Archive for the ‘Jewish Sports’ Category


A New York invitation to Boston Marathoners

Posted on: October 24th, 2013 by Ron Kaplan

Brought to you as a “public service announcement” as per Peter Berkowsky, founder of the International Minyan for NYC Marathoners.

Tragedy interrupted the most recent runnings of the two most famous long-distance races in America.  The bombing at the Boston Marathon in April shook the entire nation.  And the New York City event last fall was canceled in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.  In a gesture of solidarity, a longstanding institution at the NYC Marathon is reaching out to honor its visitors from Boston on Nov. 3.

The 43rd New York City Marathon, with its field of 48,000 entrants, is expected to attract as many Jewish athletes from around the world as participate in the quadrennial World Maccabiah Games.  And for the 30th straight year, the International Minyan for NYC Marathoners will be there to accommodate them.  The outdoor morning services are held in a designated tent at the Fort Wadsworth staging ground on Staten Island, just minutes from the Verrazano Bridge starting line.  The Minyan has become a tradition at the five-borough road race, and is now the oldest religious service at any sporting event in the world.

The inaugural service, in 1983, drew 26 participants, and over the years, the Minyan has attracted thousands of Jewish runners from all across the United States and six continents.  As many as 200 runners are expected to participate in three services this year, scheduled for 7:15, 8:15, and 9:15 a.m., to accommodate those assigned to the four starting waves of the race.

This year, for the fourth time in our history, the NYC Marathon will be run on Rosh Chodesh, a semi-holiday marking the start of the Jewish month.  This will necessitate a longer service, to include reading from the Torah.  Minyan organizers have announced that aliyas and other service honors will be offered first to mourners, and then to anyone who ran in this year’s Boston Marathon.

The NYC Marathon was previously run on Rosh Chodesh in 1986, 1993, and 2010, and this will be the last time this century that the first Sunday in November will coincide with the beginning of a Jewish month.  1986 was also the year the NYC Marathon was moved from October to the first Sunday in November, a switch made by Fred Lebow, the late President of the NY Road Runners Club, at the request of our Minyan, to avoid a conflict with Simchat Torah that year.  The later date for the event has remained a fixture ever since.

The Minyan tent is located just two blocks inside the entrance to Fort Wadsworth, and is identified on all the site maps and in the race program.  Runners are encouraged to bring their own prayer books, tefillin, and prayer shawls. Because Marathon officials now offer an incentive for runners not to check baggage with them at the start, JRunnersClub, the logistical manager of the Minyan, will provide its own checking service, respectfully transporting these personal religious items to a secure location in Manhattan, close to the finish line.  (This service extends only to religious items, and not to items of clothing or other personal belongings.)

The pickup location will be at Cong. Shearith Israel, the famed Spanish & Portuguese Synagogue at the corner of Central Park West and West 70th Street.  Continuous minyans for minha (the afternoon service) will be available for runners on the portico of the synagogue facing Central Park.

Join this truly unique experience for Jewish runners at the NYC Marathon, in celebration of the historic 30th International Minyan, and help to salute those who ran in the Boston Marathon this year.  For more information, contact Minyan founder and director Peter Berkowsky (fud42@comcast.net, 973-992-6775) or JRunnersClub in Brooklyn (info@jrunnersclub.org).


Clean sweep

Posted on: August 5th, 2013 by Ron Kaplan

Going through the mailbox to clean up the dust-bunnies that accumulated during my trip to the SABR convention (more on which later).


* Maccabiah Games close in Jerusalem with Israel topping medal count (Cleveland Jewish News)

* After accident, athlete returns to Maccabiah triumphant (JWeekly.com)

* SoCal athletes find fulfillment at Maccabiah Games (Jewish Journal)

* For ESPN broadcaster, Maccabiah ends just as it was getting started (St. Louis Jewish Light)


* Enough Of Ike Davis — New York Mets Should Let Josh Satin Start Everyday (RantSports)

* Ike Davis Is Batting .317 Since All Star Break, But… (MetsMerized)

* Ryan Braun, Disgraced Jewish Baseball Player? (ReformJudaism.org) Personally, although this is a shande and fodder for those anti-Semitic knuckleheads who live for this stuff, I think Braun’s religion is totally irrelevant. Few seem to bring that up for Andy Pettitte, a self-proclaimed Christian who admitted using HGH and testified at the trial of former teammate Roger Clemens.

