The Long Game|
By Rabbi Berel Wein
A number of my grandchildren petitioned me to take them to a baseball
game while I was in the New York area. The game was played at the new
Yankee Stadium, a large and imposing structure if there ever was one.
Since I am an incurable doting grandfather and baseball expert, I
readily agreed to their request and we all went to the stadium to watch
I have often felt that baseball has many life-like metaphoric qualities
to it. It is a game of great skill and enormous frustration. An athlete
that is successful only thirty percent of the time is considered to be
a star in this game. It is a game of nuances and subtleties, of inches
either way and of unexpected and unpredictable events that form no
pattern. It is also a game that has no time limitation to it.
The actual game usually takes close to three hours to finish though it
can be shorter and many times is considerably longer. Unlike other
sports, this one does not operate under the tyranny of the clock. It
has its own constantly changing rhythm and pace. It is a slow game with
intermittent eruptions of excitement.
The baseball season is a long one - at least twice as long as any of
the other major professional sports. It is a sport that rewards
individual excellence but demands team play. In all of these qualities
it certainly mimics life itself and, perhaps, that is its greatest
appeal as a spectator sport.
The game I attended was not a particularly exciting or well-played one.
But my grandchildren thoroughly enjoyed themselves so I was more than
satisfied. A grandparent must always be able to show a lighter side of
one's self to one's future generations. In our current world this is
Though I was watching the game, my mind was wandering off to more
weighty matters. The ability to sit through a long game in order to
arrive at a final result is what lies at the heart of many issues in
our personal and national lives. We crave instant decisions and
immediate clarity. "Now" is the imperative word in many segments of our
My grandchildren have taught me never to leave the game until it is
officially ended no matter how lopsided the score may appear at earlier
on. The famous fable regarding the hare and the tortoise applies not
only to baseball games but to all of life itself. King Solomon phrased
it correctly when he wrote that the race is not always to the swift.
The current issues that plague the Jewish world could stand a longer
view. The role of the Israeli Supreme Court in religious matters, if it
should have any role at all, needs long term perspective and not case
by case provocations. So does a deeper understanding of the place of
religion in a secular "Jewish democratic state." The
spinning-its-wheels peace process, with the numerous two state
solutions advocated but never capable of being implemented over the
past ninety years, bears a longer perspective as to its current
practicality or viability.
Life generally and Jewish life particularly is a very long game. Until
the game is truly over, so to speak, we really cannot accurately assess
winners and losers, wise policies and foolish decisions, hasty actions
and truly measured responses. And since, like baseball, these issues
have no known time constraints, it is obvious that we are in for a very
Since our life span is certainly limited and finite there is a natural
tendency for humans to be in a hurry. We make all sorts of grandiose
plans and predictions - Five Year Plans and the like - about a future
of which we are completely ignorant. We forget that the law of
unintended consequences is omnipresent in our lives, both personally
and nationally. We are impatient for the game to end; having lost the
childhood wonder at simply observing what is taking place before our
eyes, no matter what the apparent score may be at the given moment.
Jewish life with all of its thrills and excitement, boredom and
tiredness, improbabilities and constants, is a very long game. Viewing
it from this perspective can help one achieve a more sanguine view in
our lives. As the great baseball sage, Yogi Berra, once commented: "It
ain't over until it's over!"
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