Good evening ladies and gentlemen, this is Lynn Braddock welcoming you to this season’s very last NFL Weekly Review on ESPN! Here with me today is Jerry Rice, 13 time pro-bowler, owner of three Super Bowl rings, and record holder for the highest number of receptions in the history of the NFL. He is joined today by Hall of Famer John Elway, also an owner of three Super Bowl rings, nine time pro-bowler, and the first sports figure to have his own line of motorcycles, something that gives him a unique ability to understand Ben Roethlisberger. Our last guest this evening is none other than Don Shula, the winningest coach in NFL history, the only man to ever coach a perfect season, a man who’s only fault might be that he has not yet koshered his excellent steakhouse in Miami Beach, capital of Jewish retirees.
Of course at the helm, you have yours truly, Lynn Braddock. Although I have no Super Bowl rings, I actually have lots of other rings from my wonderful husband who is one of the NFL’s most avid fans. From as early as our first date, back when we were sophomores at University of Texas, my husband never lost an opportunity to explain to me the most intricate details of anything relating to pro football. This of course makes me, like, uniquely qualified to host this show. We will be breaking down Super Bowl XLIII, in just a few minutes, after we return from a few short messages trying to convince you to buy things you don’t need with money you don’t have…..
This program is brought to you by Castrol Oil, the only motor oil that can get you in trouble with PETA for enslaving monkeys to work on your car. It is also brought to you by Pepsi, awarded with the advertisement most unrelated to the actual product ever seen on a Super Bowl. Our final sponsor today is Anheuser- Busch who we figure can definitely pay for this program if they spent three million dollars to show a thirty second segment of a Clydesdale horse competing with a Dalmatian to see who can fetch the bigger stick….
Welcome back, let’s dive right into the football part of this program. Super Bowl XLIII was the most popular Super Bowl ever, with an average of 98.7 Million people watching it throughout. People were glued to a game that had loads of surprises, upsets, amazing skill, and a bit too much chutzpah. Don Shula, you’ve coached six Super Bowls, tell us what you thought was the defining factor of this most memorable Super Bowl?
Don Shula: Well Lynn, unfortunately, I feel that the defining factor in this Super Bowl was the vast number of penalties. The Cardinals lost 106 yards on 11 penalties, and the Steelers put up another 7 penalties to make this the second most penaltied Super Bowl ever. Now each of those penalties individually may seem small, but they creep up on you and before you know it, you can lose a Super Bowl due to simply being sloppy, or not being focused every second you’re on the field.
This reminds me of something said by a great Jewish philosopher, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato who actually talks about this in his book Mesillat Yesharim. In chapter 6, he says that at times a person begins to lose focused on their life-goals, and then loses the alacrity and zeal with which they should be attacking life. The result, he says, can be like a snake’s poison, which spread throughout a person’s systems unnoticed, slowly shutting him down, sometimes without him even realizing what is happening. If you want to win football games, and even more, if you want to be a winner in life like me, you need to stay focused on every thing you do, and not let routine, laziness or distractions keep you away from your goals.
Lynn: Wow, Don that was pretty philosophical for a guy who now makes aged steaks! The truth is that I always wanted to be a winner like you, so from now on, I’m going to get my alacrity on.
Some of the biggest plays of the game were made by wide receivers, including the two touchdown catches by Larry Fritzgerald for the Cardinals. However the most important catch was made by Houston Holmes, oops er, sorry Santonio Holmes with thirty six seconds left in regulation, which gave the Steelers the game. That catch also gave the twenty four year old Santonio, the Most Valuable Player award for the game. Jerry Rice, as one of the greatest wide receivers ever, what was so special about that catch that it literally snatched the MVP title out of Ben Roethlisberger’s hands?
Jerry Rice: First of all, I would like to thank Barack Obama for moving our country in the direction it needs to go, giving the MVP to the black wide receiver instead of the white quarterback! I only won one MVP, while Joe Montana and Steve Young got all the credit for the other two super bowls I won. What makes that last reception so unique is the fact that it was just at the edge of the playing field and Santonio had to use incredible dexterity, judgment and foresight to make sure he caught the ball which was quite high, but also had both feet planted on the ground before being knocked out of bounds, or tackled. In football the most important thing is to make sure your feet are in the right place right before the end of the play.
I’m sure you noticed that was the cause for the referee challenge over James Harrison’s record making 100-yard interception return with zero seconds left in the second quarter. If he was across the end zone line before hitting the ground, it would be a touchdown, but if he would have been downed inches from the end zone, there would be no score, and the Cardinals probably would have won Super Bowl XLIII. One of the great Jerryisms I’ve lived my life by, is “It don’t matter where you are now, it matters where you are one moment before the play is dead.”
