Some two weeks ago, deep, deep in the middle of the night, my nephew – a kollel
student in Jerusalem – and I leapt off the couch in complete unison, screaming
silently (so as not to wake those in my house sleeping at 3 a.m.) hugging and
jumping and chest-bumping in a wild, ecstatic dance.
Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow had just thrown an 80-yard touchdown pass on the
first play of overtime, leading the Broncos – in my mind the Israel of America’s
National Football League – to a stunning victory in the playoffs over the
Pittsburgh Steelers. (There is no real reason why I consider them the Israel of
the NFL, other than because I just really like them a lot).
unbridled joy which that pass stirred in our hearts – my nephew, who in his
daily routine pores over Talmud and devotes himself to the holy; and me, who on
a daily basis devours newspapers and deals with the mundane – was real and
We literally jumped for joy.
Jumping, it seems, is the
body’s way of reacting to a joy, a gladness, a delight, an elation so great and
so overpowering that the body simply cannot contain it. And then I ran to phone
my father, who was surely jumping as well in his living room near San
For with whom else could I share this magic moment? The Wife
was asleep, and anyhow she is sadly partial to the Chicago Bears. My daughter
was completely uninterested.
My sons were all away, and besides, this
Great Victory did not have the same meaning for them as it did for
Not born in Denver, but good lads still, they humored me over the
years by feigning an interest in the Broncos and their exploits. They didn’t
fool me. They have never been to a game, never sat in the freezing snow watching
the Broncos get thumped, never had beer spilled over their backs by an
overzealous fan sitting a row behind. They do not know the team’s history or
lore. Floyd Little means nothing to them.
To watch games with my sons –
just me and my boys doing what I once did with my dad – is often an unfulfilling
and disappointing experience, since much of the time I have to explain the
“What’s a facemask penalty?” my middle son asked a few weeks
“Oy,” I thought, trying to explain something that to me at his
age was as evident as the color of the sky. To paraphrase Yitzhak Shamir and his
words about the Poles and anti-Semitism, my boys did not imbibe the love of the
Broncos with their mother’s milk.
But my father, now there was a man who
“The Denveeeerrrrr Broncos,” he screamed into the phone,
mimicking a local radio announcer. “The Denveeeerrrrr Broncos!” I could picture
the scene. He, on his feet yelling, his mood transformed, his face joyous, his
dog hiding under a bed somewhere.
“Son,” he said, “I haven’t been this
excited since the day you were born.”
And he meant it. We talked about
the game, about its greatness, about how this would make our day, our night –
indeed, how it would make our week. And then, close to 4 a.m., I lay my head
down to sleep, but slumber didn’t come.
I was still too pumped up by
behemoths thousands of miles away, including the star quarterback who fervently
and publicly professes his Christian faith at every turn, something that bothers
me not at all, playing a game which – truth be told – is completely meaningless.
Not meaningless in terms of the NFL season and the overall playoff picture, but
meaningless in the greater, cosmic sense. Meaningless in the sense that in the
realm of what truly matters, this truly did not matter a whit.
troubled me. Why should something so unimportant, something that will certainly
be forgotten tomorrow and has no impact on my life, my family or my people,
arouse in me such unadulterated joy? By 4:10 a.m., still unable to sleep, I was
annoyed with myself for being immature.
Was I crazy for staying up so
late, skewing my body’s clock for the next day or two? For what? Was I still a
kid who really thought it important who won the Super Bowl? I used to think
that, until I reached the age of maturity, well past my bar mitzva, and realized
that sports seasons come and go, today’s winners are soon forgotten, and the
satisfaction you feel at your team’s success – which is not really yours anyhow
because you did nothing to earn it – is completely ephemeral.
this Broncos joy was real. And then it hit me.
Why not? What’s wrong with
it? Why feel guilty about feeling good, even if what makes you feel good is so
totally stupid? It’s a cold, cruel world out there, what with t h e Iranians
menacing, the Islamists marching, the Palestinians threatening, the government
fiddling and the prices rising.
Why not grasp at feeling happy, whatever
the source (within well-defined limits, of course). Sure, a better, more
complete man might feel this same elation at listening to a Beethoven symphony,
or deciphering a difficult Talmudic passage, or reading one of Shakespeare’s
sonnets. For me, at that moment, it was Mr. Tebow and the Denver
Unfortunately, that moment did not last long. The next week the
Broncos were beaten. No, the Broncos were clobbered.
there were no 3 a.m. jumps and hugs and chest bumps, only early morning groans
and moaning. I called my father and together we cursed the team. Yet I got over
the loss quickly, and that day’s low did not reach anywhere near the high of the
Heck, I consoled myself, it’s only a game.