Religion & Beliefs

Religion is My Basketball

Almost all of my friends are glued to their television sets during March because of the NCAA tournament, and I always feel like a freak because I just can’t make myself care about who’s going to be this year’s Cinderella. … Read More

By / March 23, 2007

Almost all of my friends are glued to their television sets during March because of the NCAA tournament, and I always feel like a freak because I just can’t make myself care about who’s going to be this year’s Cinderella. Also, the alliteration irritates me. Sweet sixteen, elite eight, final four… amazingly annoying. I like sports and competition (I adore the Olympics), but I don’t follow any one team with the devotion and fervor of most of my friends. I also find it somewhat creepy how intense some people can get about their fandom. I know a number of families who are shomer Shabbat except when they have tickets to the game. Or, they’re shomer Shabbat, but when the game is going to be on they put the TV on a timer. I mean, I’m all about loyalty, but do you really put the Cubs and God on an even keel? Once a friend of mine explained his devotion to a baseball team to me by equating watching a game with praying. He said when he watches the field, and is holding out for a run and then it happens, it feels like his prayers have been answered in a way that never happens when he’s at shul. Now, I can see how it might be more fulfilling in that way because you can see immediate results, but of course it wasn’t his little, “Oh please God let there be a hit!” that made the bat make contact with the ball. It was years of batting practice and good coaching. I bring all this up because a number of my English friends are up in arms about the England versus Israel soccer game tomorrow afternoon. The winner advances towards qualifying for the European Cup. A reform rabbi named Jonathan Romain is on the record saying that British Jews should feel fine supporting England. But in the standard Jewish newspaper in the UK, the Jewish Chronicle, Conservative Rabbi Jeremy Gordon of St. Albans, debates the merits of the various options and declares for Israel. For a lot of people this is a real conflict of sports and religion in a way that they haven’t ever felt before. It’s kind of amusing, since the outcome rests on a 26-year-old from Dimona named Yossi Benayoun. Luckily, the game isn’t on Shabbat. That would be too much for anyone to take.