In the South, college football is king. Adjusting to the world of Saturday morning tailgates (after shul, of course) and punting on fourth down is hard for some ISJL Education Fellows, but for me, it felt like being home. See, I am a Columbus, Ohio girl—born and raised on Buckeye Football. I come from the land of Woody Hayes, Archie Griffin, and scarlet and grey. This past year has been an exciting one for me. I’ve had a front row seat to the SEC—one of the most dominant leagues in the country.
Luckily for me, and probably to the chagrin of some of our readers, on New Year’s Day, my Buckeyes beat Alabama, the only SEC team in the new College Football Playoffs. As a result the SEC was knocked out of the bid for the first ever CFP Championship.
So why should my fellow Southern Jews, those normally loyal to their SEC home teams, support The Ohio State Buckeyes tonight? I humbly offer a few suggestions:
- The Buckeyes squeaked out a victory over the Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl. Though the loss is still a sore spot, especially since this year is the first since 2005 in which no SEC team will play for the national title, the SEC looks best if the team that beat them in the playoffs wins the championship.
- Les Wexner is an alumnus of The Ohio State University and a proud Buckeye. Wexner is a notable Jewish philanthropist and founder of the Wexner Foundation, which seeks to develop Jewish leaders and sustain Jewish heritage across the United States.
- As Southerners and Jews, we love our traditions. The Buckeyes have tradition to spare. From the start of the game, when The Ohio State Marching Band performs “Script Ohio” to the end of every home game, when the football team joins the band to sing the alma mater, to the Mirror Lake jump, when thousands of students jump into a frozen lake on campus, tradition seeps from Buckeye pores.
- Urban Meyer is a former SEC coach. So while the speed, offense, and defensive lines are in the Big 10, we look a whole lot like an SEC team. What’s more, six of our starters, not including injured quarterback J.T. Barrett, hail from our great 13-state region. Oregon’s roster includes only 13 Southerners, while Ohio State’s includes 17.
So, that’s my case. I love the Buckeyes and I love college football – and of course, I love my fellow Southern and Jewish football fans. Win or lose, I’m so excited that I was able to spend this season deep in SEC territory, where people love it just as much as I do.
Tonight the Bucks take on the Ducks in Dallas. I’d love it if you cheered for the Bucks along with me (but I promise to get over it if you don’t). Go Bucks!
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This year, I decided to give the #BlogElul challenge a try. I am mostly posting Facebook statuses to explore each day’s idea, but wanted to share this longer post about one of the words that truly is meaningful to me: Bless.
I like to say that life is about perspective, choosing to see things as a blessing rather than as a burden. Sometimes it can be challenging to make this mental shift. How do we go from burden to blessing? Like so.
Burden: My twins just started high school. They are at the same high school as my step-children. It’s the first time all four kiddos are at the same place. Thanks to having twins, and our beautiful blended family, we have three freshman and a sophomore! Yes, you read that correctly. Imagine the upcoming graduation parties!)
All four of them are in marching band, and Friday was their first football game. (In case you didn’t know, Texas football is a BIG DEAL.)
Getting the three freshman situated this week has been an adjustment for both my husband and me, as well as for the kids. Early morning and afternoon practices, mounting homework, still keeping up with work and religious school and all of the day-to-day business of life… all of us are facing a pretty steep learning curve. By the time the first game arrived, we were already mentally and physically spent. We got home from the football game at 11:30pm. The kids were drenched from sweat, starving, crabby and anxious because while it was so late, they still needed to finish homework and they had a quiz the next day. The family meltdown was on its way, BUT.
Blessing: I’m re-framing the burden, the stress, the hectic schedule… because when I look back on this first week, my kids are experiencing a whole new, exciting phase of life. One week in, and they are already learning so much. I had the chance to volunteer and meet some new people along the way. Even though I had no idea what I was doing, they were patient and kind. I even met a woman who shared with me that my father delivered her children, and that he had meant so much to their family – making me glad, once again, that I moved back to my hometown of San Antonio.
I got to see my kids perform, and they were AWESOME! They all lit up when they saw my husband and me at the game. We sat in the stands with amazing friends and ate popcorn (one of my favorite foods). My kids came home to a late night snack, a cool shower, and a comfy bed. The next morning dawned early… but the coffee was brewed, and we were ready to go again.
Burden? Nah. Blessing. Countless blessings, indeed!
This post was written as part of the #BlogElul project. The entire month of Elul is traditionally a time of reflection before the High Holidays. We welcome your reflections, too!
“Um, Rabbi? Don’t you feel a little bit weird with a cross on the back of your car?”
I fielded this question recently on a jaunt down to New Orleans for a weekend of football and food. The inquiry came when my passenger, an Atlanta Falcons fan, noticed my Mississippi license plate, with its Saints loyalty on proud display. No doubt, my companion was puzzled that a Jew (kal v’chomer a rabbi!) would choose to put something that looks like a cross on his license plate.
But it’s not a cross. It’s a fleur de lis. And while this flower has had some interaction with the cross, that’s not what it represents to me. As I began to explain this, it got me thinking, oh, this is gonna turn into a blog post. And here it is.
The fleur de lis (sometimes spelled fleur de lys) is French in origin. The little symbol decorates flags, yards, jewelry, and crowns. The earliest fleur de lis are thought to be representative of the iris flower. Long adopted by royalty, it’s no surprise that many may associate the fleur de lis with Christianity, because the vast majority of kings and queens who used the symbol on their crests and in their commissioned paintings were of the Christian persuasion. It became Christianized as well when drawn so specifically with the trinity of three leaves, with various interpretations as to what those three things meant symbolically. In addition to the trinity, some ascribe it to the Song of Songs (“lily among thorns?”), while others have associated it with Mary, with the flower representing virginity.
New Orleans, along with many other cities/regions that were under heavy French influence in the New World, adopted this symbol. And when, in 1967 they received their first NFL franchise, they named their team the New Orleans Saints, and adorned them with a fleur de lis where other helmets had lions or stars.
So not only does the fleur de lis have some religious connotation in its past, the name of the football team that now claims the flower is the Saints – yeah, a bit of religion embedded there, too. Their moniker is no doubt an allusion to November 1st, AKA All Saints Day. Also, the jazz hit “When The Saints Go Marchin’ In” came to represent the city. Catholic influence can be seen throughout Louisiana, a state still made up not of counties but of PARISHES.
Hence, my favorite football team is surrounded by symbols with Christian connotations. But, as with any symbol, meaning and interpretation can change. So, too, can our connection to them.
I spent some time in the Superdome under the futile leadership of Aaron Brooks, but it was after Hurricane Katrina that all of a sudden I found myself purchasing shirts, flags, and hats adorned with the fleur de lis symbol. For the longest time, perhaps because they were the Ain’ts, it seemed as if there were more LSU decals than Saints floating around the city. But, as we began to resurge, as the team began to be a symbol for the entire city, the fleur de lis lost its old connotation.
Like the flower it is, the fleur de lis began to unfurl again and show us that spring had sprung. New Orleans would be in full bloom again. The fleur de lis gave hope to all, regardless of their religious affiliation.
After years of trying to figure out how to watch my team play while I was elsewhere, living in this city or that country, I’m proud to have finally returned to the region that I call home. It’s exciting for me to look around and see that I can connect with my neighbors over a symbol and a team, that our faiths and unique backgrounds can come together and be united. We can cheer for touchdowns, or be despondent over the most recent free agent departures. All this is only evident when we display our symbol—on our shirts, on festive game day cookies, and yes, on this rabbi’s license plate.
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