Monday, August 6, 2012

Monday's Musings on Sports, Olympic Events, Aaron Rogers and the Safety (of Ir Miklat)

While driving home from Camp M, I heard a very defensive Mike Greenberg state a controversial position which I actually agreed with. Greenie opined that the Olympics should eliminate the Tennis event and limit the Basketball to 23 and under. And it had nothing to do with the level of competition.

Greenie correctly observed that the Tennis event was being played at the All England Club in Wimbledon, London where the Wimbledon event had been played about a month before. He suggested that if you would ask any of the competitors whether they would prefer a Gold Medal or a Grand Slam victory, they would choose the latter.

Greenberg then made the connection with basketball. He correctly noted that the NBA players were the best players who were participating in the Olympic basketball event. Again he suggested that any NBA player would prefer an NBA title to a Gold Medal and that the players hardly practiced or prepared for the Olympic event because there was frankly no competition.

The issue of the priority of the event and whether the players cared enough about the Olympics reminded me of a vort that I had heard on Shabbos from R' Chaim Poupko. He started his remarks by talking about how he admired Aaron Rodgers, notwithstanding the fact that R' Poupko hails from Chicago and is a long time fan of the Bears.

R' Poupko cited an article which he said ran in the NY Times about a year ago in connection with Aaron Rodgers. He said that the article talked about how when Aaron Rodgers was the backup to Brett Favre, Rodgers would run the scout team offense against the starting defense. For those unfamiliar with this concept, here's a quick primer. The scout team runs the opposing team's plays during practice so that the starting defense can prepare for the formations and plays that it will see in the real game.

The reason that the starting defense hated Rodgers was that he went full tilt in the practice and tried hard to beat the defense. Once he did throw a touchdown, Rodgers would celebrate and do a dance.

R' Poupko stated that he admired Rodgers because Rodgers did all this hard work, despite knowing that he would not be playing in the actual game. He further equated it to Moshe Rabbeinu in last week's parsha. Hashem commands that Arei Miklat (cities of refuge) be created. Although Moshe knew that he would never get into the land of Israel and would never see the Arei Miklta, he still took the effort to teach the laws and delineate how they should be arranged. Because to Moshe, there was no such thing as "just practice."

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