The Lockout Mussar Lesson: Greedy vs. Whiney


basketballBy Noam Amdurski

Sports is not a Torah topic, and professional sports is not something we frum Yidden should really care much about. Certainly, a sports lockout is something that should not take up our time or attention. But sometimes we can look at what goes on in the world around us and learn a few things. With that said, I hope you’ll permit me to share my feelings on the current NBA lockout, which went into effect yesterday.

What the NBA lockout’s affect on the long-term viability of the basketball league will be remains to be seen – and I, as a Torah Jew, truly don’t care. I couldn’t care less if professional players and owners lost all their money. Their financial situation doesn’t help me pay my sechar limud, doesn’t help me become a better Jew, and doesn’t affect my life in any way. But from their standpoint, in the short run, it’s likely to give them a shortened season, and it will make it incredibly difficult to develop the younger players they want to develop. And it could have been avoided – and here is the mussar lesson I wish to highlight – if people with way too much money were willing to settle for a little bit less. Of course, that’s not going to happen easily, but that’s what it is all about.

This lockout really is the greedy owners versus the whiney players. How truly pathetic. The owners want to reduce player salaries, because expenses are high and ticket sales are lower. This means that these multi-millionaires who had enough money to purchase a sports team are not making as obscenely large amounts of money as they were wanting to. Ironically, a lockout means they make no money on a team at all, and will hurt the basketball league’s image, probably lowering the ticket sales in the long run anyway. But they’re not smart enough to figure that out, apparently.

The players are the whiney ones. They (most of them) make millions of dollars each year. The owners want to make reductions of 30% overall on players’ salaries. Even though the cuts wouldn’t be even across the board (superstars will probably make the same amount, only smaller money players would take cuts), it’s not like basketball players would stop living large. Instead, they’re whining about not making as many millions as before. (I realize that there are other issues that are going into the CBA, such as a hard salary cap, rules about sign and trades, etc.  However, these aren’t nearly as important in the negotiations as the money.)

There are two groups that mainly suffer from this: the developing players and the fans. The developing players don’t get to work with their coaches and get valuable playing experience during the years in which they can improve the most. The fans obviously lose on this, too. The Average Joe doesn’t get to come home from work and watch a basketball game for fun, because the players and the owners wanted more money.

Pathetic, isn’t it?

We can show our own children what happens when one lives a life of hedonism, with little to no spiritual value. No direction. One becomes a selfish, money-hungry person, blinded by one’s own success based on dollars.

Fortunate are we whose lives are guided by the Torah, with values and ideals based on true substance.

{Noam Newscenter}


  1. This whole, “I am such a good Jew and I dont pay attention to those non-Jewish things” opens up a whole can of worms as to hypocrisy. So none of us should follow sports or we are not as good. None of us buy scratch off tickets? None of us listen to Limbaugh or other non Jewish people on the radio? I get the point, but setting oneself up as overly pious is just a set up for making people do something we should never do; and that is take someone elses cheszbin.

    I assume the writer would not buy designer, name brand suits? Especially from toeva designers? Should I think greater of myself for not doing so and less of those who do that one thing??

  2. To the writer of this article:
    I beseech that you change your perspective.
    You are correct that the Jewish life is really not lived at the arena of course. But that said, you should be a citizen of our Great Nation and acnowledge the important and crucial role that sports do play in our national life. That said, this is a trying issue as the players do indeed make up the bulk of the show, but that said I do agree that there must be a limit to the needs that any one man has in his day. But that said, given their emotional and physical commitment, these people do indeed deserve to be compensated in a good fashion. But that does not mean that the owners and others who put on this production should be short changed either.
    But to claim hedonism here, let it be what it is. Each person lives his or her life differently. I do not know that I would go so far as to describe a professional athlete as hedonistic, though I could indeed use the term “prima-donna” to its capacity in their cases some of the time.
    So if you want to call them “whiney”, thats all good and fine. I would assert that they are prima donnas of the ballclubs and that they really do have their role in all of our lives as Citizens of America, though if I am not thinking of them on a daily basis, I will not be placating their need to be superstars in our culture.
    So be sure that we as American Jews have a special interest in sports. True we dont watch many of the games when we are involved in study and other higher activities, but once in a while its a nice feature that rest assured, your Creator provides for our society. I will be watching some football this year and I will of course watch the crucial game 6 of the NBA championships. Maybe a few innings of baseball too, but that said, I am grateful that our Creator has provided for sports fun for all of our people.

