To Be A Beacon


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Sandy Koufax

Thirty years ago Sandy Koufax—a Jewish pitcher with a sling like David's for a left arm—announced that he wouldn't play on the holiest day of his year, Yom Kippur. Koufax's employer, the Los Angeles Dodgers, respectfully pointed out that this was the first game of the 1965 World Series. Couldn't he pitch just a little? "No," Koufax said. But later he pitched a shutout in games five and seven, and the Dodgers won the series, 4-3.

Well, Sandy would love a kid named Eli Herring, a 340-pound offensive tackle for Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. In his senior year Herring sported a 3.5 grade-point average and was judged a top senior offensive tackle in the pro draft. But Herring, a devout Mormon, turned down a possible multimillion-dollar deal with the Oakland Raiders because he, too, won't play on a holy day. Unfortunately his holy day, Sunday, comes up once a week, just when the Raiders buckle on their equipment and go to work.

Herring meditated intensely over his dilemma. He could sign up with the NFL, play ball on Sundays and fill his life with fancy cars and houses, or he could teach math for $20,000 a year and honor the Sabbath. Herring's answer was to honor the Sabbath. He announced to the NFL that if he were drafted, he wouldn't serve.

Wow! Talk about a role model for kids adrift in a cultural sea of avarice, especially in sports. But what about his financial future? Well, to people like Herring a blessing from above is better than a bank account. Hey, as the country-gospel song says, "You can't be a beacon if your light don't shine."

Ted Roberts in The Wall Street Journal