1/11/2010

Sword and Shovel (Me and John Harbaugh)

The fourth chapter of the Book of Nechemiah describes the eponymous character's attempt to complete the fortifications of Jerusalem in the face of opposition from local tribes. Verses 4 and 5 (and possibly 6) describe how the Jews were demoralized and on the verge of despair until Nechemiah created a plan for completing the wall and gave them a pep talk to boost morale.

The basic plan was that Nechemiah divided the people into two groups, a work detail and a security detail. The security detail was stationed around the wall, and the work detail all carried weapons with them in addition to their work tools. Nehemiah then equipped the defenders with horns, so that if there was trouble the workers could swarm to the point of attack.

When I podcasted this chapter for the OU Nach Yomi program over the summer, I described this strategy as being "similar to the Baltimore Ravens' defense" (you can listen to the pocast; the reference appears in minute 9 and the beginning of minute 10 of the podcast).

Here's where it gets eerie. Last week, after locking up a playoff berth, Ravens' Coach John Harbaugh gave a pep talk where he explicitly referenced that chapter in Nechemiah. He even brought out props - a sword and a shovel - to emphasize the point that they had to continue working while suffering the barbs of the naysayers. Here's a video of the pep talk:

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I doubt that John Harbaugh or anyone else in the Ravens' locker room listened to the Nach Yomi podcast. At the same time, I thought it was pretty cool that I referred to the Ravens' when describing a passage in Nechemiah, and that the Ravens' coach referred to the same passage when talking about what his team faced. A marvellous coincidence.

The type of defense that I described in the podcast was on full display yesterday: swarming to the ball at the moment of attack, forcing short gains, lost yardage, incompletions, and interceptions.
[I doubt that Harbs was trying to make a political statement about the status of Jerusalem and the resilience of the contemporary bearers of "sword and shovel", but there's that as well.]

Harbaugh explains his Nechemiah 'drasha' just after the 1-minute mark of this press conference:
 

Go Ravens!

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