Much has been made of the start date of the 2015 NFL season, which falls on Erev Rosh Hashanah.
But the truth is that football always starts around the Jewish New Year in September. What if Jewish football fans pushed to integrate Rosh Hashanah into the opening game broadcasts? After all, football has been played on Thanksgiving for decades.
This is the idea behind Rabbi Daniel Brenner’s post this week in the New Jersey Jewish News. Brenner laments the fact that New York Giants offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz, who is probably the most prominent of the handful of Jews in the NFL, is not planning to skip his team’s first game (which falls on the evening of Sept. 13, the first night of Rosh Hashanah) in Sandy Koufax fashion. He could redeem himself, Brenner writes, by bringing Rosh Hashanah to the game.
Brenner runs wild with the idea:
You know how on Thanksgiving telecasts of the past, John Madden would serve a real turkey after the game and give one of the legs to the most valuable player? How great would it be if during a national broadcast the players might take a break from their bitter rivalry to dip apples and honey and wish their Jewish fans and teammates a Shana tova u’metuka?
The TV crew would have a field day creating the popping, spinning 3-D “Happy Rosh Hashana” graphic where slices of apple, like footballs, soared through the air and landed in an end zone of honey. At halftime, crates of apples and jars of honey could be brought out in old-fashioned wheelbarrows while Phish’s cover of “Avinu Malkeinu” blasted on the loudspeakers. It would be good for the Jews … And it would be good for the NFL. Coming off a sour season of domestic violence scandals and head injury inquiries, the league might appreciate a blessing for a sweet new year. Can’t a rabbi dream?
Given the scarcity of Jews who currently play in the NFL (estimates indicate that there are fewer than 10), this most certainly is a dream. Furthermore, Rosh Hashanah is not a secular phenomenon like Thanksgiving, a holiday that is intricately intertwined with American culture.
Nevertheless, it’s an interesting thought. And there are examples to build on in other sports, most notably the NBA’s slate of games on Christmas day.
If Schwartz isn’t up for it, maybe quasi-Jew Julian Edelman could take up the cause.