Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Whole Ten Yards

When I was younger, so much younger than today, football, according to the experts—or, in any event, the old-timers—took a turn for the worse. Players began doing strange things after scoring or making a big play. They would dance; they would jump into the stands; they would cluck like a chicken. Simply spiking the ball (the first recorded instance of which, according to my Google search, came in 1965) was passé.

This development did not please many a football sage, who felt that when players reach the end zone, they ought to “look like they’ve been there before.”

And I had always agreed with this line of thinking. Even as I enjoyed the short-lived antics of Terrell Owens, I wondered: Who needs this nonsense? The high fiving, the helmet banging, the chest thumping, the arm pumping on each and every play was overkill, I felt. Since when does a tackle on second-and-seven, making it third-and-four, deserve any sort of recognition, let alone a festive gesture?

But then I got to thinking.

Is it really so bad to celebrate every moment in life—even if the moment really isn’t that big? To put it another way aren’t the “small” victories also big? Aren’t they valuable too, deserving of celebration?

Watching the game the other Sunday, I saw an ad for ESPN with the slogan, “Living Life Ten Yards at a Time.” Those NFL players have it right after all, I thought. They celebrate every play as if they had just won the Super Bowl, because in some small way they have. Each and every play brings them that much closer to gaining the ten yards needed for a first down. The accumulation of first downs ultimately leads to a touchdown, or at least, a field goal. The touchdowns and field goals, if there are enough of them, add up to a victory. And the victories are what get a team to the playoffs and on the road to the Super Bowl.

So, in point of fact, each and every well-executed play deserves celebration.

Certainly in the world of sports, where tenths- and even hundredths-of-a-second can mean the difference between the gold medal and fourth place—between immortality and obscurity—there is no such thing as a small event. In a society where obscure statistics are tracked and measured, where every move a player makes contributes to his coach’s opinion of his performance and determines whether or not he ought to be paid hundreds of thousands of dollars—every single play counts.

In life, every day, every hour, every moment has value. Especially as Jews, who live a life under G-d’s Divine direction, we must recognize the value of our time and not simply be motivated by the “big” events.

I once heard a story about two friends who wanted to know what the Afterlife was like. They made a deal that whoever died first would report back to the other (no, this is not the “bad news is you’re pitching tomorrow” joke). Eventually one of them died and the very next evening appeared to her friend in a dream.

“I can’t begin to describe what Heaven is like. It’s simply not possible to understand on human terms the reward that awaits us for our mitzvos,” she said. “But I can give you a small understanding. Do you remember the time we were delivering food to that old lady and it was dark and we couldn’t find her house? We circled and circled the block and eventually I spotted the house and pointed to it. The extra reward that I received for simply pointing is beyond description.”

Two years ago I decided to try and learn a perek of the Rambam’s Yad Hachazakah every morning after davening. That’s a thousand perakim of Rambam, and based on my calculations, I ought to have been getting ready for a siyum this summer.

But wouldn’t you know it, I’m not on track for that. Heck, I’m not even close. Some days I had to run off to work and didn’t have time to finish the perek. Sometimes the perakim were so long and arduous that they took a week or more to complete. Thus, after two years and two months working on this project, I’m only about a third of the way done.

Pitiful? Hardly.

Despite my dawdling, I know more Rambam than I did last year, and I’m learning more than I was last year. In fact, I’m so pleased with my small victories that tomorrow morning I may just high five the gabbai and do a little jig in the back of the shul.

Although, admittedly, spiking the sefer would probably be inappropriate.


Blogger Semgirl said...

Excellent post as always like you need me to tell you that.. All I can say is that they say if you only have a half hr a day to learn Mussar.. You will see you have more then a half hr..

Beat you again, Elisheva.. Ha ha..
Just teasing..

Wed Nov 30, 11:52:00 PM  
Blogger Elisheva said...

No fair!!! And this time I was going to comment without reading it, just to get in! Oh well. I am honored to be even a second comment on your intelligent, warm, funny, and realistic posts, CJ.

Keep them coming. I will try to read it over and see if I have anything to add.


Thu Dec 01, 02:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I once saw the gun on a T73 turn in my direction, lower itself to my level and fire ... all the while trying to get my broken turent to turn in the enemy's direction. The next thing you know (twenty some odd hours later) I awoke on the battle field, sheltered by two great rocks with a concussion and a broken wrist. Nearby my tank (and crew) lay a burning hulk.

Since then I awake every morning to a brand new gift! Life! Each and every day is a gift! One I'm never too certain I know why I deserved but one I embrace with reverence and joy.

A Simple Jew

Thu Dec 01, 03:10:00 AM  
Blogger Mata Hari said...

come on CJ - that little dance they do is the only part i like :)

Thu Dec 01, 10:00:00 AM  
Blogger Elster said...

Hmmm - There might be some interesting mussar in here for all sports fans. Thinking of Hasham as some less gruff version of Bill Parcells, examining out every move and making mental notes of them.

