The NFL Football season is now well under way; 64% of Americans say they watch NFL football, and the revenue from Fantasy Football is more than $50 billion. I am certainly not impervious to all of this. As a freshman in high school and the quarterback for my team, I used to wrap my Tefillin one morning a week and pray on game day for some Divine intervention. And years in Yeshiva weren’t able to erase my football fervor.
Like everything else in life, Judaism teaches that we can learn from all that we see, including America’s most popular sport.
In “Sports Illustrated,” there was once an op-ed about quarterback Jake Plummer.
In 2007, at 32 years of age and perfectly healthy, the All-Pro Plummer was on track to make $5 million for the coming season. And then he retired. Just like that.
Why did he leave the average American male’s dream? Plummer said he wanted to spend more time with family and enjoy life.
That decision caught my attention, but what really inspired me was what Plummer had to say at the funeral of his good friend, Pat Tillman. A fascinating sports figure, Tillman also left football at the prime of his career, but for a different reason. Tillman left to serve his country, enlisting in a combat unit. Soon he was off to Afghanistan, and was tragically killed in 2004. At his funeral, Plummer had this to say:
“I was in the store the other day, and I saw “PEOPLE Magazine,” and it had the cover of the 50 most beautiful people in the world, or in America, and there was a picture of Pat. It was kind of ironic because I really looked and said, ‘What is beauty? Is beauty a pretty face, a nice smile, flowing hair, nice skin?’
“Not to me, it’s not. To me beauty is living life to higher standards, stronger morals and ethics and believing in them, whether people tell you you’re right or wrong.
Beauty is not wasting a day. Beauty is noticing life’s little intricacies and taking time out of your busy day to really enjoy those little intricacies.
“Beauty is being real, being genuine, being pure with no façade. What you see is what you get. Beauty is expanding your mind, always seeking knowledge, not being content, always going after something and challenging yourself.”
If these two sports stars, worshiped by millions of adoring fans, were able to realize what’s truly valuable in life, how much more so should we take to heart
what real beauty is; not a transient beauty that wrinkles and fades, but beauty that lasts forever. When one dies, his muscles and wealth do not accompany him, but the good deeds performed, Torah wisdom attained and character traits refined leave a mark on the world and stay with us.
“Beauty is living life to higher standards, not wasting a day, noticing life’s intricacies, expanding your mind, not being content.”
As Hillel the Elder said over 2,000 years ago: “If I am not for myself, who is for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”