Bagels and Jocks: A Weekly Examination of the Jewish Sports World- Monday, January 28, 2013
Bagels and Jocks took a rare week off last week, as I was in Israel for a family Bat Mitzvah (actually a B’not Mitzvah) for a couple weeks. Having only been in Eretz Yisrael on two previous occasions, I savored the opportunity to both visit this remarkable country and spend precious time with my brother and his family.
GETTING BACK INTO THE SWING – FOR NOW
Having said the above in truth, I did go through more than just a little withdrawal. My wife decided to forego the trip to spend time with her Mom, who is battling health issues, and my son stayed with her. Nothing compares to family, and I missed them greatly. In truth, I also missed my routine—which includes, perhaps, an inordinate amount of sports viewing and discussion. I had a great time in Israel, and the time went by too quickly, but none of that time was spent watching a minute of TV or listening to a second of radio. Even my time online was greatly reduced. Am I schvitzing over this? How shallow can I be? A little bit, and I’m not sure…thanks for asking.
Since starting Bagels and Jocks in September, 2011…admittedly not that long ago…rare has been the late Sunday into early Monday that wasn’t spent digesting late results and other news so that my Monday morning column would at least be fairly current and topical. And hopefully, interesting, witty and just a little quirky. Last night was spent still fighting jet lag and an overall lack of sleep; I was on Jersey time while in Israel and am now on something resembling Jerusalem time. More accurately, I’ve been on Hawaii time in both venues.
In the meantime, I missed the NFC and AFC Championship Games, although I started checking scores of the Atlanta Falcons versus the San Francisco 49ers (someone more computer savvy than me may have been able to see a live stream) when the host Falcons were up 17-0. I’m sure you know that Colin Kaepernick (does that last name sound just a little Jewish to you, too?) and company rallied for a comeback 28-24 win to earn their spot in Super Bowl XLVII, which of course, will be contested on February 3 at the Superdome in New Orleans. I wasn’t surprised that the Niners won, as they have the look of that team with a ferocious defense and an insanely talented young quarterback.
Just a little later, I stayed up late…or was it early…getting reports on the AFC game between the host New England Patriots and the visiting Baltimore Ravens—a rematch of last year’s contest that saw the Pats squeeze by. Tom Brady and company were up 10-7 and driving for a touchdown just before halftime, but had to settle for a field goal. Who would have foreseen that in the second half, Brady would throw two picks while oft-derided Ravens QB Joe Flacco would hurl three touchdown passes. Who, indeed, but it happened, as the Ravens won handily, 28-13.
Of course, this all sets up an all-Harbaugh (coached) Super Bowl, between older brother John (Ravens) and “little” brother Jim, the first time two brothers have ever competed—as coaches or players—versus one another in the Super Bowl. They did meet once before in a Thanksgiving Day 2011 contest that was captured by John and the Ravens. So, who will win the Harbowl or Bro Bowl or Harbro…you get the idea.
Naturally, you would want the prognostication of someone who predicted a Packers-Broncos matchup, and I’m here to help. I predict that thoir father,Jack (a terrific coach in his own right), mom, Jackie, and sister Joani will be both ecstatic and inconsolable after Super Bowl XLVII. That’s assuming that they like and love their sons/brothers equally, of course…and what’s with all the names starting with “J?”
BROTHERLY LOVE II: ALL FOR SECOND CHANCES?
It’s not every day that the general manager of a Major League Baseball Team consults with the ADL, the Jewish Federation and area rabbis before solidifying and announcing the acquisition of a new player. That is what happened when Philadelphia Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. (who is Jewish, maternally) considered whether or not to sign Delmon Young.
Such consideration had nothing to do with the fact that Young, despite being the first pick in the 2003 Amateur Draft, has shown only flashes of that potential in his six previous MLB seasons. It had nothing to do with whether he would provide enough of a potent bat from the right side to more than compensate for his lack of speed (one stolen base in his last two seasons…combined) and mediocre defense in left field, although he may shift to right as a Phillie. Such discussions probably didn’t even mention a 2006 Minor League incident in 2006 when in frustration he flung his bat, which hit the home plate umpire in the arm. He was suspended 50 games without pay for that stunt.
Amaro’s consultations had almost everything to do with an off-the-field incident of Young’s that made headlines in the Jewish press (including Bagels and Jocks) and, of course, elsewhere. Last April, while a member of the Detroit Tigers who were in New York to play the Yankees, Young was involved in a confrontation in which he verbally and physically accosted a group of tourists who had apparently given money to a panhandler. In the attack, the reportedly inebriated Young screamed anti-Semitic epithets at the men.
Per a piece by David Alpert of the (Philadelphia) Jewish Exponent:
In considering the decision, Amaro consulted with experts in the local Jewish community. “I spoke with the ADL, the Jewish Federation, Rabbi Joshua Bennett,” Amaro said, referring to the spiritual leader of Temple Israel in West Bloomfield, Mich., with whom Young has bonded and discussed his situation over the past year. “We had the longest exchanges about this,” noted Amaro. “We on the team did our due diligence and are sensitive to what happened.”
It all hit home for the general manager, whose mother is Jewish. He grew up appreciating Jewish holidays and history and he is a member himself of the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. After all, he said, with an appreciative tongue in cheek, “My girlfriend is Jewish — and some of my best friends are Jewish.” He said he met with Young for three hours to discuss the matter and now considers the New York to-do “an isolated incident.” Young could not be reached for comment but he told the local media when his hire was announced this week:
“That’s not who I am. You get into one situation and all the labels are thrown around,” he was reported saying. “Get to know me and then make judgments for yourself.” Amaro reiterated view to the Exponent. “He made a mistake that really doesn’t depict the kind of person he is,” he said.
