Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Anger Management

I send out daily Omer emails, and the other day I received some constructive criticism for a segment in my email for the 23rd day of the Omer:

The combined Sephirah for Day 23 of the Omer is therefore Gevurah sheb'Netzach, "restrained triumph", suggesting a powerful persistence which is employed with judicious restraint.

The comic books of my youth featured a villain named "The Juggernaut", who was an unstoppable force once he launched himself in a given direction. When we are young and less mature, there is a certain appeal to this apparent strength; we like the idea that when we set our minds to something, nothing will sway or distract us. This is actually a weakness, though; being uncritically hard-driving is likely to lead to mistakes. Keeping our strength in reserve for when it is warranted is a more mature, and more successful, path.

My correspondent suggested that use of comic books degraded the value of my message.

I'm not so sure. I agree that we should be careful that our medium not cheapen Torah's message, but I do think that popular culture can provide instructive examples, as well as a way for people to relate to Torah.

Case in point: The NBA playoffs, just a couple of games old, have already provided two such examples, for anyone wanting to teach a teenager about anger management.

First, Celtics star Rajon Rondo bumps a referee while protesting a foul call, getting ejected from the game, killing his team's rally (they lost the game), and getting suspended from the next game.

As ESPN.com reported:
The Celtics were seconds away from possibly salvaging an atrocious Game 1 playoff performance against Atlanta that highlighted so many of their usual deficiencies -- rebounding, lack of depth, poor transition defense, stagnant offensive sets, reverting to "hero" ball to force points onto the board -- when Rajon Rondo decided to really ratchet up his team's degree of difficulty. Boston's Young Turk got himself ejected from the game with 41 seconds to go and -- as a result of the one-game suspension levied against him on Monday for bumping referee Marc Davis -- has left his team woefully shorthanded for Game 2 on Tuesday in Atlanta. I really can't decide which was more disappointing: Rondo becoming unglued over a questionable call on a messy scrum for a loose ball, or his insistence after the fact he didn't bump Davis on purpose. Right. And Metta World Peace didn't see James Harden standing there when he leveled him with his elbow. Look, maybe Davis should have whistled for a jump ball before he called Brandon Bass for a foul. And yes, maybe Davis was a tad quick in slapping a T on Rondo after he approached him with a few choice words. Too bad. Maintain your composure. That's what great players -- and great teams -- do.

Then, last night, one of the Knicks' stars, Amare Stoudemire, followed up the team's loss by punching a glass fire extinguisher case, tearing up his hand:

Amare Stoudemire reduced himself to another A.J. Burnett, another Kevin Brown, another raging, self-absorbed New Yorker who put his own frustrations over his team's pressing needs. He cut up his left hand punching a fire extinguisher case after Monday's Game 2 loss to the Miami Heat, by far his most aggressive move of the night. After scoring the softest, least impactful 18 points a man can score in a playoff game, Stoudemire left AmericanAirlines Arena in silence with his hand heavily taped and his arm in a sling, and with security guards shouting for everyone to get back.

What, were the Knicks looking for an excuse for losing the series? As 680's Peter Gross reported this morning, Stoudemire's status for the upcoming games is unknown, but the fire extinguisher is day to day.


  1. Personally, I don't see a problem with your comic book parallel, but there are a couple dangers I do see with this kind of thing.

    One is the phenomenon of what in Britain is termed the 'trendy vicar', the clergyman who attempts to appeal to the uninterested and especially the young through the use of popular culture. If carried to extremes (which I don't think your example was) this can degrade the message and also the messenger, especially if the use of popular culture is clumsy and ill-informed. It can just seem silly to force together concepts or people which really have nothing in common just to show that, yes, you can be frum and know something about popular culture.

    The other problem is if people in the audience do not know the popular culture involved. Your sport analogy is virtually meaningless to me, as I have no interest in sport and no knowledge of basketball, which is not very popular in the UK!

  2. Speaking of anger in athletes, let's consider Metta World Peace, the former Ron Artest:


  3. Daniel-
    All valid points, certainly; thanks.

    Ah, yes. He's an interesting guy.

  4. Sports do teach midot. They teach guys how to get along and work for a common goal. It teaches about competition that is retrained within limits.
    It is better than book learning about midot.
    I think if the teacher is even half way decent that sports teaches midot much better than any mashgiach. For this reason I have thought that sports should be part of a girls education also.

  5. During his long suspension as an Indianapolis Pacer, Artest trained at the local JCC!

  6. Isn't your use of the comic book example and the sports examples just a use of the classic: mashal l'ma hadavar domeh?

    If Chazal can talk about a child soiling the floor (in the worst sense of soiling) or of a son cavorting with women of ill repute in order to illustrate a point, why can't you use whatever you need to clarify your message to your intended audience?

    I think an audience appreciates being made to understand things with examples they can readily understand.

  7. Keep to comic book examples. Sports examples are lost on the geeks, like me. :)

  8. Bob-
    Maybe that's where he picked up the elbow move...

    Thank you.

    Just trying to broaden your horizons.