Friday, June 29, 2012

Will LaDanian Tomlinson Get to Promised Land?

THIS WEEK, LaDANIAN TOMLINSON retired from the NFL. The former San Diego Charger and New York Jet had a stellar career and will be remembered as one of the greatest running backs in NFL history. There is no doubt that he will be elected into the Hall of Fame as soon as he is eligible. The only blemish on his glorious career is that he never won the Super Bowl. In fact, he never made it to the Super Bowl.

Erik Kaselius of NBC sports brought up this issue with Tomlinson during an interview a few days ago and asked him if he would trade in his hall of fame career for a super bowl ring.

This is what he had to say: [I'd rather be a] "Hall of Fame player without a ring, because you’ve got to sacrifice so much individually to be good."

Many criticized Tomlinson for his comments. Some people thought he was being arrogant; that he only cared about his individual stats and didn’t acknowledge that football is a team sport. Others argued that he was only saying this after his retirement. Here’s Teddy Bruschi lambasting him on ESPN:






However, I side with Tomlinson on this one. If I had to choose, I would take the Hall of Fame career for a few reasons: Firstly, a great player has to sacrifice so much, every day, as Tomlinson explained. Secondly, a great player has so many fans and admirers; especially kids who grow up wanting to emulate him. Thirdly, a great player will be financially secure for a very long time (assuming he knows how to manage his money!) . And finally, a great player is enshrined and counted among the greatest to ever play the game. Of course, I would love to have both; but if I could only choose one, it would be a spot in Canton.


I believe that my opinion has precedent from the Bible. You may recall, that our greatest leader and prophet never made it to the promised land. Moses never made it to the Super Bowl. If given the choice between the two, what do you think he would have chosen? While Moses never answers this question outright, the sages provide us with some insight that is key to answering this question.

According to the rabbis, the primary motivation for Moses to enter into the land of Israel, was for the opportunity to observe the commandments that are only applicable there. So great was his longing for entry into the promised land that he told God he would be content with Joshua leading the Jewish nation into the land and he would enter Israel as a layperson. Ultimately, God rejected that offer.

When reflecting on this Midrash, it appears to me that Moses wasn’t willing to give up his previous accomplishments and glory for the privilege of entering the promised land. He wanted to keep his legacy intact while also entering into Israel as a retiree, an ex-officio. For Moses recognized how indispensable his leadership and greatness was and did not want to minimize, diminish, or erase his accomplishments just to enter into the land. Even Moses, I believe, would have chosen a hall of fame career over winning the Super Bowl.

So let’s cut Tomlinson some slack; his opinion has historical precedent. Congrats on a great career.



Rabbi Joshua Hess is a rabbi in New Jersey. He blogs at The Fanatic Rabbi.