I have mixed feelings about the signing, but do believe in extending second chances…or is this a third chance? Obviously, any kind of hateful display of anti-Semitism, racism or epithets (to say nothing of violence) directed at any person or group is completely abhorrent to me, but people can and sometimes do change for the better. Has Delmon Young changed? I am in no position to judge that. I sincerely hope he has, or at the very least, certainly hope that he will be involved in no more such incidents—regardless of what is in his heart. It will be a plus if Young’s redemption takes the form of him being a positive force in the community.
To be frank, I’ll settle for no more incidents from the new Phillies outfielder, and as a Phillies fan, hope that he will produce enough clutch hits to get us into the postseason again. I’m aware that I’m not setting the moral bar very high here.
SAYING GOODBYE TO STAN THE MAN
It would be nice if our greatest teachers, entertainers, writers, scientists, artists and sports immortals (to say nothing of our friends and family) were, well, immortal. Obviously, that’s not how life works and last week, the sports world said goodbye to longtime Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver and all-time great St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Stan “the Man’ Musial.
If it is possible to be considered one of the ten greatest players of all-time (most baseball historians would rank Musial somewhere from #5-10) yet somehow be underrated, that may describe this incredible, classy career Redbird. The pride of Donora, PA, who passed on January 19 at the age of 92, was a three-time National League Most Valuable Player and seven-time batting champion (among a boatload of achievements) who made the All-Star team every season between 1943 and 1963 (he missed 1945 due to military service).
As great as he was, he was somewhat overshadowed by early contemporaries Joe DiMaggio (1936-1951) and Ted Williams (1939-1960), and later by the likes of Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. As amazing as Musial’s career was, he didn’t have that 56-game hit streak (DiMaggio) or ever top .400 in a season (Williams) or even reach career milestones such as 500 homers (he settled for 475) or 2,000 runs scored or RBI (he fell just short in both categories, although he still ranks sixth all-time in RBI and ninth in runs).
On my mythical all-time baseball team, would I pick Musial as my leftfielder? It’s close. Most would consider Musial, Williams, Barry Bonds (I realize the taint) or Rickey Henderson (an egomaniac, but a prodigiously talented one, who was a winner) for this spot. My indecision would be an old-school debate: Musial or Williams? You could not go wrong with either, but I may lean toward Stan as a slightly better all-around player, and as a teammate who it appears nobody ever said a bad word about. He was called “The Man” for a reason, you know. So, give me Musial, and complete the outfield with Mays in center and Babe Ruth (I’ll even settle for Aaron) in right. You can complete the roster with members of the 1962 Mets and even I would find a way to manage this bunch to 100 wins.
For more on Stan Musial, please check out this January 26 piece on cbs.com.
RIP, Stan the Mensch.
With all this written, it is now time to say goodbye to this space for my Bagels and Jocks columns, and I’ll try not to burden my little farewell.
While this and my Tuesday thru Thursday columns have been paid (albeit in about the same way that dropping a shot glass of water on my head constitutes a shower), it has mostly been a labor of love. When I connected with the owner of this site slightly before embarking on this relationship in September, 2011, I proposed three weekly columns, the signature one being Bagels and Jocks. At the time, I just considered doing some kind of weekly look at the Jewish sports world, and was not even aware of other blogs…written at whatever intervals…that cover this ground in some way.
As a connoisseur of word play—to say nothing of my love for sports, writing and Jewish culture—I came up with the name “Bagels and Jocks” and was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t seem to be taken. Although this column has only been in existence for almost one-and-a-half years, I feel that it has found a very solid rhythm and hopefully has taken a unique approach in combining some measure of passion, pride, sports insight and humor…along with the occasional, if errant, prediction. It has evolved from mostly factual reporting to more commentary and the opportunity to do interviews with others in the thriving Jewish sports world.
Along the way, I have met some great people, if mostly (thus far) through email exchanges and the occasional phone conversation sparked by various columns that I have written. I have enjoyed the conversations and if you have read my pieces (okay, even if not all of them), I hope that you found them of some value.
Shortly before my trip to Israel, I was informed that this site would be going in another direction—away from the blogs—and I wish jewocity.com all the best. I am looking for more ways to resume and improve upon what I have been able to create with Bagels and Jocks, and frankly, turn my passion, work and talent into something more resembling a living.
I welcome further exchanges with readers, including those potentially interested in giving me a space for a bigger, better (pardon the cliché) Bagels and Jocks, and possibly my other columns. As an accomplished public speaker, I remain open to putting together interesting presentations for your company or organization, and I also look forward to future emails and other exchanges.
It has been fun, and I also sense that the fun is now just beginning.
Shalom, and my best to you, your teams and of course, your families.
Matthew J. (Matt) Goldberg
PLEASE NOTE: As of now, this concludes my Bagels and Jocks columns for jewocity.com. It has been a great pleasure to put these pieces together, and thank you as always for your reads and comments. Please feel free to stay in touch for future developments, as I do intend to find new homes for Bagels and Jocks, my Top 10 lists, my Gold Notes columns and my Wordapods. Below, please find a couple of my points of contact, including email.
For more information about Matt’s new co-authored book, A Snowball’s Chance: Philly Fires Back Against the National Media, please visit this link.
For information about my books, sports columns, speaking events and requests for appearances and custom writing, please visit www.tipofthegoldberg.com. (information on the site to be updated real soon) or contact me via email. My new-ish Facebook Fan Page (“to like, to like, l’chayim”) can be found here. If on Twitter, please check @tipofgoldberg.
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