Winning Isn’t Everything

Los Angeles is in a winning frenzy and it isn’t even award season!  Los Angeles teams, the Kings, Ducks and the Clippers are battling in their respective sports ‘ playoffs.

Even if you are not a great basketball or hockey fan you can’t escape the determination and grit that these players show during each game.  Add to that both the Dodgers and Angels play almost daily along with Los Angeles soccer teams the Galaxy and Chivas USA.  Women’s Basketball season begins next week and we are home to the LA Sparks.  And I couldn’t mention pro sports without mentioning the LA Lakers who had perhaps their worst season ever. It’s a veritable rainbow of colors and mascots!

But even with all the competitive play and the enjoyment fans of all stripes get from cheering on their favorite players and teams it is clear that winning isn’t everything.

The Donald Sterling debacle of racist attitudes that were revealed publically proves that sports have something to say about many other issues.  Winning isn’t everything.  More than contracts and coaching changes, the state of sports and the owners and players and yes, the fans matter. Attitudes matter because they infect and affect the nature of the game.   When Sterling’s words and disregard of people of color were revealed by TMZ and the subsequent reaction teach us that the lessons of our Jewish tradition should be heeded.  We are taught that all people are created in the image of God-b’tzelem Elohim.  I guess Mr. Sterling missed that lesson in Religious School.

The deep wound of racism in our country continues to bleed.  No matter whether it comes in the form of a basketball team owner, a rancher in Nevada, or being picked up for driving while black, our country must confront the deadly divisions around race in our country.  Where can we have those conversations in safety? There are deep reservoirs of hurt, resentment and anger in our country around race and discrimination that still exists.  And we cannot sweep it under the rug.

Judaism is supposed to offer us guidance in learning to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Judaism teaches us that we cannot judge a person by the color of their skin from the story of Miriam, Moses’ sister who pointed out the dark skin color of his wife Tziporrah. Tzipporah was a very righteous woman who helped bring her sons into the covenant with Abraham even when Moses her husband neglected it.  It was Miriam who was punished for her racism. And in the Bible’s ironic voice, Miriam was turned snow white even as she pointed out Tziporra dark skin! The Torah story teaches us that a person must be judged by her deeds not by the color of her skin.  A winning attitude is about living a righteous and upright life and anyone can strive to achieve this.

So yes, as the playoffs continue, we cheer for our various teams and we hope they win. But winning isn’t everything.  Words and deeds matter and how we treat one another. We still have a long way to go before we will be truly color blind.  In the meantime, we have to engage in the conversation about race openly and honestly and our own roles in continuing to support institutional racism.  And most importantly, we ought to strive to live by our Jewish values and overcome the racism around us. Then the only colors we ought to see are our team colors!

PLAY BALL

I resisted all week. But cannot do so any longer! Baseball Season is here!! Hooray!   Pitchers and catchers reported this week to Florida and Arizona.  And the actual spring training games begin in the coming week.   And so we are off! PLAY BALL!

The races begin in earnest as our reconfigured teams get used to their new players.  My sweet Angels bid adieu to Hideki Matsui.  Thank goodness.  He was in my opinion uninspiring.  My Angels still don’t have their lead-off guy settled and they traded my favorite catcher–Mr. Napoli to the Blue Jays with Juan Rivera for Vernon Wells.  I am holding my breath cause Wells’ numbers don’t add up to their numbers.

So I am not sure what Moreno and company are thinking.  Feels like they are not thinking.  Yikes.

Position players report today and every one else will be joining together by tomorrow.

So I am excited by the beginning of the 2011 season. (Remember the All-Star game will be in Phoenix this year).  But let’s hope my Angels settle down early.

Opening Day Hooray!

Hooray! Yesterday was Opening Day for Major League Baseball. The Yankees and the Red Sox initiated the 2010 season with last night’s game. (Wasn’t that something to see Neil Diamond singing “Sweet Caroline”?Although Steve Tyler of Aerosmith singing “God Bless America at the seventh inning stretch left poor Kate Smith spinning in her grave!)  

Today the rest of the teams begin!  I have waited impatiently since the World Series ended to watch “the boys of summer” back on the diamond.  I waited through trades and free agent negotiations and Spring Training. (Although I am always buoyed by my trip to the Cactus League which brings some relief!) But when the first pitch goes out for the Season-well that means the world is that much more perfect.

Even though I am lucky enough to watch my own son play ball year round and it is always baseball in our house, when the major leaguers start-up the world seems better to me. More balanced. More interesting.  To see David Ortiz “Big Papi” go up against big CC Sabathia–those two giants staring each other down is a battle beyond bat and ball. It is a battle of the psyche.  A battle of will.

Watching the game in historic Fenway is always a treat.  I only went once to Fenway but it was a magical experience.  I did get to go to the Old Yankee Stadium during the last season the Yanks played there too.  I made the pilgrimage with my son and we visited the memorials as well.  I haven’t been to the new one yet. But someday. 

My Angels play the Twins today for their opener in Anaheim.  I know this is going to be a rebuilding year for my Angels.  With Chone and Vladi and Lackey now part of Angel history we Angel fans will have to be patient as Scoscia trains up a new generation with Brandon Wood and Howie Kendrick to lead the way.  Even as the Angels brought in Matsui to be the DH it will be a year we have to be patient I think.  I do believe in my Angels and I do believe in the master manager-Mike Scoscia who can bring a team together like no other manager in the Major Leagues.  So let’s hope he can work his magic.  Whatever the outcome –I am just so happy.

Opening Day is Here.  162 games per club–2,430 games!  (And that doesn’t count the playoffs!)  Hooray!

Today is the sixth day of counting the Omer.