Today is Day 49 of the Omer. Malchut sheb’malchut. Within Kingship there is Kingship.
What an amazing feeling to be counting the final day of the Omer, Day 49, where we feel the fullness of this journey from redemption to revelation. Reflecting each day on the combination of sefirot, gives us a way to understand G-d and know ourselves better.
In many ways, malchut sheb’malchut is the ultimate. Pure Kingship feels so beyond our reach. But malchut is also known as shekhinah, the Divine Presence that dwells amongst us. It is both beyond our reach and the closest thing for us to touch.
The problem for us at Omertime is that there are only two NBA Players to ever wear the #49: Shandon Anderson, a solid 11 year pro who won a ring with the Miami Heat in 2005-06 and contributed on the Stockton and Malone Utah Jazz teams that made it to two NBA Finals in 1997-98. The other is Mel McCants, a 6’8” forward out of Purdue who played 13 games with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1990.
In discussing the choice for Day 49, there were some who argued that this day of malchut sheb’malchut would best be represented by 1949 NBA Champion, George Mikan. Mikan revolutionized the game and was the original king of kings of professional basketball. At 6’10” some considered him too tall to play, but he dominated the early years of the NBA, winning an NBA title in five of the seven years he played. Mikan was a 6x All-NBA First team player and led the league in scoring 3x. To limit his dominance, the league was forced to adopt goaltending rules and widen the lane.
However, 1949 was not Mikan’s first or second championship with the Minneapolis Lakers, which belonged to the NBL before it joined the predecessor of the NBA, the BAA in 1948. So others argued that the 49 days of the Omer might only refer to the days, and that if one counted the nights and the days, then today would be Day 98. And 98 is the number worn by Jason Collins, the first active male athlete in a major American sport to come out as gay.
Even before coming out, Collins wore 98 with two different teams, in honor of Matthew Shepherd, a gay University of Wyoming student who was brutally murdered in 1998. To be first in male professional sports, required someone noble and in touch with themselves and the divine presence within themselves, the essence of malchut.
Collins came out at the end of the 2013 season before becoming a free agent. While he got public support from many players, he went unsigned that off-season. The former first round pick out of Stanford believed he still had something left and in 2014, the Brooklyn Nets signed Collins to a 10 day NBA contract and eventually for the rest of the year. His number 98 jersey became a top seller before Collins retired from the NBA after the season.
However, while Mikan and Collins are both solid options, our choice for Day 49 is Moonlight Graham…er, Mel McCants.
[Warning: Field of Dreams Spoilers Ahead]
If you haven’t seen Field of Dreams, you should probably remedy that. One of its subplots involves Archibald Wright “Moonlight” Graham, a doctor and baseball player who played in one game for the New York Giants in 1905.
In the movie, Moonlight Graham becomes young again and gets his one at bat on the Field of Dreams. And then it’s over. It’s heartbreaking to watch him leave the field to save Katie, but what’s amazing is that he got his shot and it was enough for him.
The career of Mel McCants doesn’t measure up to most of the names on Omertime. His whole career consisted of 13 games, but he did it. He made it to the NBA. Compared to Michael Jordan, that’s not much, but compared with the rest of us, that’s a huge achievement. Nearly everybody who loves basketball would give anything to play one game in the NBA and McCants did it thirteen times. Graham found happiness after baseball, and so did McCants.
On Day 49, malchut sheb’malchut, we honor a player who made it to the show and got his shot. Like malchut, it’s beyond what most of us can ever hope to imagine and like malchut, it’s also the most within our reach.