I just returned from the Rockets game (we won!) about which I feel very grateful to have had the chance to attend. Not only was it game 5 of a series, which many believed would end tonight with the Rockets demise against the Clippers. But I had the great privilege of attending with my two boys, who love nothing more than the bigness of the NBA! And the fact that we won, bringing the Rockets record in this series to 2-3 with, I guess at least a decent chance at beating out the Clippers to advance to the next round, only made the night sweeter.
But here’s where my fairytale ends! Look, I’m no expert in professional athletics. Most of my statistics knowledge comes from what I glean from my personal 13 year old color commentator (Sammy)! But I’ve been to enough NBA games as a kid and as an adult to know I can trust my kishkes on this one. And that is, it just isn’t kosher to purposely distract the other team when they are shooting free throws. OK, so maybe you can’t and you don’t want to try to control the fans. However (and if you’ve been, you know what I’m talking about) when Clutch and his “family” stand there flailing their arms, when a shirtless obese man shakes his behind with letters on his rear end that read, “Big Distraction,” and when the announcer and players in pre-recorded videos encourage everyone to scream and yell to distract the free throw shooter from the opposing team, I believe we’ve gone over the edge.
Moreover, the lesson we teach our children and reinforce amidst ourselves with such dishonorable behavior is embarrassing. Of course we shouldn’t have to be silent and of course cheering when the other team doesn’t score a point is natural (for those of you who already have your quiver bared). But do we not have a responsibility as a society to model fairness and good sportsmanship, not only at the local Y but all the more so at the largest, most visible venues in our city?
Jewish ethics teaches that embarrassing someone is akin to murder. Hyperbolic? A bit. Nonetheless, our ancient sages meant for us to draw a clear line between the permanent damage created by murder and the all but permanent damage created by embarrassment. For in the act of embarrassment, there is no restitution. I would suggest that purposely seeking to distract the opposing player during his “free” throw is precisely akin to seeking to cause embarrassment.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, “J’accuse.” Its time to read up on your Talmud or let me know when you’re in Houston. I’ll be happy to buy you a pastrami sandwich at Kenny and Ziggy’s and we can sit and talk. With the way the Rockets played tonight, you may very well want to book a room.