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Doc Rivers: A Coach and Proud Father

 

As a sports fan, it was great to see Boston Celtics Coach, Doc Rivers, celebrate with his wife, after their son, Austin, made the game winning 3-pointer for the Duke Blue Devils over their bitter rivals, the North Carolina Tar Heels (14 seconds into clip) last night. We sometimes forget that coaches and athletes are humans, have feelings, and are proud parents. Watching Doc bask in the moment of his son’s glory made me think about my priorities, and what I need to change in order to be a more supportive and loving father.

It’s not like Doc had plenty of time to fly down to North Carolina for the game. After it ended, Doc hopped on the next plane back to Boston to finish preparing for tonight’s game against the hated Lakers. Although he didn’t have much, if any, time to take off of work, he made it happen, because he cared. Parents are often busy and immersed in their professional lives, and Doc is no different. To see him take time out of his day to support his son was awesome.

Our sages require a father, among other responsibilities, to teach their son a trade, as well as the teach him the Torah and its values. Not only has Doc taught Austin how to play the game of basketball, (though I wouldn’t be surprised if Austin ends up teaching his dad a few things about it down the road) he has also taught his son that love and support for a child is something that you make time for, no matter how busy you might be. These lessons will serve Austin well, as he grows older and wiser in the years to come.

Austin is lucky: not only is his father a great coach, but he is also a great dad.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Basketball, College Basketball.


Ahmad Bradshaw’s Unintentional Game Winning Touchdown

http://youtu.be/QRy1i9AjC-8

 

Ahmad Bradshaw tried to fall short of the end zone, as per Eli Manning’s advice, so that the Giants could take more time off the clock and then kick the game winning field goal. It didn’t work out: he scored the touchdown, giving the Giants the lead in Super Bowl 46 with about 1 minute left in the game. Luckily, the Giants went on to win the Super Bowl and nothing came of his potential gaffe.

Chris Collinsworth, the color commentator of the Super Bowl, and a number of analysts all agreed with Eli Manning, that running out the clock would have been in the Giants best interests. They argued that it is a mistake to give Tom Brady any time, let alone 1 minute, to engineer a game winning touchdown.

However, there are those, like me, who felt that scoring the touchdown and taking the lead was the correct decision. Instead of focusing on what Tom Brady could do in 1 minute, shouldn’t the Giants first assure themselves of a lead to protect? What if the Giants would have fumbled the ball on the ensuing play? Perhaps Tynes would have botched the game winning field goal on 4th down? Maybe the center or the holder would have mishandled the snap? Or maybe the Patriots would have blocked the field goal?

With so many different possibilities that would have ended the Giants season on a sour note, scoring the touchdown was the right move. I’m not just saying this with the comfort of 20-20 hindsight. I say this based on the foresight of the rabbis of the Talmud who codified the well known principle, “Bari Ve’shema, Bari Adif;” that when two conflicting scenarios arise- one which, in this case, guarantees the lead, and the other which does not guarantee the lead, take the guaranteed points.

Either way, it worked out for the New York “Football” Giants. And for a die hard Raider fan who has still not forgotten about the infamous Brady “Tuck Rule” game, I was pleased.

 

 

 

Posted in Football.


NFL Playoffs: Let the Showboating Begin!

With the NFL playoffs beginning this weekend, and the bright lights focused on every team and each of the final 11 games, it is time for the players to shine and put on memorable performances. Perhaps even a few of them may entertain the fans with one of their patented dances after a touchdown, sack, or maybe even something as pedestrian as a first down.

But if you expect Bob Costas to watch with glee as the players engage in “mindless exhibitionism,” then you’ve got something else coming. You see, a few months back, Bob Costas appeared in a halftime monologue in which he derided and decried the silliness of touchdown celebrations. As a football purist, he could not tolerate the antics which, in his opinion, reinforced the notion that our society is concerned more about keeping up with the Khardashian’s, than participating in important and worldly pursuits.

He yearned for the day when players would emulate the classiness once exhibited by the great running back, Barry Sanders, who simply tossed the ball to the umpire after scoring one of his many touchdowns. In this day and age, he noted, players are more concerned with “calculated displays of obnoxious self indulgence” and “showboating,” than class and professionalism.

Is showboating something that should be discouraged on the football field, like Costas preached? I’m not so sure. I believe that a football game is no different than a movie or a Broadway show, whose purposes are to engage and entertain the audience. Therefore, touchdown celebrations and the like, should be encouraged! In fact, when a player on the home team does his signature celebratory dance, it gets the crowd even more excited. It would be a mistake to discourage players from expressing themselves in that manner.

Self-expression, besides being an inalienable right, is what differentiates humans from animals. According to the bible, God placed within our bodies a “Nefesh Chaya,” a living soul, which the famed Jewish commentator, Onkeles, translated as “Ruach Mimallilah,” an ability to communicate. Be it through speech or dance, self-expression is a God given gift which must be utilized and enjoyed. If football players desire to entertain fans with fun and unique touchdown celebrations, I say, “more power to them.”

