clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Home openers and holy days: when religious observance and football overlap

The day before the Buccaneers' home opener happens to be Yom Kippur. As a result, the Bucs' starting offense could feature two players suffering the physical effects of 25 straight hours without any food or water.

Dennis Wierzbicki-US PRESSWIRE


Dory LeBlanc of 620WDAE had the opportunity to ask Lorig about Yom Kippur after Wednesday's practice, and kindly shared with us his response:

Dory went on to clarify that the impression she got from Lorig was that he would be fasting on Yom Kippur, as it falls during one of the team's off-days; but had it Yom Kippur fallen on a game day, or even training, he would have played, and would have fasted on another occasion (which might not fall in line with conservative or orthodox Judaism, but speaks to the personal nature and significance of religion).

Nonetheless, this changes the scenarios in this outcome: we now know that we will have two offensive players fasting on Yom Kippur, one of whom will be starting the following day - the only question left to answer is whether Carimi will also be starting, or whether Nicks will be back for Week 2. Even if Nicks is back in the lineup, it's fair to wonder what effect Lorig's fasting will have on the team's run game - after all, even if he is hooked up to an IV as soon as the fast breaks, it seems pretty unrealistic for someone to spend 25 hours without food or water before spending the next day ramming themselves head first into linebackers, and to still be expected to perform at the top of their game. Time will tell.


For some, "New Year" is associated with parties that never quite live up to expectations, drunkenly attempting to mumble your way through "Auld Lang Syne" and hungover day-afters spent detagging incriminating photos on Facebook. For others, it's the day when God decides your fate for the upcoming year - whether you'll achieve success or face failure, whether you'll have a year of joy or a year of suffering, whether you'll live or die. That's what takes place on Rosh Hashanah - the Jewish New Year.

As you can guess, it's a pretty major day within Judaism, so much so that, allegedly, it was the reason the NFL refused to bring forward the date of the NFL Kickoff game from Thursday 5th to Wednesday 4th - sending the reigning Super Bowl champs on the road for their first game of the year for the first time since our beloved Bucs began their 2003 season in Philadelphia. It's not often that Judaism has such an effect on the NFL as to actually dictate when the season starts. What many don't know is that the Rosh Hashanah excuse given for not bringing forward the start of the NFL season cannot possibly be the real reason for not starting the season on the 5th: Rosh Hashanah is a two-day holiday. The Ravens/Broncos game is taking place on the second night of Rosh Hashanah.

Clearly, then, Judaism didn't have any effect on the start of the NFL season; but the religion will still effect the NFL at one point this season - and perhaps no team will be more affected than the Bucs.

You see, Rosh Hashanah might be when God decides your fate for the upcoming year - but it's not set in stone. Rosh Hashanah is the first two days of the "Ten Days of Penitence" - ten days to try and convince God to mark you down for a good year. The ten days culminate in the holiest, and arguably most famous, day in the Jewish Calendar - the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur.

Yom Kippur is the day when your fate is sealed, so it is spent entirely in prayer, with Jews trying to act as angels. In order to resemble angels as much as possible, Yom Kippur is the only day in the year when Jews are allowed to pray on bended knee - because, apparently, angels spend their time kneeling down. (No, I don't get that bit either - and I am Jewish) The other thing about angels, of course, is that they have no need to eat or drink, so Jews spend the entire of Yom Kippur - which this year, is from sunset on September 13th to nightfall on September 14th (in the Jewish calendar, 'days' actually span from evening to evening) - without any food or water whatsoever.

For those who don't have their calendar handy, the Bucs' home opener is a Week 2 matchup against the Saints. It takes place on September 15th.

There could be two players in the Bucs' starting line up for that game who have just gone 25-and-a-half hours without food or water.

Yes, there are two Buccaneers on the roster who are "Members of the Tribe" to some extent, one of whom is listed as a starter by the Bucs, and the other who could be pushed into the starting lineup due to injury: Erik Lorig and Gabe Carimi.