  3. I’m sorry but it seems that the author of this article does not have much knowledge about the NBA or any business for that matter.
    Any business owner – no matter how successful – always wants to make more money. 80 year old business men who have enough money to live 5 full lifetimes don’t slow down.
    Why? Because in order to be successful, you have to always strive to grow bigger and better. In business -or any aspect in life- there is no such concept of staying on the same level. If one doesn’t grow, he is only going down. This is not about greed, this is about proper business. The lesson we should learn from this is a very important one. A person should never be satisfied where he is holding in life, he should always strive to grow and improve. In life, status queue is not good enough. From a Torah perspective, we know that we always have to grow. We should look at theses owners and say, if a 80 year old multi-millionaire, cares so much to make a few more dollars -money that probably won’t make a dent in his net worth- shouldn’t I always look to make more “money” (torah & mitzvos) no matter how “wealthy” we are in yiddishkeit.
    It’s funny the author used the NBA to make his point, because the NBA is a different story. The NBA owners are not greedy; they are investing in a team. This is an investment that doesn’t always guarantee positive returns. They are making proper business decision, by trying to keep their costs low and trying to get the most returns on their investment.

  4. Superstar is making a valid point. The NBA owners are businessmen just like any other businessman. Would this author be writing an article if a wealthy orthodox jewish businessman who had more money than he needed tried to increase the profit of his business? Another thing to consider is that the living standards of the wealthy are not that of the average person. While millions of dollars may be alot to us, many NBA players go into debt because of the lifestyle that comes with being wealthy.

  5. Beethoven’s Friend (commenter #2) wrote:

    “you should be a citizen of OUR Great Nation and acknowledge the important and crucial role that sports do play in OUR national life…I am grateful that our Creator has provided for sports fun for all of OUR people.”

    And therein lies the entire problem of this generation, oh Jews of the American diaspora. Hello! The U.S. is not YOUR nation…it’s national life is not YOUR national life…its people are not YOUR people! Have you so utterly forgotten that you are but strangers in a strange land…temporary sojourners in exile from your homeland…commanded by the Torah NOT to become too comfortable and NOT to identify with the foreign culture of the host nation?

    It is tragic to credit the “Creator” for providing “sports fun” to the AMERICAN people, yet ignore the single most important gift that He has provided to the JEWISH people: Eretz Yisrael. By the tens of thousands American Jews embrace professional sports… and by the tens of thousands they spurn Eretz Yisrael and refuse to make aliyah. The Torah goes forth from Tzion…not from Madison Square Garden.

    When diaspora Jews demonstrate such a deeply felt American identity they are portraying their innermost feeling, which is their love of America and the desire to stay there. I believe that the Shechinah cries bitter tears over this.

  6. Why is it wrong for one to try to make a profit, even if he is wealthy?? Try to going into any successful heimishe business and saying to them, “You are wealthy and successful. You live nicely. Therefore, even though I am not in need of tzedakah, if you don’t give me this item at cost or at least a sizable discount, you are greedy and are not living like a ben torah.”

    I think the foolishness of this argument is self evident.

  7. reply to number 6-
    And there in lies the foolishness.
    Did you not realize that our people are safer and more prosperous with the United States of America which is a great nation of all peoples of all faiths and all continents of this globe?
    Did you not realize that our Creator played a major role in establishing a nation where you can pursue prosperity and property and all that we hold dear?
    There in lies the problem. You associate this great nation as nothing other than one of the 70 nations that is not our People. You do not give thanks where thanks is due and realize that there would be no State of Israel without a United States of America.
    You do not acnowledge that our people who up until 1948 had not immediate home of our own owe our very existence to the acheivements of the men and women who call themselves Americans.
    So thus my dear friend, I must tell you that the true orthodox minded Jew is very mindful of this Great nation. You may not need to go to the ball park every year and you may not need to watch sports on television each week, month or whatsoever soforth it may be for you. But you better realize that there may not even be a Jewish Nation in this world had there been no United States of America. Where would we be if the NAZIS had won the 2nd World War. Did you not realize the amazing acheivement of the allies including most significantly the USA in the 1940s? Do you not ascribe your very existence to the works of our Creator that has brought forth a great nation. Do you not realize that the United States of America does indeed also belong to the Nation of Israel (not State). Did you not realize that this is the way that our Creator has designed the world?
    Or maybe you should just poo poo all that our Creator has to offer that does not have the Jewish Seal of the State of the Future Jewish People living in Galus and without the peace of mind that you seem to think that our people really needed. I assure you that this Great Nation exists simply because the Jewish People have a mission. And we are all intertwined.
    Thanks for your petty comment. I hope I can share some of my own enthusiasm about being an American Citizen as a Jew yearning for a time of true redemption for All of Israel.

