Bagels and Jocks: A Weekly Examination of the Jewish Sports World- Monday, December 31, 2012
With our heads still spinning from all of the NFL action, there’s only one focus for today’s column…although we will also take time out to recognize a special (baseball) birthday boy.
The regular season is now over; the real fun now begins. Here’s a quick recap of what went down yesterday, and a look ahead as to what to expect (possibly) starting next weekend.
Starting with the AFC, the Denver Broncos rode another big day from MVP candidate Peyton Manning (304 yards passing and three touchdowns) in beating up on those hapless Kansas City Chiefs, 38-3. In so doing, they clinched the No. 1 seed in the conference; with 11 consecutive victories, they will be a very tough out.
Peyton’s old nemesis, Tom Brady and his New England Patriots, will—if things hold according to form—be the biggest obstacle in his path to another Super Bowl appearance. Or, should I have phrased that the other way around? Brady has five appearances and three wins; Manning has only two and one, respectively. The Pats had an easy 28-0 win over the Miami Dolphins.
The Houston Texans were once sitting very pretty at 11-1, with the expected home field advantage in the AFC. Not used to so much prosperity (evidently), they lost three of their final four contests to slip to the No. 3 seed. They will host the Cincinnati Bengals, who have won their last three.
The 4 versus 5 game will pit the Baltimore Ravens against this year’s most surprising team—the Indianapolis Colts.
For what it’s worth, I do expect the Broncos and Patriots to mix it up for a place in Super Bowl XLVII. Whether it’s just his season to shine or he has all of the right ingredients around him, I do think Manning and his Broncos will find a way to get to New Orleans.
The Atlanta Falcons retained the top seed, despite dropping a (fairly meaningless) last game versus the so-so Tampa Bay Buccaneers. On the other half of the NFC draw is the San Francisco 49ers, who came within a fumbled punt in last year’s NFC Championship Game of their first Super Bowl entry since the Steve Young and Jerry Rice days.
Green Bay lost a 37-34 heartbreaker on the road to division rival Minnesota in what may have been the most exciting game of the 2012 (regular) season. The Packers’ reward? They lost their first-round bye and the chance to host either the Vikings or the San Francisco 49ers in the conference semis. Instead, now they have to beat that same Vikings team for the right to travel to San Fran for the semis. Per Sunday’s game, it says here that it matched the two best offensive players in the game (with apologies to the Lions’ Calvin Johnson, and Brady and Manning) at their absolute peak. Whoever happened to have the ball left was going to find a way to win, and the Vikings—behind a wondrous 199-yard game by Adrian Peterson—were able to edge Aaron Rodgers’ almost flawless 365-yard, four-touchdown gem.
The 4-5 game will be an intriguing affair matching Robert Griffin III and the host Washington Redskins (who have won seven straight) and the Seattle Seahawks (who have taken five in a row behind fellow rookie signal caller Russell Wilson).
For what it’s worth, I can envision anyone but the Minnesota Vikings winning the NFC, and it’s even hard to rule them out when the most dynamic player in the league lines up in their backfield. When all is said and done, something tells me that Aaron Rodgers and company will find a way to beat the odds and win the NFC Championship Game in Atlanta over the Falcons.
So…who will win the Super Bowl? Give me a few more weeks (and if needed, two different teams to choose from), and I’ll tell you. And even then, please take my predictions with a box of salt…and yes, even then, do avoid such sodium intact. Heck, just enjoy the games.
HAPPY 102ND BIRTHDAY TO…HAMMERIN’ HANK
His legend is eternal, and if he actually lived to be 120, the great HANK GREENBERG would still have another 18 more years. Yes, the great former Detroit Tigers legend who is widely considered to be one of the two greatest Jewish ballplayers of all-time, would have been 102 years young tomorrow, on New Year’s Day.
A new biography on the former two-time MVP and Hall of Famer, Hank Greenberg: The Hero of Heroes, will be published by New American Library (Penguin) in March, 2013. Author JOHN ROSENGREN provided the following couple snippets about the immortal first baseman; more can be found on www.hankgreenberg.net.
The majority of Jewish immigrants settled in New York City. Many didn’t get farther than the Lower East Side ghettoes. David Greenberg, from Romania, made it to Greenwich Village, where he started his family on the second floor of a tenement house at 16 Barrow Street, between Bleecker Street and Fourth Street Avenue. The third of David and Sarah’s children was born forty-five minutes past midnight on January 1, 1911. Sarah meant to call him Hyman, but the man filling out the birth certificate did not know that name, so he wrote down “Henry.”
Throughout high school, he went by Hyman or Hymie or Hy. He signed his senior picture in his high school yearbook, “Hy Greenberg.” Frugal and hard-working, David Greenberg bought shares in the Acme Textile Shrinking Works and eventually owned the company himself. When Hymie was six, David had saved enough to move his family to the Bronx countryside, into a sixteen-room, three-story house at 663 Crotona Park North. It was a step up economically into a middle-class, predominantly Jewish neighborhood. Hymie looked out the large front windows, past the horse-drawn wagons in the road, and saw the lush hickory trees and rolling green hills of Crotona Park. That’s where Hymie learned to play baseball and began his assimilation into American culture and his transformation into a mythical icon they called “Hank.”
Here is one more quite enjoyable nugget from the site:
Ryan Braun, the 2011 National League MVP, spent holidays at his maternal grandfather’s home in Van Nuys, California, where he hit Whiffle balls in the back yard. That home used to belong to Hank Greenberg. “It’s very cool, and ironic,” Braun told The New York Times.
(One more amazing coincidence: If Greenberg isn’t considered the greatest Jewish player to ever set foot on a major league diamond, then that unofficial distinction would belong to Sandy Koufax. Koufax’s name at birth was Sanford Braun. So, Ryan Braun, the greatest Jewish player of the modern era (and arguably, already the third greatest Jewish player), has unique links to the top two.)
On that almost eerie note, it is time to sign off from today’s edition of Bagels and Jocks. See you next Monday right here. Please feel free to share some dialogue below. If you would like to bring another Jewish athlete, mover-and-shaker (or issue) to my attention, please reply below or contact me by e-mail.
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About the Author: An author, speaker and custom writer from Cherry Hill, NJ, Matt loves to entertain people through his writing and public speaking. Laughs, Smiles and just enough Wisdom reach his audience through the magic of his written and spoken words. More about Matthew