Just the very thought of the Coach chewing us out for what we are doing wrong should inspire us.

Thu Dec 01, 10:54:00 AM  
Blogger Littleredridinghoodie said...

Our Town

Emily:"Oh world you are so wonderful. Do any human beings appreciate life while they live it? Every, every minute?"

Thu Dec 01, 01:02:00 PM  
Blogger FrumGirl said...

Cloo, you even have the cheerleaders on the sideline. Seriously, its comforting to read this. One thing... about the reward just for pointing... does that mean the opposite is true? Yikes!

Thu Dec 01, 05:11:00 PM  
Blogger Jack's Shack said...

Whenever I finish reading Torah I always take a moment to bump chests with the gabbai and give a little cheer. ;)

Fri Dec 02, 02:26:00 AM  
Blogger Lvnsm27 said...

Cloo, I agree, every effort counts.

Thanks for the inspiring message.

Fri Dec 02, 03:37:00 AM  
Blogger BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

Excellent post.

Although we are going through difficulties now with our daughter ill, I still am thankful for each and every good moment of our lives, take nothing for granted, and actually thank God for the daily blessings. These days it is a bit more difficult than usual, but I still do it.

Fri Dec 02, 10:18:00 AM  
Blogger ClooJew said...

I'm sorry to hear of your child's illness. May she have a refuah sheleimah.

Fri Dec 02, 12:39:00 PM  
Blogger Veev said...

Cloo, I'm back after a little hiatus. Glad to see you still pumping out these gloriously written blurbs.

One comment, though. These egomaniacs are doin' their little dance for regognition of "me" and how well "I did" in that play. No high fives or pats on the back to the guys who blocked for them.

There's the difference. That's what's missing.

We, as Jews, need to remember all the people to who helped us get to the point where we were able to accomplish the little things. The husband who "blocks" the little for his wife while she gets ready for Mikvah, the wife who pushes her husband out the door for night Seder, the boy who reminds his friend to make a Bracha...

Sun Dec 04, 04:12:00 PM  
Blogger Tanisha said...

You are so right you know. We should celebrate evry vicoty. I believe this will be our light when we are in our darkest hours. When no one is around to see our tears or hear us moan, we will have light of the times we succeeded and came out of the dark places. What a great post.. Thanks

Sun Dec 04, 09:38:00 PM  
Blogger Jeru Guru said...

Yet again a superb post.
Love your work.


Mon Dec 05, 06:20:00 AM  
Blogger callieischatty said...

I think its interesting to think about.
When I attend my daughters swim meets at her school I am struck not by the high fives they give each other for winning but by the emphasis that the coach places on them clapping and congratulating thier opponents.
When WE do something good like getting a touchdown its wonderful to be joyous.
But to really show what we are about its also important to show happiness for the achievements of others.
Something that often gets left to the wayside now, sportsmanship, even amoung college atheletes is not made important enough.

Wed Dec 07, 08:43:00 AM  
Blogger Josh said...

CJ, another well written post, but I'm with Veev. While we can learn the lesson of enjoying the small things, in Football the players are the celebrating themselves. While Veev calls on us to recognize those that helped us succeed, I think we have to go further. The goal of the celebration shouldn't be to show the world what we've accomplished, like the football player. There is nothing wrong in taking pride in our acheivements, but we have to be able to humble ourselves to recognize the rediculousness of an "end-zone dance."

Wed Dec 07, 10:21:00 PM  
Blogger Eshet Chayil said...

Will you cluck too?

Thu Dec 08, 02:48:00 AM  
Blogger the source of all knowledge said...

Re; your wah wah wah post, and the ssubsequent dialouge over the point of gedolim beinf "warm, ..w/ever" let's be frank here. Whereas: I have nothing less than awe for Gedolim (as opposed to Michael Aryeah) and have first hand experianced that we need not "artscroll thier biograpies" 'cause the reality is there, still let's be true. You say " anyone by DEFINITION not a gedol" well...ummm... how you than catogorize The Stiepler??...or for that matter stories in the Talmud of Amorim that KILLED people -PEERS!-W/ thier sharpness of tounge? lemme first say that I think that you mean well in your blogs, but you have to read more. That being said, let me say this: The key is NOT "ohhhhh g-d forbid anybody say anything sharp to might hurt a feeling" that's the P.C. attitude of our time. But you might wanna notice that G-D HIMSELF does not in the Torah talk soft or "warm" or any such nonsense. THE KEY TO BEING IN TRUE SUPPORT OF SOMEONE IS -NOT- IN BEING "NICE" TO THEM. IT'S IN BEING GOOD TO THEM, AND THE TWO ARE OFTEN NOT FRIENDS. Now granted "chanoach lenar..." and granted it's been said that old school mussar is no longer the way, none-the-less, if a gedol gives it to you between the eyes perhaps people should start focousing that uncomfortable feeling inwards rather than outwards.It's easy to blame. It's much harder to TAKE blame.

Wed Jan 18, 06:27:00 PM  
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