Those of you who regularly read my writings, beloved as you are and may be, know that I like to look at the sport of baseball as a metaphor for life. The simplicity, beauty and quirky unexpectedness and uncertainties of the game accurately mirror the events in one’s personal and national life. Therefore, when I recently read an article about a revered baseball broadcaster, Vin Scully, I felt impelled to share some of my thoughts regarding him with you.
Vin Scully is a broadcaster for the games of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He is currently eighty-eight years old and began his career with the Dodgers in 1950 when the team was still located in Brooklyn. He is retiring at the end of this season, approximately one month from now.
Scully has no peer or imitators in the field of baseball broadcasting. He has an altogether unique voice, style and approach to the game. In fact over the years many an American has listened to Los Angeles Dodgers’ baseball games, not so much for the result and excitement of the game itself but rather for the experience of hearing Vin Scully converse with them for a few relaxing hours.
Scully has a dry but wicked sense of humor, a keen eye for human foibles and accomplishments, a dispassionate view of the world and its vagaries and a loyalty to his team, tempered by the realities of available talent and the competitiveness of others.
His comments while broadcasting the game are wide ranging, astute and provide the necessary backdrop to what is otherwise a mere recording of details taking place before his eyes. At this, he is the acknowledged master of his field. He is now revered by all, even by those who are not particularly interested in baseball or in the Los Angeles Dodgers.
So, what does all of this have to do with Judaism, rabbis and Jewish life? Well, I think that what our Jewish society needs today are a few good broadcasters who will be able to put current events into perspective, to be dispassionate about issues that we face, view things realistically and not purely emotionally and judgmentally, and who are loyal to the game but are not afraid to point out errors that are made on the field.
Part of the craft and success of Vin Scully is the meticulous research that he does before every game and even before describing any player in the game. He never resorts to off-the-cuff reactions or to pat slogans. Over the past sixty years of broadcasting, he recognizes how the game has changed and how the situation of the players today is far different from what it was. He is able to take all of this into consideration and thus he is as timely now as he ever was.
Much of our Jewish world is still dealing with the situations and disputes that existed in Eastern Europe or other areas of the Diaspora a century ago. The realization as to how the world has changed, and especially how the Jewish world has changed, is oftentimes not reflected in the statements and positions of our leaders who command our allegiance.
The rules of the game of baseball have never been basically altered. Yet, the game today differs greatly from what it was a century ago. The same thing can be said about the Jewish world. The rules that govern us, the Torah that we study and observe, its laws and commandments, have certainly not changed. However, the Jewish world today is far different from what it was even a few decades ago and we need observers who are able to advise us, grant us perspective and inject realism into our lives and policies.
All of the current issues that face the Jewish religious world – the role of women in religious and secular life, the necessity for education and skills, the grinding poverty which is almost self-inflicted in large sections of the religious Jewish world, the problems of marriage and children, the attitude towards a Jewish state now practically seventy years old – all need to be looked at, reviewed and thought about and then clearly addressed in one fashion or another.
And they should be dealt with in a compassionate and dispassionate manner. We need good broadcasters to frame the game and the players for us. In today’s world, both the Jewish and the general, there are few broadcasters who are able to do so. Everyone wants to root for the home team and no one is willing to look at the welfare of the entire game itself. It was this ability that made Vin Scully unique amongst all broadcasters. I regret that he is retiring at such a young age.