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Archive for the ‘Because I can…’ Category

 

Taking a break

Posted on: March 12th, 2019 by Ron Kaplan

A few days ago, I received one of those “Facebook Memory” things, reminding me that it has been just about five years since Kaplan’s Korner for Jews and Sports was named “Blog of the Year” by the New Jersey Press Association. That’s when I thought the time was right to take a break.

Those who have been following the Korner for a while know that it began as a replacement for a physical sports presence in the New Jersey Jewish News, where I worked as a writer and editor from 2004 until 2016 when it was bought up by another company. One of the “parting gifts” from the new owners was that I could continue the blog on my own which I did with the assistance of Rabbi Jason A. Miller, who helped me set up anew.

But a new job with crazy hours and different days off from week to week as well as a dwindling readership (and a dwindling interest on my part) has brought me to this point.

The Korner will be going on hiatus with this post. Whether it’s temporary or permanent, I haven’t decided (I’m keeping the domain name and the email — kaplanskorner@gmail.com — should anyone wish to contact me).

Maybe I just need “some time to spend with the family,” which in this case includes my two other blogs, Ron Kaplan’s Baseball Bookshelf and The Worried Journalist, which I’ve been neglecting because there are only so many hours in the day.

Here’s what I wrote when I left the News. Many of the sentiments remain the same.

Thanks to all of you for your support over the years.

Zei gezunt.

JFL update, Sleeper Bowl Edition

Posted on: February 5th, 2019 by Ron Kaplan

Sorry. It’s taken me this long to wake up from that snoozer. Granted, I probably wouldn’t have watched the whole thing anyway because I had to get up at 3 a.m. for work, but I did managed to see the final field goal through the end.

Obviously the only reason I’m writing this is the Jewish participation factor in the New England Patriots’ 13-3 win over the Los Angeles Rams.

We begin with Nate Ebner, the free safety who appeared on 23 special teams plays (85 percent). It was his third Super Bowl appearance.

Image result for julian edelman relentlessNow we come to the issue of Julian Edelman.

Those of you who have been following the Korner for any length of time know that I have never “considered” him as a MOT, abiding by the decision of the Jewish Sports Review.

I’m still waiting for something definitive. I’m going to be reading his 2017 book, Relentless: A Memoir, to see if there’s any religious reference. Certainly there’s no shortage of Jewish media ready to claim him, given the paucity of Jews in sports in general and the NFL in particular. Especially since Edelman was named this year’s MVP. And this JTA story on his being the first Jewish player to earn such an honor is making the rounds. Edelman even refers to it in this story. Along with this one about his perhaps being the best Jewish football player ever. Well, obviously that’s a question for denate.

From the Jerusalem Post:

Edelman’s father is of Jewish descent and Edelman is openly Jewish. During a holiday season NFL Network interview in 2014, when the broadcaster asked Edelman if he was ready to give some good “Christmas answers,” Edelman responded, “Well, I’m Jewish, but I’ll try to keep it to Hanukkah presents, even though Hanukkah’s over.”

I wonder how they define “openly Jewish”?

I know there have been stories and videos of Edelman visiting Israel, wearing a kipa at the Western Wall, etc. and I don’t know what’s in his heart and soul. But I can’t help be reminded about the episode of Seinfield in which he accuses his dentists of converting to Judaism “for the jokes.” The skeptic in me thinks this has at least a chance of being some way to capitalize on that lack of the chosen people in pro sports.

Terrible, I know.

And I also know that the JSR‘s policy is somewhat questionable as well. After all, there are several Jewish athletes whose mothers are not Jewish (there goes the halachic definition), who have never had a bar mitzvah ceremony or even formal Jewish education and they’re included. A very touch subject. I’m thinking Edelman may be Jew-ish as opposed to Jewish.

Image result for julian edelman, Israel

Image result for julian edelman, Israel

 

 

 

Talking about Hank Greenberg at SABR Day

Posted on: January 29th, 2019 by Ron Kaplan

Posted this to my blog about baseball books, so rather than reinvent the wheel, I’m simply offering the link for the event which featured fellow MOT authors Howard Megdal (The Baseball Talmud) and Lincoln Mitchell discussing their work.

The entry includes the nearly one-hour video of the panel.

Big Deal, Little Deal, No Deal?

Posted on: December 25th, 2018 by Ron Kaplan

The good folks at Pardon the Interruption have a regular segment by this name in which they rate the importance of certain issues that pop up in sports, Usually it’s something like social media comments by athletes or arguments bewteen players and officials, but here’s one I’m tossing in (disclosure: I have not watched the show lately to see if they reported on it, although they have been on holiday hiatus recently).

So here’s the deal: LeBron James tweeted about a song he likes that has what many believe to be anti-Semitic overtones.

Some —  like Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind — think it’s a big deal.

https://thenypost.files.wordpress.com/2018/12/dov-hikind-lebron-james.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=618&h=410&crop=1

Others — and I won’t get into whom they might be — think it’s no deal. I fall in the middle. I’m not as outragd as some, but rather a bit annoyed.

Should we take it on faith that a grown man like James didn’t realize the lyrics might be offensive? I don’t think so. He’s been a round long enough to know the score.

Should we accept that he’s sincere in his apology? I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on that one.

That’s all I have to say on the matter.

Speaking up, speaking out

Posted on: December 4th, 2018 by Ron Kaplan

Following the attack at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh, the Steelers adjusted their logo to reflect their solidarity with the Jewish community. This has become a part of the social media culture, much like the “((( )))” was actually adopted by Jews as a self-identifying “in four face” against on-line antisemitism, as reported by Jonathan Weisman in his riveting book (((Semitism))): Being Jewish in America in the Age of Trump.