* A pitch to report cyber hate (Jewish Week)

* Op-Ed: A Tisha B’Av Message for the All-Star’s (IsraelNationalNews) Still interesting, even though I overlooked posting this at the appropriate time.

* Ryan Braun is a Major League Baseball Star. So, Why Haven’t Jews Embraced Him? (Tablet) The same can be said for this piece, which fell through the cracks prior to Braun’s suspension.


* Listen to Gabe Carimi (JoeBucsFan)

* Carimi pushes for spot on Bucs line (Tampa Bay Times)

* Bucs OL coach helping Carimi with transition (Tampa Tribune)

* Tempers flare at Jets camp (Newsday re : Antonio Garay). To use the name of a regular Pardon the Interruption segment, “something or nothing?”

* Bengals’ strong safety position up for grabs? (NBCSports re: Taylor Mays)

* Schwartz faces ‘different’ pass-rush moves (ClevelandBrowns.com)

* Bears rookie punter faces daunting challenge (Chicago Tribune, re: Adam Podlesh)


* The Dallas Mavericks want Gal Mekel to show up to camp early, and Israel’s coach isn’t happy (Yahoo Sports)

* Mekel chooses to sit out EuroBasketl (Jerusalem Post)

* Israel national coach Arik Shivek blasts Mavericks for putting Gal Mekel in impossible situation (Dallas Morning News) Hey, at least it’s not a Yom Kippur dilemma thing.

* New Maverick Gal Mekel not worried about transition to the NBA: Basketball is basketball (Dallas Morning News) “A rose is a rose…”

* Growing up as the ‘Jewish Jordan’ (ESPN.com re: Tamir Goodman)

* Soccer star Lionel Messi visits Western Wall on ‘peace tour’ (JTA)

* Egyptian agrees to play in Israel for Swiss soccer squad (JTA)


Jews and Cricket (Jerusalem Post)

* German industrialist (and IOC member) Berthold Beitz dies at 99 (ESPN.com)

This 'n that

Posted on: June 21st, 2013 by Ron Kaplan

Getting the mailbox cleaned out for Shabbos:


  • “Quick hit,” indeed. This blogger considers new Tampa Bay Bucs offensive lineman Gabe Carimi “one of the biggest busts in recent NFC North memory.”
  • This writer doesn’t think too highly of Cincinnati Bengals safety Taylor Mays, either.
  • Arutz Shuva, an Israel outfit, posted this story and audio about former Dallas Cowboy/Green Bay Packer  Alan”Shlomo” Veingrad.


House cleaning

Posted on: May 24th, 2013 by Ron Kaplan

In an attempt to clean out my Google Alerts, here is a “links dump” of accumulated knowledge:

And that’s it! All nice and empty.

So have a good holiday folks, see you next week.


Speaking of Freiman…

Posted on: May 7th, 2013 by Ron Kaplan

Our old friend Howard “The Baseball Talmudist” Megdal contributed this nice piece on the Oakland As’ first baseman to the Sports On Earth Site.


Book review: Jewish Jocks

Posted on: March 5th, 2013 by Ron Kaplan

From JTA (better late than never).
Jewish Jocks: Plenty of Jews, not enough jocks (What would Howard Cosell say?)

By Ami Eden

NEW YORK (JTA) — Near the end of 2012, during the showdown over the fiscal cliff, The New York Times published a profile of Bernie Sanders and his fight to keep Social Security benefit cuts out of any budget deal.

The article described Sanders as an unlikely member of the world’s most exclusive club (aka the U.S. Senate), citing several details: He’s the brusque son of an immigrant father; he has a thick Brooklyn accent; he is a self-described socialist who carries around the key chain from the early 20th century presidential campaign of Eugene V. Debs; and he once led a sit-in back in 1962 at the University of Chicago to protest discriminatory housing policies.

