TIME OUT FOR SPORTS

By RABBI SHLOMO PRICE

O.K. you Trivial Pursuit fans, nostalgia buffs, or sports experts, here are a few questions to test your expertise. Don't worry, the answers will follow.

  1. What is another name for the home run that Bobby Thompson hit in the 1951 playoffs to win the pennant for the N.Y. Giants?
  2. Who was on the on deck circle?
  3. Who was the pitcher?
  4. What is Willie Mays' middle name?
  5. What was his nickname?
  6. Off whom did he make his famous over -the-shoulder catch in the 1954 World Series?
  7. Who were the three players that made up the famous double -play combination for the Chicago Cubs?
  8. What was the name of the midget who batted for the St. Louis Browns?
  9. Who was the pitcher who pitched 12 perfect innings but lost?
  10. Who was the pitcher who pitched two consecutive no-hitters?
ANSWERS
  1. "The Shot Heard 'Round The World"
  2. Willie Mays
  3. Ralph Branca
  4. Howard
  5. "The Say Hey Kid"
  6. Off of Vic Werz of the Cleveland Indians
  7. From "Tinkers (?), to Evers (Johnny), To Chance (Frank)"
  8. Eddie Geidel
  9. Harvey Haddix
  10. Johnny Vander Meer
So what am I trying to point out here? After all it's a few weeks before Rosh Hashana and it's not the time for showing off my knowledge of trivia.

The answer is that that's just the point. I have not looked in any reference book recently. I have relied totally on my memory (I hope I didn't make any mistakes) as a sports and trivia fan from the last 40 years. I didn't play so much sports which at least would give me exercise. Rather I was smitten with the disease that my Social Studies teacher (in R.J.J.-anyone remember good ol' Frank Gross-fondly known as "Frankie") would dub "Spectatoritis". Hashem is going to ask the obvious question, "You use your memory and so much of the precious gift called time (which I gave you) for "trivia" (by definition-unimportant things, here in Israel they call it "shtuyot"),What about the important things such as Torah, Shas, Shulchan Oruch...?"

Unfortunately, this was the problem of many in our generation, even those who later became great Rebbeim and Marbitzei Torah.

In fact, I once had the following interesting correspondence, in 1995, with a famous Rabbi and author.

I faxed him a letter and in a P.S. I wrote..."In your new book...you use four names of Englishmen, 'Giliam, Reese, Snider and Hodges.' To the best of my knowledge these names sound like they're from and old Brooklyn Dodger lineup. Is it just a "coincidence" or are you a Brooklyn Dodger fan?"

He promptly responded, "...Rav Shlomo, I had to smile at your P.S. When I was writing ...and realized that I needed the name of some gentile soldiers, I figured I would use those Dodger names and make a small secret connection with someone 'out there' who would smile that I brought back a trace of those old glory days of the Brooklyn Dodger Era back in the 1950's. Growing up in Brooklyn, those guys were the 'gedolim' for many Yeshiva kids (me included). How far we have come, how much we have changed.

I am glad you are the one 'out there' who picked it up. Do you think Furillo and Campanella are upset they didn't get in the book?"

I later confided to him that I was really a (New York-San Francisco) Giant fan and wanted Willie Mays in the next book.

As a bideved (post facto) there are some lessons that I may be able to cull from some of these sports' stories. I will try to enumerate a few of them. I'm relying mostly on memory, as I don't have too many reference books handy, so please excuse any errors especially in spelling of the names.

I'll start of with the pride of St. Louis-Mark Mcgwire. I heard (from another Rabbi-who else?) that he broke Maris' record of 61 home runs. Eventually he hit an astounding 70. I read that some years ago, Mark Mcgwire had a disappointing season and was almost thinking of retiring. Where would baseball be without him!! The moral, of course is never give up you don't know what the future may bring.