Having said all this, I do want to make one caveat. Like every other constitutional or God given right, there are limits and guidelines for its usage. While self-expression is encouraged, it cannot be used with reckless abandon. Players who showboat by mocking or degrading their opponents, are abusing their gift and should be reprimanded and penalized for their behavior. Indeed, the NFL has instituted a penalty for “taunting” which has largely eliminated celebrations that mock or demean a player’s opponents.

Mindless exhibitionism is fun. Most fans enjoy it and it’s done in good nature. But celebrations that are done in poor taste and with intent to incite or offend another person are reprehensible. It goes without saying, that a player who receives a 15 yard unsportsmanlike-like conduct penalty for his antics is simply stupid.

One of the greatest gifts God has given mankind is the ability to communicate through self-expression. This type of gift must not be kept under lock and key; it should be used as much as possible, including as a form of entertainment. But it mustn’t be used in a hurtful or harmful manner.

Let the playoffs begin!

Posted in Football.


Why Major League Baseball’s Media Dress Code is the Right Call

Major League Baseball’s winter meetings are always full of drama and excitement. Every couple of minutes baseball insiders are tweeting the latest updates on which teams are going to land the hottest (and by hottest, I mean, most talented) free agents. Now that the Angels won the Albert Pujols sweepstakes, we will see how the rest of the teams fare.

Just the other day, though, MLB created some interesting news of their own. Beginning next season, the media will be required to adhere to a specific dress code. Failure to do so may result in a fine or being denied access to the players. What is this new dress code? Among other things, “Ripped jeans, visible undergarments, sheer clothing, one-shouldered and strapless shirts or clothing exposing bare midriffs will be banned. Skirts, dresses or shorts cut more than three or four inches above the knee will be deemed to be in violation.”

It doesn’t take a Rabbi to realize that MLB is primarily concerned with women’s attire. They are concerned that the male baseball players will act irresponsibly and unkindly towards scantilly clad female journalists. (See Ines Sainz and Erin Andrews)

Is it fair to penalize female reporters because grown men can’t behave themselves? Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to teach men to control their lusts instead of forcing women to dress in a specific manner? At the end of the day, it’s the baseball players with the problem! When these same guys are partying in the clubs after the game, they see plenty of women dressed in skimpy clothing. Should the nightclubs stipulate entrance based on proper attire?

MLB officials claim that they need to create a “profesional environment” in the clubhouse. I think we all know how to read between the lines: if a female writer dresses provocatively, the players will react inapropriately, creating an unprofessional environment. Doesn’t it seem, then, that MLB is blaming the woman for man’s problem? True, dating back to Adam, men have a history of blaming women for their own failings, but, at its core, this is an emotion that men need to keep in check. I don’t believe that it’s easy to achieve, but isn’t the very definition of “profesionalism” the adherence to standards in the face of adversity or distraction?

In the final analysis, however, I believe that MLB is making the correct decision by instituting this new mandate. This is not because, as an Orthodox Rabbi, I subscribe to a traditional standard of modest dress, (even skirts one or two inches above the knee is traditionally viewed as immodest dress) but because of another Biblical principle which everyone can rally behind: “Don’t place a stumbling block in front of the blind,” which commands us to avoid placing obstacles in front of people who may not be able to avoid them. Yes, men need to control their urges and they must always treat a woman with respect no matter how she dresses. At the same time, however, it is not fair for MLB to place men in situations where they have a high chance of failure. If athletes choose to hit the town and party on their own, that is certainly their perogative and they should enjoy themselves (unless they are married; then they better run home). As an institution, however, MLB must attempt to avoid inappropriate behavior in the premises it controls. Just as women are not forced to take a job that requires them to interview exciteable and emotional men after the thrill of victory or the disappointment of defeat, men should not be forced to confront, on a daily basis, a volatile situation in which failure can have significant adverse consequences. I understand that there is a fine line to walk here, but MLB is making the right call.

In our early morning prayers, men and women ask God not to place them in positions to sin or transgress, nor to place them in positions to test their willpower. In the event that they ignore their own prayers, well, they have to deal with the consequences. But for other’s to place them in an uncomfortable position, well, that’s not right. And so, I applaud MLB for making the correct decision to help create a more “professional” environment.

 

Posted in Baseball.


The Final Chapter of Joe Paterno’s Legacy

After becoming the winningest college football coach in Division I history with victory number 409, the book detailing the legendary career of Joe Paterno was complete. Not only did the book describe him as a great coach and competitor, but it spoke highly and fondly of his superb character and moral integrity. The fact that he is still coaching at the young age of 84 shows us how much he has meant to the University, his players, and college football. That was the Joe Paterno we knew.

Everything changed this past Sunday. It was then that we realized that a chapter of his life’s story was missing from the book. A chapter that would change our perception of this legendary man. His integrity is being questioned and his accomplishments are becoming immaterial. That’s what happens when your former defensive coordinator is charged with 40 counts of child abuse and molestation. And that’s what happens when you hear that your former defensive coordinator is showering with a 10 year old boy and all you do is bring the matter to the attention of your Athletic Director.

