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Summer Reading

During the summer months many people find some extra time to catch up on their reading. By reading, I mean books with paper, ink, covers and turning pages. I don’t mean on a backlit display plugged into an electrical outlet.

This summer, I have been too busy to do any real substantive offline reading. I have done a lot of online reading, but my book reading has fallen behind.

One exception has been DovBear on the Parsha, and you can read my review here.

Part of the reason for this is that in my “spare time” I usually end up reading up on Law School materials. I actually enjoy reading cases and Law Review articles, so my reading of other stuff has fallen a bit behind.

There is plenty of summer left and I thought it would be nice to provide some of my all time favorite reads and a quick note about why I like each book.

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Manny Being Manny | Some ‘Gladwellian’ Insight

This is Manny. Manny Ramirez.

Manny RamirezBelieve it or not, Manny is one of the greatest right handed hitters in Baseball history. He is also a 2 time World Series Champion and 1 time World Series MVP. Manny was also recently suspended from baseball for 50 games for violating the league’s Substance Abuse Policy when he tested positive for a substance used to hide performance enhancing drug use.

In other words, he cheated. And yet, he is adored and loved, cheered and ballyhooed. Why?

You don’t need to be a baseball fan to continue reading.

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Ron Artest Is Going To The Lakers | What Do I Think?

Yes, the red-headed step child of the NBA is going to the Lakers.

There are folks who will be up in arms over a known “thug” joining their beloved Lakers.

The same Ron Artest who was suspended for one full year from participating in NBA games for his egregious actions when he was a young up and coming star with the Pacers.

As a Parent and as Rabbi you may want to know: What do I think?

If you read my blog you should know what I think. Read the rest of this entry »

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Athletes as Role Models?

A few months back I hinted at a future post about athletes and their role in our society as role models.

This past weekend I was reminded about my feelings on the subject. What I feel is what I believe to be the Torah approach but is of consequence and significance to anyone and everyone.

Over the weekend the NBA Conference Finals were settled. Something that happened after one team was eliminated has caused a media frenzy. Read the rest of this entry »

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Another Gladwell Gem | How David Beats Goliath

I cannot get enough Malcolm Gladwell.

Every time I read his work I walk away impressed, enriched and thirsting for more.

Previously I blogged about his book Outliers, which was super. Today I am writing about a recent Gladwell column in the New Yorker. I don’t subscribe to the New Yorker but periodically I check it our online. This week I had the pleasure of enjoying yet another Gladwell gem.

This time Gladwell is talking about sports and for me it is a lesson about life. Read the rest of this entry »

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Youthfulness vs. Maturity

A few days ago I read a really great article on espn.com (- not kidding).

The article is about three of the biggest prima donnas in sports. Even if you don’t follow / like sports this article is a worthwhile read.

The social commentary in the article speaks volumes about American culture. We live in a world that values youth over all else. Everyone wants to look younger, act younger, date younger – be younger! Read the rest of this entry »

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Time Marches On

This article hit me in a very interesting way today.

I am not that old. I am 27 years young. I slowly began to notice becoming older when certain milestones occurred. First, I noticed athletes whom I can remember their debuts, retiring. I am not talking about those athletes who are only around for a year or two. I am talking about those guys who have loooooong careers and are part of the very fabric of the game for a generation. Read the rest of this entry »

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Clothes and the NBA

You thought I was done with clothes?

Not at all. The NBA had huge image issue a few years back. The image issue resulted from a few on the court incidents along with the perception that hip-hop culture was a) dangerous b) a major part of the NBA players lives’.

Commissioner David Stern sought to change the culture of the NBA as well as the public’s perception of the NBA. Stern enacted a dress code. Read the rest of this entry »

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You Have Got to See This! | It’s about Lego

I love Lego. My brother and I spent countless hours in our childhood building magnificent Lego creations. My son Rami has recently added Lego building to his skill set – he is quite good!

If I had to choose one toy to play with I would certainly choose Lego. It is the perfect toy.

Don’t believe me? You need to check this out… Read the rest of this entry »

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“Short”cuts

On the home page for espn.com I noticed a new article by Paul Lukas of Uni Watch fame. Lukas writes about the nuances and idiosyncrasies of sports uniforms.He notices everything from commemorative patches to new piping along the sides of a jersey. Nothing gets past the ever watchful eye of Uni Watch.