Many people know the name of Greta Waitz as the winner of the women's N.Y. Marathon for 8-9? consecutive years. It maybe took her about 2 hours to run some 20+ miles ending in Central Park. Well there is another woman, who may not be as famous, who took about 25 + hours to "run" the same route, but she may be even a bigger winner than Greta Waitz. Her name is Zoe Kopolowitz and she suffers from a degenerating disease (I think it was Multiple Sclerosis). As hard as it was, she didn't give up and she made it till the finish line. In fact when Gretta Waitz met her, she asked her who is waiting for her at the finish line. Zoe told her that nobody was. She would just call in her finishing time and get a finisher's medal. When Greta heard this she was upset and said that she deserved that someone should be at the finishing line to greet her. Greta concluded, "I would be honored to be that person, I will be there for you..." For the last few years, Greta was always there to greet her and put a finisher's medal on her. In fact they both go to various schools to speak about the different forms of "winning". Greta talks about following a strict regimen and Zoe speaks about not giving up no matter how hard it gets and as the poster on her wall says, "The race doesn't only belong to the swift and strong, but to those who keep on running".

This of course has a great application to serving Hashem. Many of us try to keep certain schedules or sedorim like Daf Yomi (a page a day in the Babylonian Talmud) or learning Chumash. When we see it's hard, fall behind or see someone who is way ahead of us, we just give up. We shouldn't. We should remember that even if it's hard, we are not as fast as others or we our way behind the schedule, we should "keep on running" and never give up. So we'll reach the finish line later than others. We are still winners in a much more important race than the Marathon. The race to have a" happier life in this world and the next".

The next story is straight out of a 1995 Readers' Digest article.

"Thirty years ago Sandy Koufax- a Jewish pitcher with a sling like David's for a left arm- announced that he wouldn't play on the holiest day of his year, Yom Kippur. Koufax's employer, the Los Angeles Dodgers, respectfully pointed out that this was the first game of the 1965 World Series. Couldn't he pitch just a little?

"No," Koufax said. But later he pitched a shutout in games five and seven, and the Dodgers won the series, 4-3.

Well, Sandy would love a kid named Eli Herring, a 340-pound offensive tackle for Brigham Young University, in Provo, Utah. In his senior year Herring sported a 3.5 grade-point average and was judged a top senior offensive tackle in the pro draft. But Herring, a devout Mormon, turned down a possible multimillion -dollar deal with the Oakland Raiders because he, too, won't play on a holy day. Unfortunately, his holy day, Sunday, comes up once a week, just when the Raiders buckle on their equipment and go to work.

Herring meditated intensely over his dilemma. He could sign up with the NFL, play ball on Sundays and fill his life with fancy cars and houses, or he could teach math for $20,000 a year and honor the Sabbath. Herring's answer was to honor the Sabbath. He announced to the NFL that if he were drafted, he wouldn't serve.

Wow! Talk about a role model for kids adrift in a cultural sea of avarice, especially in sports. But what about his financial future? Well, to people like Herring, a blessing from above is better than a bank account."

This article speaks for itself. On one hand, it is a tremendous lesson for us to keep our Shabbos- Sabbath no matter what's at stake. I doubt we are being asked to give up a "multi-million dollar deal" not to desecrate the Shabbos. And we also realize that even if we had such a deal, we wouldn't lose anything. Hashem gives us our allotted sustenance. We certainly wouldn't forfeit it by keeping his Shabbos. (See my sicha about Shabbos, "Shabbos Kodesh And The Rabbi And Wung Fung Tu" where I elaborate on this point).

On the other hand, it is a chilul Hashem that the goyim (and lehavdil some Jews) think that the Mormon's "Holy Day" is once a week. And lehavdil, the Jew's Holy Day is only Yom Kippur.

The next piece is "borrowed" from my sicha, "It's About Time"
"I was a witness to the tremendous value of even 50 seconds. This happened in 1968. I would not have remembered all the particulars, but somebody got it off the Internet for me.

I'm talking about the "Heidi" game, an NFL football game that was voted the most memorable moment in NFL history. As written in the Detroit Free Press, Oct. 2, 97.

'The infamous "Heidi" game between the New York Jets and Oakland Raiders was voted the most memorable regular-season moment in NFL history in a recent poll of members of the media... to mark the 10,000th game that will be played Sunday afternoon.