  8. reply to number 6.
    While Aliyah is certainly a great accomplishment, you should realize that for the entire duration of the diaspora, many of our people DO NOT have the assets to make such a long and expensive journey. I personally would love to go sometime, but until its a possiblity, I can not say its my number one job as a Jew. You may disagree, but I will tell you that there have been many Gadols who never made it to the land of Eretz Yisrael.
    So while your concerns have a certain fashion about them, that is not the number one priority of our children and if you can make it, go for sure. If you are unable, you are not a man or woman who “spurns” the Land of Our Forefathers. Just a thought for you.

  9. “What the NBA lockout’s affect on the long-term viability of the basketball league will be remains to be seen – and I, as a Torah Jew, truly don’t care. I couldn’t care less if professional players and owners lost all their money.”

    In the strictest sense, neither do I.

    BUT …

    Rav Henach Leibowitz once remarked that in America (and elsewhere), the goyim are a little bit less likely to start up with pogroms and Krystalnachts and Hep riots and the like as long as they are preoccupied with simonizing their cars, tending to their lawns and gardens, and watching the baseball games.

    I daresay that the same goes with football games and basketball games and hockey games and, in many nations, soccer games.

    So, even if you say that you don’t care whether or not the NBA folds, you’ve got to be at least a little bit concerned about what the goyim will do in their spare time if they are not watching the basketball games.

  10. Reply to #10

    You bring up a great point by R’ Henach zt”l and I couldn’t agree more.

    On top of that, for anyone who happens to be following the NFL Lockout situation, Lehavdil Eleph Alfei Havdalos, Baltimore Ravens LB Ray Lewis said a similar statement. His argument was that the owners and players must let go of their egos to reach an agreement, not for his sake, not for the sake of the owners, players, or the league, but for the sake of the general public, because history has shown that during lockouts and off season periods, violent crime rates has spiked noticeably.

    Good Shabbos

  11. Reply to everyone I am disgusted by this whole thing sports brings to isurai dioriesah like lo sichunaim lo sitein lahem chein with by giving a chear you are oiver

  12. To Beethoven’s Friend @ comments 8 & 9:

    Thanks for proving my point! You will utilize any and every rationalization that you can conjure up to justify your overwhelming “enthusiasm” for the American-golus and refusal to come home to Eretz Yisrael. But hey…your position is typical of the golus mentality of tens of thousands of American Jews, so you are not alone. Your pejorative portrayal of my plea for aliyah as a “petty comment” (Rachmana Litzlan) is not surprising, though incredibly sad.

    Chazal teach that three things are so valuable that they can be acquired only through struggle: Torah, the World to Come and ERETZ YISRAEL (Brachos 8b). Your response is: “why struggle to acquire Eretz Yisrael when I can live the good life in the ‘safer and more prosperous United States of America'(your words).” Well, that says it all! So, good luck to you in your beloved American Diaspora. I fear that you’ll be spending a long time there after the true Ba’alei Emunah have come home.

  13. B F: How do you know that there would be no Israel, or lets say a viable yishuv of Jews in EY, without the US? It is an untested hypothesis only, do not take it for bedrock. If it was the divine will that this yishuv come about, it would have come in some form. And if living here is a mitzva, as there are poskim like that, and the big stumbling block is gashmiyus and security, an honest chesbon nefesh often will come down on the side of EY. Of course there are many factors to consider, yet starting from negativity is wrong. ( as in chet hameraglim). Here we are happy waiting for out yishuv to reach rov yisrael, when there will be some new nafka minas in mitzvos ha’aretz.

  14. reply to number 15:

    You are a rasha to accuse me of denigrating my own life by refusing to “acquite Eretz Yisrael”. I acquire Eretz Yisrael EVERY DAY when I read Jewish words, when I provide discussion online, when I daven, when I shine my light for the nations to learn. I am ashamed that a fellow yid would use an internet forum to advance his own merciless assault on another fellow Jew who is striving for a life of excellence and in my case, I simply do not have the opportunity or whereabouts today or anytime soon to visit the holy land. This is a frank assault on my neshama. Do I need to donate to a charity such as a holocaust fund today because I feel you are engaging in a holocaust against my own soul? I personally think that you are better off if that is not the outcome of this debate.

  15. It is not a matter of safety that i am speaking about above (commenter 17). I am here because this is where Hashem has put me in life. I have the means to survive here today and to be perfectly foward with you, I hope that is the case tomorrow as well. That said, Israel is a great inheritance of our people. We are all blessed to have a homeland even if sadly we may never set foot on its shores.
    To commenter number 16- I know world history. I know that our Creator has a plan. I know that the American Providence is essential to the future of all of our societies. I know that G-d is in the front seat and driving this planet foward by leaps and bounds.