One thing the article didn’t mention was that Sanders is Jewish. Perhaps it was implied (have you ever met a non-Jew fitting even half of that description?). Or perhaps the newspaper thought his being Jewish just wasn’t worth a mention (after all, the Senate has more than a minyan of Jews).

But the New York Yankees tapping a Jewish slugger to play third base — now that’s news fit to the print. Just a day before publishing its no-direct-mention-of-his-Jewishness profile of Sanders, the Times devoted a full page and multiple articles in the sports section to the signing of Kevin Youkilis (the family name was changed several generations back, from Weiner).

So it’s not just Jewish media and a few Jewish sports obsessives who think an athletically gifted Member of the Tribe is a big deal. If the Semitic roots of one fading slugger attracts such treatment in the Times, how much ink do the rest of the Jewish athletes out there deserve?

Enough to fill an entire book, according to Franklin Foer and Marc Tracy, editors of the anthology Jewish Jocks: An Unorthodox Hall of Fame (Twelve 2012).

I hated this book. Not in the way one hates a bad book. More like the way I, as a Philadelphia sports nut, grew up hating the Boston Celtics and the Dallas Cowboys. You only boo the great teams; the cellar dwellers aren’t worth the effort.

As far as Jewish sports books go — yes, there’s enough of them to constitute a genre — this is a great one. It features plenty of great writers and great writing.

Then why heckle Jewish Jocks?

Because this anthology has so much trouble staying on topic. Yes, the subtitle of the book is “an unorthodox hall of fame.” So I welcomed the essays on all-time greats in areas of competition that many people would not think of as sports — ping-pong champ Marty Reisman; world-class fencer Helen Mayer; professional wrestler Bill Goldberg; ultimate Frisbee player/pioneer Joel Silver; handball great Jimmy Jacobs; bullfighting legend Sidney Franklin; martial arts expert  Harvey “Sifu” Sober; enigmatic chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer; and competitive eater Don Lerman. And in the spirit of the big tent, I’m also embracing the essays on mediocre players worth remembering  — like Mose Solomon, who the New York Giants and their legendary manager John McGraw had hoped to turn into the Jewish Babe Ruth.

Jeez, I’m even holding my objection (and my nose) at the inclusion of Corey Pavin, the greatest Messianic Jewish golfer of all time.

In some cases, their sports might not be sports. Or their talent might not be so great. Or their Jewish bona fides not so Jewish. But at least they’ve all put on the uniform — or in Lerman’s case, the bib — and competed.

Unfortunately, Foer, the editor of The New Republic, and Tracy, formerly a writer-blogger at Tablet and now a member of Foer’s TNR staff, don’t stop there when it comes to stretching the definition of Jewish jocks.

Nearly a third of the 50 essays in their anthology center on figures who simply are not jocks. They include owners (Al Davis, Mark Cuban); coaches (Red Auerbach, Red Holzman); a commissioner (Bud Selig); two sportswriters (Shirley Povich, Robert Lipsyte); a broadcaster (Howard Cosell); a labor leader (Marvin Miller); a boxing cutman (Whitey Bimstein); a bookie (Arnold Rothstein); and an early Zionist leader (Max Nordau).

Worst of all is the decision to include the first public editor of The New York Times, Daniel Okrent, for creating Rotisserie baseball. So what we have now is a book that purports to celebrate Jewish jockdom but somehow confuses poring over stats on a computer with hitting home runs, knocking down jump shots and scoring touchdowns in real-life games.


How do you include Theo Epstein, for using his perch as general manager of the Boston Red Sox to embrace an increasingly stats-driven system of player evaluation, but not Youkilis — the embodiment of the revolutionary approach, whose efficiency at the plate helped Boston end its legendary World Series schneid and whose fielding inspired the greatest anti-Mel Gibson rant of all time (courtesy of Red Sox diehard and standup comic Dennis Leary).

All these non-jocks, but no room for Lenny Krayzelburg? A year after winning gold at the Olympics in 2000, he skipped the World Championships to compete in the Maccabiah Games?