Of the two, Lorig is least likely to be affected, simply because there's never been any reports that he keeps any level of observance, most likely due to the fact that he's only half-Jewish - and in the eyes of orthodox and conservative Judaism, not Jewish at all, since the religion is passed down through the mother but it is Lorig's father who is Jewish. Nonetheless, liberal Judaism, and some strands of reform Judaism, only require one Jewish parent to consider someone a Jew, regardless of whether it is the mother or the father.

Therefore, it is a possibility that Lorig may well be fasting on Yom Kippur (being the most holy day of the Jewish calendar, fasting on Yom Kippur is the one thing that even many lapsed and secular Jews still maintain as the one Jewish thing they do - similar to how many people avoid a church 364 days out of the year, but will still go to Midnight Mass on Christmas). With the Bucs using the fullback position more than many other NFL teams, it will be interesting to discover whether or not Lorig will be fasting the day before the home opener - and, if he does, whether it affects his play.

There is less of a question mark over Gabe Carimi: unlike Lorig, Carimi is fully Jewish, has claimed on multiple occasions to be observant - and will be fasting on Yom Kippur. Obviously, Carimi's self-declared observance is somewhat liberally applied, what with him playing college ball on Saturdays, the Jewish sabbath; still, as explained above, Yom Kippur is the one thing that Jews will observe even if they don't keep the other 612 commandments. In fact, one of the stories that brought nachas (pardon the Yiddish) to many of the Wisconsin Jewish community was when Carimi, as a freshman for the Badgers, played in the 2007 Big Ten conference opener against Iowa just an hour after Yom Kippur finished - having fasted the entire previous 25-odd hours right up until that point. If Carimi was willing to fast on gameday in college, you can be sure he'll be fasting the day before a game now - he implied as much when asked about his observance in the run up to the 2011 draft.

Of course, there are differences between Carimi's act of observance in college, and what it would mean this year. He would be playing against a much higher standard of defensive player, and any lingering effects to Carimi's hydration or energy levels will be quickly found and exploited. Hydration is going to be a key issue too - the game isn't taking place during a cool September evening in northern Wisconsin, but rather in the sweltering heat and humidity of Tampa (thankfully, the game kicks off at 4pm local time, avoiding the worst of the mid-day sun). Ordinarily, this might have been less of a concern than it is with Lorig, with the fullback being a starter and Carimi nominally a back-up - but with Carl Nicks' MRSA infection leaving the team unsure when big #77 can take the field again, Carimi has gotten an extended look at the left guard spot. Even yesterday, Schiano made it clear that Carimi is an option to man the left guard position, and was given the first-team reps at left guard in practice.

If Carimi does win out the interm starting left guard job over Jamon Meredith and Ted Larsen, this puts the Bucs in an tricky position, assuming Nicks is still not healthy enough by Week 2: do you start the lineman coming off a 25-hour fast, or do you go with your third-best left guard option after Nicks and Carimi? With his ability to play both tackle and guard, the worst scenario might be putting out a depleted Carimi, who through his tiredness ends up getting himself hurt and hurting our depth in the long-term; similarly, though, you have to put your best foot forward in that game, as an in-division loss so early in the season could end up biting the Bucs in the backside further down the road.

In all, Tampa Bay could be playing their home opener with, at the very least, a key backup lineman suffering the physical effects of spending so long without any food or water whatsoever - and at the most, it'll be two of the starting eleven suffering the effects. It's an unusual storyline to an NFL game, but it's one that bears watching - having Doug Martin's lead blocker, and the man who on the day could be responsible, together with Donald Penn, for protecting Josh Freeman's blindside, both potentially suffering from the fast, could make all the difference in how effective our offense will be against the Saints.

Still, if there's any consolation to be taken from this, it's that Akeem Spence may have an impressive first game at the Ray Jay - after all, Brian de la Puente, the Saints' starting center, is Jewish too.

More from Bucs Nation: