For the sin of watching the Steelers on Yom Kippur
We Jews might be a minority in the country, particularly in the world of sports, but when we complain loudly enough, we can get things done.
Well, at least when it has something to do with the scheduling of major sporting events in areas with really large Jewish populations.
Over the next couple of weekends, countless Jewish sports fans will be making some big sacrifices. Forget about wondering if players will play on Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur. What about the fans: Will they or won’t they?
Watch, that is. When sundown hits on Friday, Sept. 18, Rosh Hashana begins. Here in Pittsburgh, that could mean missing out on the Pitt-Navy game at Heinz Field on Saturday, Sept. 19, the Steelers game on Sept. 20 in Chicago, or a weekend of Pirates action at PNC Park against the Padres. OK, so maybe the Buccos aren’t likely to cause any ethical dilemmas for Jews.
The following week, of course, is Yom Kippur, starting at sundown on Sunday, Sept. 27. The Steelers play in Cincinnati at 4:15 p.m. The Monday Night Football game is the Panthers at the Cowboys. Now, that doesn’t have the same local pull, but it’s safe to assume that most Steeler fans still enjoy watching the Cowboys lose, right?
Anyway, back to the scheduling conflicts. The good news, at least, is that the Steelers aren’t in town either week, so season ticket holders won’t have to make a really tough decision. That being said, turning off the television early for Kol Nidre instead of watching the Steelers beat up on the Bungles won’t be easy for many.
Maybe there’s still time to do something about that. It worked in New York, after all. When the NFL season was first constructed, the Giants asked to be on the road for these two weekends largely because of the large number of Jewish season ticketholders. The league went along with the request. The Jets had put in the same request, but it was never received, so they are at home both weeks. It was too late to make a venue switch, but after the owner sent a letter to the commissioner, the start time was moved from 4:15 to 1 p.m. so that fans could get home from the game by sundown and the start of Yom Kippur. There’s nothing better for getting ready to repent than watching the Jets play.
The letter was sent, of course, because the Jets office switchboard was lit up with calls from upset Jewish fans.
The NFL wasn’t the only one to hear from us. Over in Major League Baseball, the Yankees and the Red Sox are set to meet for the last time in the regular season on Sept. 27. The way it looks now, the game won’t have a bearing on the American League East standings, but the Red Sox are leading the Wild Card race. Besides, the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry is always huge, no matter what the stakes. The game, to be held in the new Yankee Stadium, originally was scheduled for 1 p.m.
But ESPN, seeing the ratings possibility for it, wanted it moved to 8 p.m. for its Sunday Night Baseball broadcast, something it is contractually allowed to do. (Evidently, the television industry isn’t run by Jews.) Needless to say, Major League Baseball, ESPN, the Yankees, the Red Sox, you name it, heard complaints. The commissioner, Bud Selig (yes, a Jew), even said he heard from his rabbi on the matter. To make a long story short, the game is back to 1 p.m. and ESPN will televise it anyway.
A big catalyst in getting this done was a New York congressman, Anthony Weiner. And that brings me back to my point: Perhaps it’s not too late to do something about that 4:15 p.m. start for the Steelers-Bengals game on Sept. 27. Call your representatives now and call often. Ask them to contact the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goddell. He seems receptive, based on what happened with the Jets. We may not have the sheer numbers as the New York metropolitan area, but I bet we can be just as loud.
May we all be inscribed in the book of life. And may we all be able to watch the sporting events we want to, when we want to.
(Jonathan Mayo, The Chronicle’s sports columnist and a staff writer for MLB.com, can be reached at email@example.com.)