  16. To Beethoven’s Friend:

    With the following words of accusation against me–“You are a rasha”–(for passionately promoting the mitzvah of “yishuv ha’Aretz”?) you have undermined your entire credibility.

    Rabbi Sholom Gold (formerly Mara D’Asra of the Young Israel of West Hempstead, Long Island, NY) made aliyah in 1982. Last fall he wrote a compelling article for Viewpoint Magazine (Vol.52/No.3) entitled “Eretz Yisrael: The Passion of Our Time.” In the preface he asks, “Why are serious Jews [still] living in America?” Rabbi Gold recounts that before making aliyah he consulted with HaGaon Rav Yaakov Kaminestsky zt”l. Reb Yaakov told him: “Reb Shalom, I hold that it is a mitzvah today, as it always was, to live in Eretz Yisrael.”

    Rabbi Gold then quotes HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l along similar lines: “Just open up a Chumash and read and you will see that Ratzon HaShem (G-d’s Will) is that Jews should live in Eretz Yisrael.”

    You ought to read the entire article, but I will leave you with one last quote from its conclusion: “Eretz Yisrael and aliyah MUST become a serious item on the agenda of the ENTIRE spectrum of the American Torah-observant community. Jewish history is being written right here. Eretz Yisrael should be the Passion of Our Time!”

    B.H. Sorry to break it to you, but Jewish history is NO longer being written in America. In America it’s all over…finished…kaput. As Rabbi Gold’s article demonstrates, your have no legs to stand on. Stop making desperate excuses and come home.

  17. if you really didnt care you wouldnt have written the article !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!????????????????????????

  18. beethovens friend – it is possible that i am mistaken but you seem to have backtracked here….above, you did mention that you feel that you are safer in america. if you do feel that way, i would really like to know why.
    furthermore, i find your most recent post to be unsettling because it completely disregards the fundamental idea of hishtadlus.
    how would you react to finding a Jew on a mixed beach or looking at dirty things on the web and when you spoke to him about it he just responded “well, i’m here because this is where Hashem has placed me”

  19. My dear buddy “aliyah now”. If it is Hashems will I will clearly be living in Israel in the future. I have actually considered that though for me right now, I have my family and my parents in America where I have lived my entire life. May it be that we all follow Hashems Will. Remember, God always wins. Jonah tried to disobey Hashem and ultimately Hashem had him complete his mission. So therefore you really need not worry about how many of our yidden are interested in living in the Holy Land. If God wills it, the Jew who is not there will make aliyah and will live there too. To worry that Jewish children of today dont ascribe any faith in making aliyah etc is to show that Hashem really does not get what he wants. Its a lack of Jewish faith in G-d. So be at peace with yourself and realize that Hashem is in charge of this universe. Jonah is always ultimately sent to Ninevah in the long run.

  20. is your sefer yona analogy here implying that you truly believe that Hashem doesnt want you living in israel? Gd has rolled out the red carpet for us in the land, its up to us to get there. you know what though…im really tired…if Hashem wills it i will wake up for shachris tomorrow morning. no need to set an alarm…only if Hashem wills it the sun shall wake me up…cmon beethoven, cut the tipshis.

  21. To 5-Towns. I am on a medical disability. I have the most limited income that one might have in a college and professional graduate with my level of aptitude. I do not think that if God wanted me to work I would be in this situation. That said I am certain that if it is meant to be (and oh yes, I really do hope it may be meant to be) I will indeed visit the holy land. I even toy with the idea that I might in fact even move and live there permanently some day. Truly our Creator only knows what my future is today. In your case about shacharis, if you think you want to tempt fate, dont set your alarm clock. God may not really care if you make shacharis or not to be perfectly honest with you. And in that regard, he probably does not care if every jew has made aliyah in his or her lifetime and he surely does not seem to be making sure that rudeness and arrogance does not see the light of day on these internet chat forums. Appearantly huh?

  22. beethoven – i took issue with your ideology, the bigger picture. not the actual metzias of your individual situation. i do not know you and am not judging you personally. furthermore i actually agree with you that its not practical for each and every jew to get up and move to israel…it’s about how to approach the situation though. that is where you and i disagree.

    regarding rudeness and arrogance, you’re absolutely right. the last thing this chat would need is for one jew to call another jew who he does not even know a rasha.

  23. HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l … “Just open up a Chumash and read and you will see that Ratzon HaShem (G-d’s Will) is that Jews should live in Eretz Yisrael.”

    How sad it is that such an obvious truth isn’t taken seriously until it comes out of the mouth of the giant of giants, Reb Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. And even sadder that in America it still doesn’t sink in.