Weekend open thread: Tough choices

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread.

Yesterday was Yom Kippur, the most important Jewish holiday. Naturally, the situation in Syria is on a lot of people’s minds and prompted some animated discussions between services. Our rabbi’s sermon focused on a freakish lightning strike at a Reform Jewish summer camp in June. Another popular topic of conversation for central Iowa Jews was University of Iowa running back Mark Weisman’s “tough choice” to play in the football game against Iowa State. Weisman felt obliged to honor his “commitment” to the Hawkeye football program. His father told the Des Moines Register a few days ago, “He wouldn’t let his teammates down, his coaches down, himself down, the whole nine yards […] It was a tough decision, but I think he made the right decision for him.”

As the old joke goes, ask any two Jews a question and you’ll hear three opinions. I heard lots of perspectives on Weisman’s choice yesterday. Many disapproved and felt he was setting a bad example for Jewish kids. (Almost 50 years after the fact, many American Jews are still proud of Sandy Koufax’s decision not to pitch in a World Series game on Yom Kippur.) But I heard someone comment that Yom Kippur would be almost over by the time the big game started at 5 pm anyway. The guy’s on a scholarship, and there are only twelve college football games in a year.

I knew lots of Jewish kids in college who didn’t observe Yom Kippur, and many Jewish adults don’t fast or spend the whole day in services. If marking the Day of Atonement is not particularly important to Weisman, who am I to say he should sit out a football game?

I will say this: I believe Coach Kirk Ferentz should have shown some leadership so that Weisman wasn’t made to feel that he would be letting the whole team down by not playing.  

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  • Letting the whole team down...

    “Coach Kirk Ferentz should have shown some leadership so that Weisman wasn’t made to feel that he would be letting the whole team down by not playing”

    Well, if that really happened, then Weisman has a religious discrimination suit to file.

    • he's not going to file any lawsuit

      Get real. He wants to look like a team player.

      I don’t even know whether Yom Kippur is important to Weisman. I’m saying it would have been nice for Ferentz to say publicly and privately that he would completely understand if Weisman chose not to play on the holiday. No Christian athlete would ever be asked to play a game on Easter Sunday.

      • Actually, my comment was meant to be read with a touch of snark...

        Sorry it didn’t come off that way.

        I don’t disagree at all that he wants to appear to be a team player.  I don’t live in Iowa anymore, and the only article I’ve read about the story doesn’t appear to have even asked for a comment from the coach.  I’ve read enough one-sided reporting to wonder if the coach is being unfairly held accountable?  Yes, I know that it’s easy for people to find out when the High Holy Days are each year.  But because there are so many Jews who do not observe, or observe in different ways, it was Weisman’s responsibility to inform the coach of the conflict.  Did he?  Did the coach even know that Weisman is Jewish?  Or was this article the first the coach knew about it?

        For example, I am probably the most observant Jew in my southern California organization of 1800 employees.  I take two days off on Rosh Hashana and I don’t work on Yom Kippur.  I am completely unplugged from work on those days. I’m not even certain my boss remembers that I am Jewish on most days and as the Vice President of HR, the dates of the High Holy Days just aren’t on her radar.  If I don’t tell my boss the reason I am out and she then chastises me for not answering her urgent email, do I have a right to complain about her lack of support for my religious expression and/or belief?  In fact, it would be irresponsible of me to not tell my boss in advance that I will not be available for calls or email.  The same is true for Weisman, and so I want to know what he did to inform his coach.

        I’m reluctant to call the coach out for lack of leadership until I have evidence that Weisman felt any reluctance to choose team before faith.  The article made it seem like he and his family saw the decision as a “no-brainer.”  And that, quite frankly, is the problem I have with his decision to play on Yom Kippur-his publicly stated ambivalence toward observing the holiday in synagogue makes it harder for the rest of us to argue for the legitimacy of time away from work/school/etc.

        • sorry for my misunderstanding

          It is hard for me to imagine that Ferentz was unaware Weisman is Jewish. It is easy for me to imagine that he had no idea when Yom Kippur was initially, but this was a Des Moines Register story on August 8, so the coach has had plenty of time to weigh in publicly.