The article that caught my eye was about a religious Pentecostal high school basketball team. Turns out these guys don’t wear shorts. Ever. Including basketball games. Immediately I was reminded of my elementary school days.

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Ladies and Gentlemen, A Moment of Silence for… A Moment of Silence

Yes. It is true. The Moment of Silence in Public Schools in Illinois is unconstitutional. Let’s take a moment of silence to remember the moment of silence.

A total of 18 states have similar statutes in their legislation giving students a moment of silence or prayer during school time.

In 1969 the Illinois legislature passed the following act:

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We Don’t Get No R-E-S-P-E-C-T! How do you feel now?

Ravens use an old motivational ploy: lack of respect – Los Angeles Times.

I was in Yeshiva in Baltimore (I was still in High School actually) when the Ravens moved to Baltimore. They became a favorite team of mine right away and they still are today. They still play second fiddle to my favorite NFL team, the Buffalo Bills.

What strikes me about this article is the idea that multi-million dollar athletes need to use disrespect as motivation. Bill Belichik is famous for using this technique with the New England Patriots. There are 2 things that I notice with the whole “we don’t get no respect” routine.

First of all, is the reason these guys play football for respect? I thought they played for money or fame – I certainly did not think they played for r-e-s-p-e-c-t. Apparently they play for all three of these reasons. Interestingly enough the Rabbis teach us in Ethics of Our Fathers that desire for money, desire for honer (fame) and desire for respect are the 3 things which will take us out of this world. And by out of this world we mean one becomes obsessed with these things to the point that we neglect all other important parts of our lives – like spiritual growth. That’s fine for the Ravens, I guess – but we need to watch out for this in our lives.

The second thing that strikes me how much disrespect hurts. It is so painful that the Ravens as well as many other teams are able to feed off their disrespect and improve their physical and mental games! Pretty powerful how we crave respect and how much disrespect can motivate us. Disrespect always hurts but the pain only increases exponentially when we expect respect and we desire respect. I think this speaks volumes about the danger of craving respect – once we open that Pandora’s Box there’s no telling what we might do…

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Kobe and Zehirus

Kobe Bryant’s Work Ethic

It is undisputed that Kobe Bryant possesses superior basketball talent to every human being on the planet. That is not enough to be the best basketball player on the planet. There is a discipline aspect that Kobe excells in beyond his inborn talents. Kobe is the first in the gym and the last guy to leave. He puts in more hours in the weight room than anyone else. This article illustrates a third way Kobe excels off the court. Kobe studies film. Kobe studies more film than anyone. This reminds me of Ray Lewis as well. Ray Lewis has all the talent necessary to be the best middle linebacker in the world. Where he gains an even greater edge is film study. Kobe says he learns tendencies and habits of his opponents by studying every move of theirs.

What are these athletes doing studying so much film? They have the talent to succeed on their natural abilities, yet they put so much extra work into their game. Why?

The answer is what we just studied in Messilas Yesharim. In order to succeed in our moral challenges we need to prepare. We need to see our adversary’s (our animalistic urge) tendencies and get to know him. We need to plan ways to avoid challenges and strategize ways of defeating our adversary before the challenge comes to us. It is not enough to be skillful in our moral battles. We need to be prepared as well. This is the secret of the most successful athletes like Kobe and Ray Lewis and it is the secret the Ramchal teaches us in his chapters on Zehirus. The first step to winning the moral war within ourselves is to prepare. It sounds so simple but most of us don;t even think about how we can make those preparations. We continue the explanation of Zehirus this coming Sunday…

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Bob Costas and “Controlling your own destiny”

This is an interesting tidbit from Bob Costas.

“If it’s destiny or fate folks, you can’t control it! Control the outcome, control the result but you can’t control destiny or fate.” – Bob Costas

A great observation on his part and consistent with the prevalent perspective in America. If it is destiny you can’t control it. I guess one can question whether there is any destiny in “Sports”. Another thing that struck me is that our belief, as Jews, is that we actually do control fate and we can control our destiny. When we act we change destiny and fate. When we exercise our moral free will and make good choices we change to future of our world and the entire world.

Thinking that things are predetermined makes us powerless and can have a very negative affect on us. If I can’t help myself from acting then I am not blameworthy for my actions. We believe we are in complete control of our moral choices. Those moral choices determine our fate and nothing else.

This is incredibly empowering and gives us a tremendous responsibility to impact the destiny of the world in a positive way.

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