to win the game. This was not an indictment of the Giants' defense, but a testament in the Coach's faith that the QB wanted the ball with a chance to win.

In sharp contrast to the great QBs, there are some players who can't handle the pressure and do not want to have the ball in their hands at the end of the game. The most notorious example of this was Donovan McNabb at the end of the Superbowl in 2004 when he famously vomited in the huddle before blowing his team's last chance to win the game.

The desire to lead when it would be easier to follow the crowd can be seen in the Yam Suf story. When the Jews reached the water, they complained to Moshe that they had fled Egypt, only to die at Yam Suf. At that point, the leader of the tribe of Yehuda, Nachson Ben Aminadav stepped to the forefront. He walked headlong into the sea to show his faith that Hashem had a master plan and that the Jews were not destined to drown at Yam Suf. Although Nachshon could have sat back and watched whether his brother in law Aharon or Moshe could rally the Jews, he stepped forward and led by example at the time that it was needed most.

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