Of all the regular-season games played since the league was founded in 1920, the one that stood out to the media panel was the game between the Jets and Raiders on November 17, 1968. With 50 seconds remaining, and the Jets leading 32-29, NBC stopped telecasting the game and switched to the children's film "Heidi". The Raiders scored two touchdowns during those final 50 seconds for a 43-32 victory.'

I said I was a witness not because I was watching the game, rather because I tuned in early not to miss even one minute of Heidi. I remember how NBC got a deluge of hate mail for what they did."

After seeing how precious even 50 seconds are, I can only regret the millions or billions of seconds that I wasted on trivialities. Remember, there are 3600 seconds in an hour, 86,400 seconds in a day, and 604,800 seconds in a week.

My final point is, in general, how distorted and warped our priorities are.

Why is it that Bobby Thompson's home run is called the shot heard 'round the world, as if it was a shot that started WIII?

In fact, to the Brooklyn Dodgers' fans, it was WWIII. I read a few years ago that even 40 years after it happened, Bobby Thompson still gets death threats from some crazy Dodgers' fans for ruining their lives.

A few years ago, when the N.Y. Rangers won the Stanley Cup, there was a tee shirt that said; "Now I Can Die In Peace." In fact I read about a eulogy made over someone that was an avid Rangers' fan, but died before they won the Stanley cup. The eulogizer said how sad it was that the deceased didn't have the "consolation" (my quotes) of seeing his favorite team win the Stanley cup.

How sad indeed that people should cherish and value sports over more important things. I marvel at the unfairness and mistaken priority when I compare the salaries of lets say, Doctors to Sports celebrities.

There was a poll about doctors' earnings commissioned in 1993 by a consumers group called Families USA. The poll said that the majority of Americans believe that doctors make too much money and that a fair income for them would be about $80,000 a year.

The late Mike Royko, from the Chicago Tribune, laced into this poll for many reasons. One of the reasons is what I always point out -What are they basing their opinion on?

He writes, "...it is based on resentment and envy...It's also stupid because it didn't ask key questions, such as: Do you know how much education and training it takes to become a physician?

If those polled said no, they didn't know, then they should have been disqualified. If they gave the wrong answers, they should have been dropped. What good are their views on what a doctor should earn if they don't know what it takes to become a doctor?

Or maybe a question should have been phrased this way: 'How much should a person earn if he or she must [a] get excellent grades and a fine educational foundation in high school in order to [b] be accepted by a good college and spend four years taking courses heavy in math, physics, chemistry and other lab work and maintain a 3.5 average or better, and [c] spend four more years of grinding study in medical school, with the 3rd and 4th years in clinical training, working 80 to 100 hours a week, and [d] spend another year as a low-pay hard-work intern, and [e] put in another 3 to 10 years of post-graduate training, depending on your specialty and [f] maybe wind up $100,000 in debt after medical school and [g] then work an average of 60 hours a week, with many family doctors putting in 70 hours or more until they retire or fall over?'

He also points out:

"Based on what doctors contribute to society they are far more useful than .... Of course doctors are well compensated. They should be. Americans now live longer than ever. But who is responsible for our longevity- lawyers, Congress or the guy flipping burgers at McDonald's?...By the way, has anyone done a poll on how much pollsters should earn?" (In a different satirical article on polls he ends off "There should be a poll on whether there should be polls".)
When I look at how many millions sports celebrities receive, I ask the same question. Who does more for society? How many lives have sports celebrities saved? (I could ask the same question when I compare Rabbis' salaries to sports celebrities'. Rabbis have saved many lives and, of course, neshomos with their counseling.)

But I'm afraid it all boils down to advertising. So many millions are charged for a short commercial on TV or radio during the game that they can afford to pay the players so well.

Maybe, it would be a good idea if they televised and had commercials during operations. I could just see it. Just as a complication arises and blood is gushing all over, the broadcaster announces, "We now pause for a word from our sponsor, Wilkinson scalpels..."

The bottom line is, let us not make the same mistake. Let's get our priorities straight-Torah and Mitzvos and use the time and capabilities that Hashem has given us towards these priorities. If we at least show Hashem that we are trying to do it, then we will merit a Kesivah Vechasima Tovah.

List of Rabbi Price's sichot
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