Using sports as a springboard
By Laura Seymour

The Super Bowl is over, as are the typical overhype of the event and the predictions leading up to it. Next stop is “March Madness” of college basketball, baseball spring training and beyond that, the NHL and NBA playoffs and championship games. And I’m just talking about professional sports here; if we add the sports in which your children and family might be involved to this list, it’s easy to see we’re in a sports-saturated culture.
I have never been very good at sports, but I do watch various sporting events. I also am interested in sportsmanship — both observing it and trying to teach it. There are questions that do come up as it pertains to Judaism and some aspects of sports: For example, where does a foul fit into Jewish teachings? Would it be OK to sack a quarterback? Is it OK to be competitive?
As can be imagined, the sages have come up with philosophies that can fit well with the sports world. For example, the Talmud mandates that a father teach his son to swim!
Here are a few words of wisdom from the sages; words that are applicable to sports and general everyday living:
“One who embarrasses his friend in public is considered as though he has murdered him.”
— Talmud
“When judging your friend, always give him the benefit of the doubt.”
— Talmud
“On the day of your friend’s success, participate in his joy.”
— Midrash
“Your reward is commensurate to your effort.”
 — Pirke Avot
“Exercise removes the harm caused by most bad habits and nothing is as beneficial as body movements and exercise.”
— Maimonides
Another important conversation to have with your children concerns today’s sports heroes. Some of the professional players these days make questionable decisions, so it’s in your best interest to talk to your kids about what makes a good role model in sports. Here are some things to look for in a role model.

  • Someone with qualities you would like to have.
  • Someone who works hard and accomplishes his or her goals.
  • Someone who has a special skill or talent and uses it effectively.
  • Someone who is nice, caring and loving.
  • Someone who gives to the community.

You can think of your own qualities to add to this list — the key here is to keep the conversation going so your children understand that there is a right way to behave and a wrong way — whether you’re a famous sports figure or not.
Laura Seymour is director of Jewish Life and Learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.

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