To attend or to observe, that is the question. Or at least the question that is being asked in the homes of many Jewish Washington Nationals fans right now with the team’s first two home playoff games falling on erev Yom Kippur (the evening of the holiday) and Yom Kippur day this year. Game one of the National League Division Series is set for Friday Oct. 3 and game two Saturday Oct. 4. Meanwhile, Yom Kippur runs from sundown on that Friday through sundown the next day. So there is potential that both games could end up being played during Yom Kippur and also potentially, although unlikely, the games could be played before and after the holiday.
So what is a Jewish sports fan to do? Is DVR’ing the game frowned upon? Is checking your phone for a score update during service allowed? Or do the Nationals take precedence over the holiest of Jewish holidays? “Of course, even though we are passionate Nats fans, we wouldn’t attend a game on either Kol Nidre or on Yom Kippur,” said Gail Wides, a Silver Spring resident, about her and her husband, “However, I’m hoping someone will tell me the score.”
Some families like the Averguns of the D.C. metro area are even divided within themselves. “My mom is more of the traditionalist and doesn’t think we should spend the holiest day of the year at a ballpark,” said Ilana Avergun, 22, “but to my dad, baseball is basically a religious experience in and of itself, especially the postseason, so he wants to at least make it to one of the two games in question.”
Avergun says the dilemma “isn’t stemming from the fact that we want to know who’s winning or what the score is,” rather the thought that they would be “forgoing an experience that is rare and magical to be apart of.” So if the Avergun’s are not at the game in person, they will be at shul.
As for checking the score during service? Ilana says that that if they go to services they would be present because it is important to observe the holiday and be respectful of what it stands for. “I try not to atone for my sins while simultaneously committing one, so phones just stay in the car,” said Avergun.
As for now, no decision has been made, but depending on the games, she says her family may go to services on Kol Nidre and during the day on Yom Kippur, but break the fast at the ballpark.
Even though not being “very observant” D.C.-area native Jonah Nelson, 24, concedes that even he would feel “somewhat uncomfortable watching if it was erev Yom Kippur during the game.” Given that Bud Selig, the commissioner of Major League Baseball, is Jewish himself, some Jewish fans like Wides have questioned why he couldn’t use his power to fix this meshuganah situation. “I think he could be mensch,” said Wides, “and use his influence to make scheduling such important games on major religious holidays of any religion so that players and fans can participate.”
From the owners’ perspective, “The Lerner family will not be attending the games if held during the Jewish High Holiday of Yom Kippur,” a Nationals spokesperson told Washington Jewish Week. However, among Jewish players, such level of observance is less common.
While there are no Jewish players on the Washington Nationals’ or Baltimore Orioles’ rosters, Jewish players on other teams largely said that, in the hypothetical situation where a playoff game fell on Yom Kippur, they would play. New York Mets’ infielder Josh Satin, who is Jewish, cited the example of basketball games on Christmas and football games on Thanksgiving. “In reality, we’re here for entertainment and a lot of times families, when they are together, they like to watch baseball games,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with them playing on any day just because I see if from a fan’s perspective.”