Psalm 70

Let those who say, “Aha! Aha!” turn back because of their frustration. (70:4)

There was a time when it was proper to be gracious both in losing and in winning. Little League baseball players line up after the game to walk past the other team and shake hands. Chess opponents congratulate each other with ‘good game’ after completing a game. I hope this is still the case in youth athletics, but is it the exception rather than the rule in professional sports.

Jim Bouton, former major league pitcher and author of the baseball memoir “Ball Four,” said the following during an appearance on NPR’s “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me:”

I don’t like guys hitting home runs and then raising their arms up like they just discovered a cure for cancer. Hey, look at me. I just hit a home run. In our day, you hit a home run, you put your head down, you ran around the bases, you went into the dugout and you shut up. You know why? Because it’s just a home run. It’s not a religious experience.

‘Aha!’ is a taunt. Taunts are obnoxious, excessive celebrations after scoring are obnoxious. The NFL used to give unsportsmanlike conduct penalties for spiking the ball after a touchdown. Such penalties are still given out for especially egregious conduct, but are increasingly rare. The “touchdown dance” is virtually an expected part of the NFL entertainment experience.

Cultivating the quality of humility does not mean that one may not take credit for one’s professional or personal achievements. Whatever we have achieved, it is likely that we had help. We relied on previous generation’s scientific research. We relied on the support staff. We were helped by our family members.

Humility is a matter of balance and compassion – remembering that we didn’t do it on our own, and having compassion for those who also put in a great effort but fell short.

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2 thoughts on “Psalm 70

  1. I would love to buy billboards all over the U.S. with the essence of this commentary in large print plastered on it. I always said to my boys, “it’s not a matter of who wins or loses, it’s how you play the game that matters”. I detest all that ego maniacal behaviour when a goal is scored, or a home run hit. Their behaviour is an appalling example to little leaguers, and makes me cringe. Thank you for your words Rabbi.

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