What about Ryan Braun? OK, he may have juiced, but he also won the National League MVP in 2011. Or hoopster Jordan Farmar, whose multiracial background reflects the changing makeup of the Jewish community (not to mention his having led UCLA to the Final Four, winning back-to-back NBA titles with the L.A. Lakers and playing for Tel Aviv Maccabi in 2011)? Or Farmar’s teammate in Israel, Jon Scheyer, who played a lead role in helping Duke win the NCAA title in 2010?

Foer and Tracy insist they’re just cracking  a “Jewish joke” by reserving slots in their pantheon for non-jocks, with the punchline seeming to be: What do you expect from two journalists (presumably with no game) who went to the same progressive Jewish day school (with no football team)?

“It would be as absurd to ask us to enjoy sports without engaging our Jewishness as it would be to ask us to live our lives without engaging our love of sports,” the duo writes. “So we have gone ahead and made Howard Cosell a Jewish Jock. If you want to blast that out of the park, be warned: it’s our curveball, the only kind we know how to throw — in part because when we were kids, we never did learn the traditional kind.”

Talk about a hanging curve. The joke is on them: Cosell hated the idea of ex-jocks serving as broadcast analysts. And presumably he’d give Foer and Tracy a Cosell-style talking-to about applying the jock label to a man of such intelligence and erudition.

By blurring the lines, Foer and Tracy end up contributing to the perpetuation of a mass Jewish psychosis — that we are fated to stink at sports. And that’s too bad. First, because the book is a great read, with compelling and creative takes on well-known stars and folks you’ve never heard of. But, more importantly, because a people that can lay claim to all-time greats like Sandy Koufax and Mark Spitz has no business suffering from a sports inadequacy complex.

Can't fault Youkilis for being honest

Posted on: February 15th, 2013 by Ron Kaplan

First love. First care. First house. These are things we will always remember, hopefully fondly, even if there wasn’t always the smoothest of sailing.

Add this to the fact that it must have been a really slow sports news days and you can imagine my frustration with the big deal being made about remarks made by the Yankees newest thirds baseman.

Youk was among the first to report to training camp so naturally he was the object of a lot of reporters’ affections on Valentine’s Day, desperate for a quote, an angle, a story.

So when Youkilis said “I’ll always be a Red Sock,” you just knew it wouldn’t take long to blow it up and plaster it all over the back pages.

One thing I kind of objected to: the description of Youkilis as the Yankees’ “fill-in third baseman.” Intentional or not, I find that almost a bit insulting. And given Alex Rodrgiuez’s present situation…

That’s about what you’d expect from the Post, which today carries a bikini-clad photo of the late girlfriend of Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius with the headline “Blade Slays Blonde: Legless Olympian arrested.”

People of the book: Jewish Jocks wins award

Posted on: February 8th, 2013 by Ron Kaplan

Franklin Foer, left, and Marc Tracy.

Congratulations to Franklin Foer, Marc Tracy, and all the contributors to Jewish Jocks: An Unorthodox Hall of Fame, which is among the award-winners as selected by the Jewish Book Council.

The book, a collection of appreciations for Jewish athletes by an eclectic group of writers, won as best anthology.

The JBC will hold an award ceremony on Thursday, March 14 at 8 p.m. at the Center for Jewish History, 15 W. 16th Street, in Manhattan. The event is open to the public.

For more information, visit JewishBookCouncil.org.

Closing out the year: The top 10 Jewish athletes

Posted on: December 28th, 2012 by Ron Kaplan

as per Jewocity.

The eclectic group includes:

  1. Aly Raisman (Olympics)
  2. Ryan Braun (baseball)
  3. Ian Kinsler (baseball)
  4. Nate Freman (baseball)
  5. Jo Aleh (Olympics)
  6. Dara Torres (Swimming)
  7. Yossi Benayoun (soccer)
  8. Anthony Ervin (Olympics)
  9. Michael Cammalleri (hockey)
  10. Adam Greenberg (baseball)

Not sure what the criteria was but the only one that raises my eyebrows is Cammalleri, who had a very contentious season. If one has to pick a hockey player, I might have gone with Eric Nystrom, who will coach the U.S. hockey team at the next Maccabiah Games. But overall, this is a nice collection (and at least everyone on it is actually Jewish; not like those who insist on including guys like Julian Edelman or Amar’e Stoudemire).


