Monday, July 16, 2012

Monday's Musings on Sports - Why Life is LeGrand and the Pinchas Perspective

While driving down from Camp M, I spent an engaging few hours listening to the Mike & Mike in the morning program. Unlike most of the last few weeks, the show was actually hosted by Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic, instead of one and occasionally two, fill in hosts.

The show had a couple of interesting discussion points, including the Monday 4PM deadline for signing franchise players to multi-year deals. The guys debated which of the marquee players were worth mega buck long term contracts and whether a player would pass up the franchise year salary and sit out the year in order to avoid possible injury and its possible impact on his ability to cash in down the road.

There was also an interesting discussion about the Jeremy Lin saga and whether the NY Knicks would be willing to match the Houston Rockets offer sheet for Lin. The Mikes correctly noted that while the purported sticking point was the third year of the deal and the luxury tax penalty, the Knicks should not have been worried about it because: (a) if Lin was performing at All-Star level in the 3rd year he would be worth the money; (b) the Knicks would still be raking in merchandise dollars, even if Lin turned out to be only a slightly above average player. and (c) if Lin turned out to be a bust in the expensive third year, he could still be a valuable trade chip as teams desire expiring contracts and the Knicks could move Lin at that time for a more useful player.

But the discussion from the show which I really would like to focus on involved Eric LeGrand and kickoffs. For those who are unaware of LeGrand, he was a Rutgers college football player who suffered a devastating spinal injury and is currently unable to walk. The injury occurred during a play when LeGrand was covering a kickoff and fractured two vertebrae while attempting to make tackle. Although he was paralyzed from the waist down, he has now been able to sit up and has vowed that one day he will walk again. He has also recently publicly stated that when he does walk, he will go back to the spot at New Meadowlands stadium where he was injured, lie down and then stand up again.

Besides discussing his rehab and future plans, LeGrand also discussed his views on kickoffs. Although unrelated to LeGrand, last year the NFL moved the location of the kickoff up 5 yards to reduce the number of kickoff returns and minimize player injury. There has since been a movement to further limit or possibly eliminate kickoffs altogether.

Last week, LeGrand voiced his opposition to changing kickoffs and even to the 5 yard movement from the previous fall. LeGrand opined that for some players, the coverage team is their only way to earn a spot on the team. He also stated that the old form of kickoffs was more exciting.

The fact that nearly two years post accident, LeGrand could look back on his injury and express an opinion that kickoffs should go back to the way they were pre-2011 changes made me think about the Torah reading for the last two weeks and what I will call the Pinchas principle.

Although last week's parsha was called Pinchas and contained a description of his reward for bravery, it was not the beginning of the Pinchas story. Rather, the story began in the last part of Parshas Balak, where the Torah recites that Pinchas killed Cozbi and Zimri. The question asked by many meforshim is, why does the Torah wait until the next parsha to discuss Pinchas' reward? Couldn't the Torah finish the story in Parshas Balak with a description of the reward.

The answer which I heard in a Rabbi Mansour shiur which I downloaded from is that the Torah intentionally waited for the following parsha to discuss the reward in order to demonstrate that some actions must be judged before determining whether they were proper. It would be easy to jump to conclusions and call Pinchas a hothead for his act. By waiting until the next parsha to discuss the reward, the Torah shows that in order to properly consider whether a person has acted for the sake of heave, one needs to step back and analyze the acts taken.

To my mind, there is no way that in the weeks and months immediately post injury, LeGrand could have made the statement that kickoffs should not be altered in the name of player safety. However, now that he has commenced rehab and had time to consider the injury, LeGrand can step back and properly review and comment on the play.

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