Monday, December 2, 2013

Monday's Musings on Sports - Breaking up chemistry or making sacrifices?

Like most sports fans, in all of the sports that I follow, I have a favorite team that I root for and follow. Each of my favorite teams has at least one bitter rival which always brings out the best in my team...or is the seeming cause of my team's downfall. In baseball, I root for the Mets, but they are always done in by the Phillies or Braves. In football, I root for the Jets, but they are frequently bested by the Patriots. In basketball, I root for the Nets, but its not a strong rooting interest and they have no bitter rival as of now. But of all the teams that I follow, its only the NY Rangers that I actively root for bad things to happen to their rivals, the NY Islanders.

Perhaps the cause of my enmity for the Islanders (or Icelanders to quote the Gaon S' Somers) came from growing up on Long Island and watching them win four Stanley Cups in a row in the early 80's. It could also have come from watching players I thought were nasty/dirty who got away with injuring my beloved Ranger players.

Over the last twenty years or so, the Ranger-Islander rivalry has diminished, largely due to the Islanders dismal performance under the management of the team under Mike Milbury and now Garth Snow (five playoff appearances since 1994 and zero playoff series victories). But even though the Islanders have been a weak sister for nearly twenty years, I still relish watching the team flounder.

Earlier this season, the Islanders made a splash in the trade market by trading Matt Moulson (at the time one of their top line players) and two draft picks to Buffalo for Thomas Vanek. If one examined the trade purely from the perspective of trading one player for another, it would appear that the Islanders got the better end of the deal as Vanek is a pure goal scorer and an upgrade over Moulson. But the Islanders also traded two high draft picks and that would seem to tip the scales towards Buffalo. But that is not even the tip of the iceberg.

Besides being a top line scorer, Moulson was also close friends with Islanders' team captain John Tavares. It was reported on NHL Radio that Tavares went to Moulson's house to help him pack and that while it was understood that this was "part of the business of sports", Tavares was upset about the deal. Since making the deal, the Islanders who previously were 6-2-3 have gone 2-13-2 and are living in the basement of the Metropolitan Division. So was the addition of the better player at the sacrifice of team chemistry really worth it?

The discussion of making sacrifices for the sake of achdus can be found in the Torah reading for Chanukah. Each day of Chanukah we read about one of the sacrifices brought by a Nasi. The Torah reading comes from Parshas Nasso where the sacrifices are repeated twelve times, with little to no variation in the verses as each Nasi brought the same sacrifice.

I recently heard a shiur from R' Mansour on where he asked why the Torah needed to recite the same sacrifice 12 times? Couldn't the Torah have just said it once and then given an "ibid"?

R' Mansour answered by quoting the Medrash which explained that when the miskhan was dedicated, each nasi was allowed to come up with his own formula for the sacrifice. However, after the first sacrifice was brought, the second Nasi said - we should all do exactly the same sacrifice because that way there will be no one upsmanship games. Surprisingly, all the other Nessiem agreed and they all brought the same sacrifice. This showing of achdus was so impressive to Hashem that he decided that each sacrifice would be written in the Torah, even though they were all repetitive. Indeed, even though at least one nasi offered his sacrifice on Shabbos (when individual sacrifices are not permitted), they were permitted to proceed on Shabbos because of the achdus of the gesture.

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