The Steelers also honored the victims prior to their game against the Browns on October 28 with a moment of silence. And a number of them came to some of the funerals.

I can’t watch these things without welling up.

As we all know, there aren’t a whole lot Jewish athletes out there, and even more rare is the standout, a Hank Greenberg or a Sandy Koufax who has a major impact. But there are some who were quoted in this AP story, “Jewish Athletes Making Their Voices Heard,” that has appeared in several newspapers around the country. Among them are Brad Ausmus, newly-appointed manager of the Los Angeles Angels; Omri Casspi of the Memphis Grizzlies in the NBA; and the NFL’s Josh Rosen (Arizona Cardinals) and Julian Edelman (New England Patriots), whose actual Judaism continues to be a sticking point.

Maccabiah Update

Posted on: November 27th, 2018 by Ron Kaplan

It’s been a while since I posted any news about the Maccabi sports movement, including the Maccabiah Games. Here’s an attempt to remedy.

You can see that the Maccabi movement in Great Britain is very active. One of my regrets during my recent trip to England was not being able to visit them, as well as missing out on the British Baseball Federation. Oh, well, maybe next time.

Finally, On December 9…

 

You can’t click on the image to access the page, so just drop them an email or call ’em up.

Here’s a piece from the NJ Jewish News I wrote about Jeff Bukantz and other locals who participated in the 2013 Games. I know there are other stories about JB, including a discussion of his book about his dad, Daniel, himself a fencing legend, but unfortunately they don’t appear to be on the NJJN website.

And finally, finally, some shameless self-promotion: if you are interested in having me speak to your synagogue or group about my book, The Jewish Olympics: The History of the Maccabiah Games (or any of my other books for that matter), drop me a line and let’s chat.

Image result for kaplan, jewish olympics

 

Oh, the places you’ll go

Posted on: October 5th, 2018 by Ron Kaplan

Had a great time in Old London Town last week. Tried to get some baseball stuff going over there, but it was a fool’s errand. The British Baseball Federation website had an address that was years-old. I found that out the hard way, making a trip out there in hopes of exchanging a copy of 501 Baseball Books for a team cap. Alas, ’twas not to be.

But I did give a the book to the Kennsington Hotel library, so I was able to accomplish at least part of my “mission.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While at the Kennsington, my wife and I thought we might try to go to a local synagogue. As we used the hotel computer to search for something suitable (we neglected to bring along clothing appropriate to going to shul), we also made the acquaintance of Ken and Lynn Tepper, a lovely couple from Toronto who overheard out conversation. Landsmen! Ken asked if I happened to be the Ron Kaplan who wrote Hank Greenberg in 1938, which he had read. In addition, his son — who participated and coached in several Maccabiah Games for Team Canada — had read my book on the history of that institution. Small world.

Our encounter reminded me of a scene from one of my favorite movies, That Thing You Do, when Guy Patterson, the group’s drummer meets his idol, legendary jazz man Del Paxton who’s playing at an LA club. The cocktail waitress, brings him over to Paxton and some cronies, saying, “This kid has actually heard of you.”

You’ll never guess who picked up that JTA story…

Posted on: June 21st, 2018 by Ron Kaplan

On the five Jews who hit home runs on the same Friday

Breitbart!

To which I have to say,

Philip Roth and Baseball: Another “link”

Posted on: May 30th, 2018 by Ron Kaplan

Both figuratively and literally…

I wrote about Roth’s passing last week. Today I found this piece, “A Game So Grand and Beautiful” — Philip Roth On Writing and Baseball, in Town Topics, a Princeton, NJ, community paper. Kind of got a kick out of the writer’s comparing an old photo of Roth to one of Hank Greenberg.

I had mentioned The Great American Novel as one of the most underrated works of baseball fiction. That opinion was shared at a periodic coffee I have with Scott Raab, an ex-pat Clevelander, die-hard sports fan (and when you’re rooting for any of the Cleveland teams — until lately at least — what other kind is there?) and author of The Whore of Akron: One Man’s Search for the Soul of LeBron James and You’re Welcome, Cleveland: How I Helped Lebron James Win a Championship and Save a City. As a former Esquire contributor, he has published dozens of celebrity profiles, including this one on Roth in 2010.

Image result for raab, roth, esquire

 

My (fantasy) Q&A with Sandy Koufax

Posted on: January 29th, 2018 by Ron Kaplan

Posted by MLB.com on Facebook:

No automatic alt text available.

I think I speak for a lot of Jewish fans when I say it would be Sandy Koufax.

These are some of the questions I would ask, assuming he was bound to answer honestly and not just sit there sipping his wine.

  • What was really behind the decision not to play in the first game of the 1965 World Series and how difficult was it to make?
  • Did you ever have a face-to-face with Hank Greenberg? You were both symbols for different generations of Jewish fans. What do you know about his struggles?
  • Did you ever face overt anti-Semitism?
  • We all know about your reticence to talk about yourself. Ira Berkow tells the story of getting you to appear in the documentary Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story. At first you declined, but then you relented, saying that such a documentary couldn’t really be done without you. Did you come to that by yourself, or did Berkow or others really work on you?
  • How do you feel about being an icon for Jewish baby boomer fans? Is it a burden?
  • You appeared in a few TV shows despite being know for shyness in front of a camera. And yet you threatened to go into acting during a hold-out with Don Drysdale. How serious were you about that?
  • I guess you realized your playing days were numbered by that point. Do you ever think about what you might be able to do with the advantages of medical techniques?
  • If you had to do it over again, would you keep your silence or would you be more outspoken on Jewish issues?
  • Can we ever expect an autobiography or memoir? And can be your “as told to…?”

Image result for ron kapan, sandy koufax

   
 

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