Lynn: Jerry, I certainly admire your astute summary of some of the greatest plays in the Super Bowl. However, I feel duty bound to tell you that your idea is actually not a Jerryism but an ancient Jewish idea. The Talmud tells a famous story about a man named Elazar Ben Dordaya who lived a very immoral life, but then at the very end changed his life, and earned a great place in heaven. Rebbi Yehuda the Prince used to say that this shows one can acquire their entire World to Come in one hour! The Talmud also tells of another great man who was the High Priest for eighty years, and then turned in the last year of his life, and lost everything. The Talmud seems to have known that “all that matters is where you are one moment before the play is dead.” This of course is a great inspiration to all of us, as it tells us that even if we’ve made some major errors in life, as long as we have the ball in our hands, and feet planted in the right place one moment before we’re knocked out of bounds, we can be the MVP of our lives! Of course not knowing when the play will die keeps you on your toes…
Now John Elway, I’ve been keeping you quiet for way too long, and for a guy who just recently owned five car dealerships that must be difficult. Ben Roethlisberger young and brash, your typical motorcycle riding, goatee sporting bad boy, and Kurt Warner, gracefully aging, and one of the nicest people in professional sports. So different, yet somewhat similar on the field. What did you think of the quarterbacks in this here Super Bowl XLIII?
John Elway: Thanks Lynn for including me, and thanks for mentioning the dealerships. I did sell the five John Elway’s Auto Shops for $82 million a few years ago, but I still own a Scion dealership in Ontario, California and a Nissan dealership in Riverside, California and I encourage all you viewers to check us out. Tell them John sent you!
Anyway, as far as the quaterbacks went, I have to say that both of them played extremely well, and what was really unique about both of them, and especially Kurt Warner and even more especially Ben Roethlisberger was their refusal to go down. Numerous times throughout the game and especially the fourth quarter, the defensive line had plowed holes right through the offensive line, and just as I found myself muttering under my breath, “throw the ball away” these guys wriggled, ran, twisted and slipped out of the reach of the linemen and managed to squeeze off passes that changed the game forever. These guys refused to go down even though it looked like they were surrounded and finished. It almost reminded me of my game back in 1986 against the Cleveland Brown in the fourth quarter where I also did the same. When things look difficult or near impossible, the people who push on, are the people who make it big.
Lynn: Good stuff John, now if you can just use my show to shamelessly tout your dealerships one more time…
John Elway: I’m glad you brought that up Lynn, you see my dealerships have the highest customer service ratings and…
Lynn: John, JOHN, I was kidding about that, sorry to intercept you in midsentence but talking about interceptions what do you guys think of James Harrison’s interception a play some people are calling the greatest super bowl play ever?
Don Shula: Yeah that was really cool! I was like go! Go! GO! GOOO!!!
Jerry: Well I think you need to look at two important ideas there. The first is the defensive screen he had. The entire time he ran those 100 yards, he had a shield of five of his teammates, closely surrounding him, picking off all the Cardinals who were certainly dying to take him down. It is very similar to the Jewish idea of Lo Ta’aseh (don’t do), the prohibitions of the Torah. God sees many actions that can tackle us, and bring us down, so He provides a protective screen for us by telling us to stay away from those actions. They are not meant to stifle, but to protect, to allow us to keep running that ball as far as possible without impediments.
The other thing that was unique is the fact that Harrison weighs 242 lbs. yet he was able to run 100 yards faster than wide receivers and tight ends who weigh fifty pounds less than him. How was he able to do that? Now I know that I’ve been quoting a lot of Jewish sources and my Southern Baptist minister is not going to be happy, but the only way I can describe that is “Ein davar omaid bifnei haratzon.” Nothing stands in the way of the will. God gives us mastery over our destinies and we can make wondrous things happen if we put our minds and hearts to it. So next time you think you’re not equipped to make the big play, think again.
Lynn: Wow, heavy stuff Jerry. Well that about wraps it up for this week. This has been the most spiritual weekend NFL review I’ve ever hosted. I kinda liked it but I think I need to drown myself in a double milkshake and process for a bit. This is Lynn Braddock of ESPN, and I will see you next season. Shalom!
Leiby Burnham, LMSW, is a rabbi, psychotherapist, and writer. He lives in Detroit with his wife, an ICU nurse, who is on strict orders to “leave her patients at work” and their two daughters, Orah and Shifra. Rabbi Burnham works for the Jean and Theodore Weiss Partners in Torah program of Yeshiva Beth Yehudah, where he does community outreach, and runs a Jewish educational programs at University of Michigan, Wayne State, and Oakland University. He taught learning-disabled high school students for eight years in NYC, while receiving Rabbinical training at Shor Yoshuv Institute, and obtaining his Masters in Social Work from Yeshiva University.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.