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What Do I Know From Sports?

Monday, 13 February 2006

Nothing, actually. I can think of fewer rabbis less qualified to deliver an invocation than I. And yet, radio personality Vic “The Brick” Jacobs called me up to the dais to deliver the opening remarks at the Inagural Orange County Jewish Sports Hall of Fame Dinner of Champions just a few hours ago.

I’d never actually heard of Vic the Brick. When our Board of Directors asked me if I’d ever heard him, I responded “he’s not on NPR is he?” I know…and I don’t mean to sound like a radio snob. It’s just that the only stations I listen to with any regularity are KPCC (89.3) and KCRW (89.9) — our local NPR affiliates. Neil Conan, Terry Gross, Lakshmi Singh, Robert Siegel — these names I know. Vic the Brick? Never heard of him. Until tonight.

The Merage Jewish Community Center honoured the following individuals this evening:
Shawn Green, Leigh Steinberg, Jason Lezak, Rami Zur, Steve Bisheff and Merton Isaacman.

Out of this list, I’d only heard of two of these guys. [Can you guess which two?] And honestly, I couldn’t have picked any of them out of a line-up if my very life depended on it.

So how, you might ask, of all the rabbis in the world did they pick me to deliver the invocation?

The guy they wanted was unavailable. Yep — I was the pinch hitter. [See…I might not be athletic but reading the sports pages at least gives me the right vocabulary!]

I figured that at the very least I would have the opportunity to remind a bunch of Jews that a very important Jewish holiday began tonight — Jewish Arbor Day 😉

There once was a man named Honi. He was walking along one day and saw a man planting a carob tree. Honi asked the man, “How long will it take for that tree to grow?”
The man replied, “Seventy years.”
Honi looked shocked as he asked, “How do you know that you will live another seventy years?”
“I don’t, but just as my grandparents and parents planted for me, I am planting this tree for the generations to come,” replied the man.

Tonight, on this eve of Tu B’shvat, our celebration of trees, we celebrate these outstanding individuals whose accomplishments are known throughout the world. Providing inspiration to young athletes across the globe, we will dedicate this wall tonight and for years to come will honour those who are planting the seeds for the next generation of athletes.

The poet Zelda wrote, “each of us have a name given by God, given by our parents, and given by our stature.”

The world knows these athletes by their physical strength and glorious achievements. This is reason enough for these gentlemen to be recognized. But for our community, they are known to us for yet another reason. In addition to their athletic triumphs, they have continued to remain true to our faith, to our people, and to our God. For our children who will pass by this wall each and every day, these amazing individuals will be a constant reminder that one can climb to great heights while still embracing Judaism. And for that, we are thankful.

Baruch Atah Adonai ozeir Yisrael beeg’vurah.
Blessed are You who girds this people Israel with strength.

May you go from strength to strength and may this be God’s Will! Amen.

A pretty solid invocation, I thought.

Not one of these guys said a thing to me afterwards. Harumph! Like they meet a female rabbi every day.

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