There is no doubt that, as the face of Penn State University, Paterno had the power to do whatever he wanted to remedy the situation. Instead of dealing with it seriously and in a timely manner, he passed the buck. Although his reporting of the allegations to his superiors may have satisfied his legal obligation, on a moral level, he did not do enough to ensure the safety and security of the children who were then at risk or who later became at risk due to their contact with Jerry Sandusky, Paterno’s former assistant.

Paterno is not the only one at fault. The entire administration at the University has been criticized, rightly, for not alerting the authorities about the alleged sexual abuse. While Sandusky was not on Paterno’s staff in 2002, it was still very much in their purview to deal with this appropriately, as he had full access to the University campus.

In all honesty, if the nature of the transgression brought to Paterno’s attention had been something a bit more innocuous, like players selling team memorabilia, as in the case of Ohio St. coach Jim Tressel, then I would have been accepting of Paterno simply alerting the AD of potential violations. But when we are dealing with kids and sexual abuse, how can anyone be excused for such inaction? Children’s lives are at stake! Allegations of child molestation cannot be treated like any other ordinary accusation.

While nothing can excuse Paterno’s failure to report the allegations to law enforcement authorities, Paterno’s deserves credit for recognizing his moral failure and accepting responsibility for it, saying “This is a tragedy. It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.” I applaud his willingness to accept responsibility for his grave misjudgment.

The truth is that the Bible is very clear about our moral responsibility to protect others against injustice. Among the myriad of verses which implore us to protect the vulnerable, the most critical one is, “Do not stand idly by, while your fellow’s blood is shed.” This commandment requires us to do whatever we can to save and protect the life of a fellow human being.

True, Paterno didn’t stand idly by. He brought the information to the Athletic Director. But doing the minimum when children’s lives are hanging in the balance is tantamount to doing nothing. I’m glad that Paterno came clean and spoke about his mistake. I also applaud him for making the right decision by stepping down as coach at the end of the season. To Paterno’s dismay, the board of trustees at the University voted to have him fired, effective immediately.

While the authors scramble to add this latest chapter to Paterno’s book, I hope that this will not be the last chapter. I pray that the final one will revolve around what he promised, to “spend the rest of my life doing everything I can to help this University.”

Good luck, Joe. It’s not going to be easy.

Posted in College Football.


Embracing “Tebowing”

http://youtu.be/xNVRT4oKiW4

Tim Tebow played poorly this past Sunday in a losing effort against the Detroit Lions. I have nothing more to say about that. What I do want to address is the new craze that has captured the hearts and minds of millions of Tim Tebow fans around the world- “Tebowing.” For the uninitiated, “Tebowing” is defined as, “to get down on a knee and start praying, even if everyone else around you is doing something completely different.” While Tebow has been caught “Tebowing” at different times in his young career, the rage only began last week when he led the Broncos to a thrilling overtime victory over the Miami Dolphins. At the end of that game the cameras panned to Tebow and, as if on cue, he began “Tebowing.”

The definition and concept of “Tebowing” as well as its name are the brainchild of Denver native, Jared Kleinstein, who now runs the popular website Tebowing.com. On it you can find hundreds of “up to the minute” uploads of people “Tebowing.” Among the many pictures, there is one of a young boy “Tebowing” while undergoing chemotherapy, which actually caught Tebow’s attention. I find the pictures amusing, cute and mostly done in good taste.

Admittedly, “Tebowing” has its detractors. For them, “Tebowing” is just as silly as planking. The only difference is that instead of lying flat in a public space, they are kneeling on one knee. Some argue that “Tebowing” is an affront to those people who actually pray to God and take their religion seriously.

Tebow, however, is supportive of the concept. Here’s what we had to say about it after practice this past Friday: Yeah, some people don’t necessarily take it seriously but they’re on their knee praying, so who knows what you’re going to think about after that and how that can affect you? Hopefully, it’s a good example for people.”

Tebow’s assessment- that the pro’s of “Tebowing” outweigh the con’s, is found in the Jewish tradition. The Talmud teaches, “Mitoch Shelo Lishma Ba Lishma.” This means that if a person, initially, develops good habits or good behaviors for the “wrong” reasons, eventually he will begin to do those same behaviors for the “right” reasons. Based on this concept, Maimonidies asserts that people should be encouraged to fulfill God’s will by being offered incentives for religious observance.

It’s true that most of the people “Tebowing” are not praying at all; they’re just having a good time with it. But is there a downside to “Tebowing?” Instead of planking which is highly dangerous, they’re practicing something that is not only safe and family friendly, but something that is deeply connected to prayer and to God. That, I believe, is a beautiful thing!

As a Rabbi, I find myself extremely envious that Tim Tebow can get so many people around the world thinking about prayer. I, and many other clergy, dream about having the platform to “preach the gospel” like he does. If Tebow’s football career doesn’t pan out, as the experts have been predicting for the last couple of years, ad nauseam, his contributions to faith, religion and God are ‘Hall of Fame’ worthy.

I hope and pray that Tebow’s quarterbacking skills improve over the rest of the season and that he has a successful and fulfilling football career. More importantly, though, I hope he continues to do the holy work of bringing people closer to God.

 

Posted in Football.