This Week in Jewish Sports – BAGELS & JOCKS Monday, February 20, 2012
The NBA and NHL seasons are now at the midpoint or later, March Madness is approaching and pitchers and catchers are starting to report to spring training. It’s about time! So, this all means that today’s Bagels and Jocks will open with…a story about a terrific all-Jewish champion high school wrestling team from Chicago?
PINNING DOWN GLORY – AGAINST ALL ODDS
I would like to give a friendly shout-out to Ronnie Masliansky, an avid sports fan, reader and friend of Bagels and Jocks. Ronnie is also a transplanted New Yorker who still loves the Yankees but now aligns with the (Chicago) Bears and Bulls. An observation: If you root for the Bears and the Bulls, are you always satisfied with the state of the financial markets? Or, always dissatisfied?
But back to the topic at hand. Ronnie made me aware of a terrific story from the Windy City that didn’t involve Da Bulls, DA Bears-sss or even Da Blackhawks. The Cubs? Think again. How about the Aces—the champion wrestling team of the Ida Crown Jewish Academy?
The team’s achievements have been praiseworthy enough to garner the attention of Chicago’s CBS-2 affiliate, as seen on this clip.
The Ida Crown Jewish Academy team made history by becoming the first all-Jewish high school squad to capture an Illinois regional wrestling title. The unit—under the direction of first-year coach Doug Klein—displayed superior skills on the mat and terrific tenacity away from the arena.
To win the regional title, Coach Klein needed to petition the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) to move the regional event from Saturday morning till after sundown. As Orthodox Jews, of course, the team members could not compete during Shabbat. The petition was successful, but even with that gracious accommodation from the association, the team still wrestled with one arm tied behind its back. Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but in the words of regional champion (126 pound) wrestler Noah Bernstein.
“It’s really tough because a big part of just getting to the match is making sure your weight is low enough. I have to check my weight throughout the day that I am not going over it, but when it was on Shabbat you can’t use a scale.” Did that mean that they had to skimp on their delicious Friday evening meal?
Despite the obstacles they had to overcome, including some talented grapplers from opposing teams, the Aces prevailed. Because the state wrestling tourney was scheduled for Friday night and all day Saturday, they were not able to compete at states. Several of the wrestlers would have qualified to compete for individual honors.
So, mazel tov and kol ha kavod to the Aces. It is always nice when scholarship, dedication, sportsmanship and athletic prowess all come together. They took it to the mats and came out on top.
Jordan Farmar and the New Jersey Nets are still struggling. They are languishing at 9-23, six-and-a-half games behind the New York Knicks—who, riding the wave of Lin-sanity, would capture the eighth and final seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs if the standings hold for the second half of the season.
Somehow, they came into Chicago Saturday night and routed the Bulls (who are 25-8) 97-85, in a result that was never in doubt. Farmar, who averages more than 10 points and three assists as a very productive bench player, played only a bit role—scoring four points with no assists in ten minutes of action.
Speaking of those Knicks: After winning a remarkable seven straight games (that coincided, not so coincidentally, with Jeremy Lin becoming their starting point guard), the Knicks finally fell to earth on Friday night, dropping an 89-85 decision to the otherwise struggling New Orleans Hornets.
Ama’re Stoudemire had a solid game, leading the way with 26 points and 12 boards. Lin once again put up big numbers, with 26 points, two rebounds, five assists and four steals. The bad news? He had nine turnovers. The good news? The humble Asian-American Harvard grad who has captured the sports world (and beyond) with his play as well as his beguiling mix of confidence and humility is, alas, human. He also blamed himself for the loss, earning him even more high marks.
On a Sunday matinee at Madison Square Garden, the Knicks bounced back to defeat Mark Cuban’s defending champion Dallas Mavericks 104-97. While Stoudemire had a quiet game (11 points and seven rebounds), J-Lin again stuffed the stat sheet while playing a game-high 45 minutes and 36 seconds. He did turn the ball over seven times but more than made up for that with 28 points, four boards, a new career-high 14 assists and five steals. He even swatted away a shot for good measure.
Coach Lawrence Frank’s Detroit Pistons are relatively hot, winning their last two and six of their last 10. Frank does not have the luxury of coaching a LeBron James or a Kobe Bryant—or anyone approaching that stratosphere of ability. If he does lead the Pistons to a playoff berth (at 10-22 coming into Sunday’s action, they are five-and-a-half games out of playoff contention), he should receive some votes for NBA Coach of the Year. Of course, that’s easier said…
Omri Casspi’s Cleveland Cavaliers are two games back of the Knicks at 11-17. The 23-year-old Israeli forward still starts at small forward, but has only shown flashes of his marksmanship and overall talent this season, his first with the Cavs.
PITCHERS AND CATCHERS
The following five words—“pitchers and catchers report today”—are music to the ears of Major League Baseball fans. We are getting very close, and in fact, most of baseball’s 30 teams are in the midst of the arrival of pitchers, catchers and injured players. For most teams, Spring Training begins in earnest by March 2. Many teams will have full squad workouts by this week’s end.
A decision on NL MVP’s Ryan Braun’s appeal of his 50-game suspension for violating MLB’s substance abuse policy still has not been reached. Braun made his appeal more than four weeks ago. It is hard to read tea leaves here, but the hope is that Braun did not willingly violate the policy and that the arbitration panel, led by Shyam Das, is proceeding with all due diligence and fairness. The panel is certainly taking a long time to render a verdict. If the appeal is upheld, it will be all the sweeter; if denied, even more bitter.
EVAN KAUFFMAN: SKATING FOR GERMANY
Sunday’s New York Times print (and Saturday’s online edition) carried a fascinating story by Jere Longmann about Evan Kauffman, an American Jew who once starred for the University Of Minnesota hockey team. On February 10, Kauffman became one of very few Jews to represent Germany at the highest level of international sports since World War II and the first in ice hockey since the 1930s. Kauffman may also be the most visible such athlete to have had family members murdered in the Holocaust, according to sports historians and Jewish officials.
“He (Kauffman) would recall feeling a tingle of excitement. He felt something else, too, emotions that crisscrossed like the laces of his skates. He was proud to wear the jersey but also solemn about what history had done to the name on the back. His great-grandfather starved to death by the Nazis. His great-grandmother herded to extermination on a train to Auschwitz. His grandfather shuttled between ghettos and concentration camps, surviving somehow, finding a displaced sister after the war, pushing her from a hospital in a wheelbarrow after her lower left leg was amputated because of frostbite.”
This piece may indeed provoke strong emotions; I do think it is worth reading.
One more shout-out: Thank you to my friend, Jean Avila, for linking me to this story.
On that note of thanks, 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 or mover-and-shaker to my attention, please contact me via this site or by e-mail.
Matthew J. (call him Matt) Goldberg will be taking a look at “This Week in Jewish Sports”) every Monday on www.jewocity.com. Please send feedback or suggestions to Matt@tipofthegoldberg.com.
For information about Matt’s books, sports columns, speaking events and requests for appearances and custom writing, please visit www.tipofthegoldberg.com, or contact him via email.
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