          I don’t think Weisman playing on Yom Kippur makes it any harder for other Jews to get time off. The fact that it’s a news story underscores the importance of the holiday for a lot of people who might never have heard of it before. You could argue that Shabbat is the most important Jewish holiday anyway (always mentioned before Yom Kippur when they are in the same prayer), and Weisman plays almost every game on Shabbat.

          I am reluctant to criticize anyone’s level of observance, as my adherence to Jewish laws wouldn’t pass muster with millions of Jews. But I read the comments from Weisman and his parents differently from you. I don’t think playing the game was a “no-brainer” for them. Weisman said it was a hard choice:

          “It’s a tough situation to be in,” Weisman said. “But I’ve committed to this team. And I can’t let my teammates down.”

          Last week Weisman’s dad said,

          “We all know the story of Sandy Koufax not pitching during the World Series in (1965),” Larry Weisman said. “But I told (Mark), ‘You know what? You’re your own person. And what you have to do is decide and do some soul searching. Don’t try to please everyone else.’ And he wants to play.” […]

          “It was a tough decision, but I think he made the right decision for him.”

          The right decision “for him” suggests to me that Larry Weisman would have preferred for his son not to play. But of course he’s not going to broadcast his disappointment, he’s going to be supportive in a public setting.

          I would do the same thing in his shoes. My kids are not allowed to do any school or extracurricular activities on Yom Kippur, but when they’re in college, it will be their decision. If asked, I would certainly discourage them from playing a game on Yom Kippur, but I wouldn’t go tell some newspaper that I think they should have acted like Sandy Koufax.

          As it turns out, Weisman played an important role in a game Iowa didn’t win by much, so I’m sure he doesn’t regret his decision.

          • Of course, as the parent, I would publicly support the kid's decision.

            The August 8 article indicated that Weisman had already made his decision.  So, why would the coach have needed to come out and make a public statement of support?  The time to have done that would have been before the article was published, or at least during an interview for the article.  Since we both agree it’s unlikely that the coach even knew about the Yom Kippur dilemma before then, showing support after the fact is just grandstanding, IMO.

            No, Weisman choice doesn’t make it any harder than it already is to take time off (and it is hard.)  But it could have made it just a little bit easier, at least for a short while (until the media story faded.)  My sons long for a Jewish role model of positive acclaim that they can point to to make their religious observance a bit more comfortable.  I long for that, too.  It would make them less likely to eschew observance when they become adults.

  • Not about Iowa football/High Holidays

    DMR article on issuing gun permits to blind people: http://www.desmoinesregister.c…

    Here is the bill language (SF2379 from 2010): http://coolice.legis.iowa.gov/…

    House vote: https://www.legis.iowa.gov/doc…

    Senate vote: https://www.legis.iowa.gov/doc…

    • also, the bill has no mention

      of the words “blind,” “vision,” “sight” and the mentions of disability is in a legal sense (having to do with temporarily removed access to the legal system), not the typical way people think of it.

    • also, the bill has no mention

      of the words “blind,” “vision,” “sight” and the mentions of disability is in a legal sense (having to do with temporarily removed access to the legal system), not the typical way people think of it.

    • thanks for mentioning that

      I opposed the “shall issue” bill in 2010 but didn’t realize blind people were getting gun permits until I saw the coverage last week. Didn’t have time to mention it.

  • The Fry (steak, not Hayden) ruminations

    Really liked the Castro brothers… + good speech by Uncle Joe. Was his complimentary reference to Kerry a shot at HRC?  Is Uncle Joe stalking for Beau? Don’t think so. Beau’s health problems I think are more serious than people know.  Joe sure hung around a long time working the crowd. Social media bonanza.  How come Anesa K was not introduced as a 1st District candidate but only as an Iowa House member? Swati was introduced.  What will happen to the Fry when Tom Harkin leaves office? I will miss it.  

    • I was sorry to miss it

      just couldn’t get there this year.

      If Braley wins Harkin’s seat he will continue the steak fry tradition in some form. He’s already moving his “Blues, Bruce and BBQ” event from Waterloo down to Des Moines.

      If Braley doesn’t win, the Iowa Democratic Party should do something along the lines of the steak fry.