Book Review: Jewish Jocks

Posted on: November 26th, 2012 by Ron Kaplan

A Unorthodox Hall of Fame, Edited by Franklin Foer and Mark Tracy
Twelve Books, 304 pages, $26.99.

By Dave Hollander

“It’s gotten thicker” said a colleague when I flashed him my review copy of Jewish Jocks: An Unorthodox Hall of Fame. He was, of course, referencing the old joke, told in some variation or another:  Q “What’s the thinnest book ever written? “ A “Jewish sports heroes. “ There lies some historic truth in the jest.  In 1948 (hard to believe the annum was coincidental) when Harold Ribalow convinced Bloch Publishing to print  The Jew in American Sports, Hebraic boxing legend Barney Ross (included in Jewish Jocks) wrote in the book’s preface  that he “wonder[ed] that any publisher should consider [the book] sufficiently salable to risk the publications costs.” Ribalow’s compendium provided glorious sketches of twenty-eight athletes. Sixty-four years,  later Jewish Jocks offers fifty different writers on fifty  different sports figures.  I guess it has gotten thicker.

Or is pro-sports finally post-Semitic? When I grew up, it used to be that anytime anyone in our family noticed a potentially Jewish sounding name in a sports page – Cohen, Shapiro, Grossman or a last name suffixed  with a -stein, -berg, -taub, etc.  —  we’d postulate with cautious optimism:  “Is he Jewish?” But since then, haven’t enough sons and daughters of Abraham come along that it’s not a really a big deal any more if someone in the NFL, NBA or MLB is Jewish?   To wit, I offer a tipping point.  During an August 16, 2006 Red Sox telecast  ( I urge you to YouTube this now) , actor/comedian  Denis Leary joined the broadcast booth for some banter at which time he was informed that Kevin Youkilis, the Sox first baseman, was Jewish.  On cue, Youkilis made a defensive gem; a diving stop of a hard ground ball in the hole on the second base side, then neatly tossing  to Curt Schilling covering first base to complete the out.  Leary erupted in a hilarious tirade against Mel Gibson, whose inebriated Jew-hate  rant toward a California police officer only two weeks earlier conclusively  bestowed the rank of anti-Semite upon the Aussie actor.  “Where’s Mel Gibson now, huh?” crowed Leary, channeling a little Sam Kinison.  “He’s in rehab, and Youkilis is at first base! Alright, Mel?  You happy Braveheart? You see that grab, Mel?”  It goes on for a good several minutes .  The sight of the hulking , hyper-competent, World Series champion Youkilis set against the sounds of the honest, edgy, Irish Leary’s riff said clearly to me:  it’s over.  Jews in sports are no longer a surprise

So when I heard about Jewish Jocks, I hoped for a book that took us beyond retributive footnotes like the Leary-Youkilis-Gibson incident, or the mournful athletic-less linkage to the Munich Games, or the lame taunting canard that Jews don’t play sports.  For this, Jewish Jocks gets my brucha.  Editors Franklin Foer and Mark Tracy do an admirable job, earning automatic inclusion in any Judaic collection and a respectable place in any sports bibliography.

At first, the Introduction by the editors (Foer, the once former now current editor of The New Republic and Tracy, staff writer for The New Republic, formerly at Tablet) put me off.  “Our pantheon includes people who in some cases, couldn’t even run the bases.”  In fact, almost one third of the fifty entries are not “jocks” but sports “figures” who did not distinguish on any fields of play.  “So,” Foer and Tracy further disclaim  “we went ahead and made Howard Cosell a Jewish Jock.  If you want to blast that out of the park, be warned: it’s our curveball, the only kind we know how to throw — in part because , when we were kids, we never did learn the traditional kind.”  They sound like a stereotype of the stereotype. It recalls to mind an August 2005 piece in Slate by Neal Pollack (a Jew) “The Cult of the General Manager” where Pollack lamented that we are living in a time where “sports fans” idolize non-athletes instead of athletes.  “We’re in a sports age in which Executive of the Year is an award on par with the MVP. “ he declared. “Heroes don’t analyze spreadsheets. Really, who would you rather be, Tom Brady or the guy who signed Tom Brady to a long-term deal? This may be the age of the general manager. But the quarterback still has more fun. “  I’m in Pollock’s camp, but alas this is the world we live in and if you don’t let the non-jocks get in the way, you’ll enjoy Jewish Jocks a lot more.

