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God Squad: A dark horse emerges in the great sports-as-life debate

The three-legged race apparently draws many parallels to

The three-legged race apparently draws many parallels to life, but is it a sport? Credit: Dreamstime/Tribune

Many, many, readers weighed in on the metaphysical/theological/athletic question of the decade: "What sport is most like life?" Understanding our answers helps us understand life and why sports are such an important part of life for so many. I always thought that life was obviously more important than sports because you could decide not to participate in sports but you cannot decide not to participate in life. Now I no longer think that is true. The epidemic of suicides in our country reveals the tragic sadness of so many people who have decided not to participate in life as well. I still wonder why Moses, Jesus, Buddha and Muhammad combined said nothing about sports. When I was studying in a yeshiva, my rabbis simply told me that sports was a "bitul zman," a "waste of time." I sort of believe that, yet I remain open to the moral lessons we can learn from sports.

So in the face of my friend Tom Friedman's belief that golf is most like life, I put forward the obviously true counter belief that baseball is most like life. Here are some of your other choices, dear readers.

J, a reader in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, chose poker: "I think poker would be the sport most like life. We all are dealt different hands. It is how we play our hands given. Some of us cash out early, some come away a little bit of a winner or loser, and some win big."

Dear J: Good choice on the primacy of luck in poker and life, but I still remain convinced that luck is way more important in poker than life. Life rewards the prepared, and poker only sometimes does — but maybe it does. Perhaps I need to rethink the metaphysical importance of poker.

D from Islip chose surfing: "My brother lives in Capistrano, Calif., and for many years, he has been an avid surfer. Each morning, at 5:30 a.m., he heads to his favorite beach … time of the year doesn't matter; he dons his wet suit and joins his fellow surfers waiting for the 'perfect wave.' This could take a while, sitting patiently on your board. Sometimes the waves are pretty flat — you ride this wave but it's just another wave, no challenge. Other times, a wave could be 30-footer, and with your heart beating, scared and yet exhilarated, you go for the big one! Crazy, yes, but it was a great, safe ride. To me, isn't this a taste of life — facing each day with a different challenge? Some days often require patience in problem solving. We are faced with a heavy burden, being anxious, scared, not knowing the outcome, while other days are peaceful, carefree and calm. Somehow, we get through it, feeling good about ourselves, and we accomplish our fears. The sun shines, and it's been a great ride. God Bless!"

Dear D: Excuse me, but there are many reasons to fear life. We have no choice in facing its terrors (and joys). However, the only reason to face the terrors of surfing is because you freely chose to float on a small piece of fiberglass in the ocean where you look exactly like food to sharks swimming beneath you. I know life is tough, but I rarely have to spend my day spitting out sand in my mouth. When I surf, that happens to me all the time.

D from Long Island may have a winner that beats golf and baseball and is the funniest by far. D chose the "three-legged race" (you know, the race where you tie your right leg to the left leg of your partner and you sprint toward a finish line while trying not to fall on your faces).

Writes D: "I am making a case for 'the three-legged race.' You can't participate unless you are willing to work with another person. (Even people who consider themselves independent and live alone work with others to make their way through life.) You don't need expensive equipment, coaches or genetic predisposition to enjoy the game and be successful, although it is important to find a compatible partner. The better you can cooperate, respect and get along with your partner, the more enjoyable the journey and the fewer times you will stumble or fall. From the perspective of a child, getting to the finish line first is usually not the most important thing. The most important things are working together with your partner, laughing when you fall then getting back up as quickly as you can, and just enjoying yourself. No matter the weather or other external conditions, you can keep on going. When the race is over, if you have kept a good attitude, you have joyful memories."

Dear D: If the three-legged race is in fact a sport … you win!

SEND QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad at or Rabbi Marc Gellman, Temple Beth Torah, 35 Bagatelle Rd., Melville, NY 11747.

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