It’s not easy to put together a book like this. When one creates any “hall of fame” — particularly sports related —  debate follows. As you read Jewish Jocks, you may quibble with omissions. Is it too early for Ryan Braun? Why include Bud Selig and not David Stern?  Care to make an argument for Sue Bird?  I would.  And speaking of arguments, Rod Carew due to the technical absence of a formal religious conversion has been kept out of every Jewish sports hall of fame, despite the fact that he has been living more Jewishly than most Jews in this book and elsewhere.  Such sports talk fodder aside, there can be no arguing that Jewish Jocks delivers hall of fame writers and writing. It’s a staggering collection of awards winners; Pulitzers, Mann Bookers, bestsellers, Editors in Chief.   Behold household literati like Buzz Bissinger, David Brooks, Stephen Dubner, Jonathan Safran Foer, Jane Leavy, Deborah Lisptadt, George Packer, David Remnick, and Lawrence Summers, to name-drop a few; each members of the tribe reflecting on their own.  Some wax with love, some with skepticism, some with awe, some with derision, and all with ample research . Really, for sheer literary and journalistic power in 2013, it doesn’t get much better.

The very first essay by Simon Schama on the 16th century British pugilists Daniel Mendoza reads lyrically  like an elegiac ballad.  Timothy Snyder educates us on Max Nordau’s “muscular Judaism” of the late 1800’s.  Rebecca Newberger Goldstein meditates humorously on “heightism” while recalling the diminutive basketball star from the Lower East Side, Barney Sedran. We stunningly learn in “Fencing for Hitler,”  Joshua Cohen’s section on Helen Mayer, the “strange and inexplicable fact that more Jewish Fencers were murdered in Nazi camps, then were accomplished athletes of any other sport.”  Judith Shulevitz writes insightfully but none too kindly of Olympic swimming icon Mark Spitz.  I was a little weirded out by Sam Lipstyte’s onanistic focus in the chapter he handed in on his father, sports writer Robert.  And I laughed out loud reading  Jeffrey Goldberg’s line regarding wrestler Bill Goldberg’s crossover appeal:  “In addition to believing the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Hezbollah gunmen believe that professional wrestling isn’t staged.”  If I had to choose a personal favorite, it’s  Kevin Arnovitz’s short, sharp, vivid tale of Nancy Lieberman , the pioneering women’s basketball player, who took the A train from Far Rockaway to Rucker Park on a regular basis, accompanied by boys you don’t meet in Hebrew School — boys who became lifelong friends — who were welcomed, kind of, by Nancy’s mother for some kitchen table hospitality knowing that these guys assured her daughter’s safe passage.  I wonder if that house in the Rockaways still stands, after Sandy.

What’s compelling  about a book like this is that ultimately it’s a book about us.   Sports marketers call it “basking in reflected glory.” (see:  Cialdini, Robert, et. al., “Basking in Reflected Glory: Three (Football) Field Studies”, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1976. )  By publicly identifying with the accomplishments of others, particularly others like us in some way, we feel better about ourselves and hope everyone else does too.   Now that that book of Jewish sports heroes has indeed gotten thicker, maybe in sports we should take more credit more often.   Like Linsanity did for Asian-Americans, we could use a little more Jew-sanity.  Let’s do it not only when gymnast Aly Raisman chooses Hava Nagila for her floor exercise in proud defiance at the 2012 Summer Olympics. That was beautiful.  But see it everywhere in sports.  See it like Michael Phelps does.  He knows that there’s no way he gets his record eight gold medals in the 2008 games, passing  Mark Spitz, if not for the super-mensch effort in the anchor leg of 4x100m freestyle relay from  Jason Lezak, a Jew.

Dave Hollander is a clinical assistant professor at New York University’s SCPS Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism, and Sports Management.  He is the author of three books and currently working on his fourth.


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