This Week in Jewish Sports – BAGELS & JOCKS Monday, December 12, 2011
Mama said there’d be weeks like this, and certainly we have chronicled much better weeks for Jews in sports. In today’s edition of Bagels and Jocks, we provide updates for Jewish players in the NHL and NFL, check in on Theo Epstein, question what NBA commissioner David Stern was thinking, and oh yeah, hope that there was a good reason that National League MVP Ryan Braun allegedly failed a drug test this past October.
SAY IT AIN’T SO…RYAN
It had been a dream year for the Milwaukee Brewers’ Ryan Braun, capped by his leading the Brewers to the pennant in the National League Central, a great performance in winning the National League Division Series and his first Most Valuable Player Award—the first won by a Jewish ballplayer since Sandy Koufax in 1963.
Braun has been praised not only for his great play and ability to rise to the biggest occasions, but also for his charismatic personality and high integrity. Indeed, he led all National League players in the mid-season All-Star balloting, which is conducted by fans. This was an even greater feat, when one considers that he plays for a relatively small-market franchise.
Against this backdrop, news that Major League Baseball found Braun in violation of the sport’s drug policy was as shocking as hearing that the Chicago Cubs had won back-to-back World Championships, managed by Steve Bartman.
According to multiple news outlets, drug testing in early October revealed that Braun had shown elevated levels of testosterone in his body caused by an illegal substance, although the substance was characterized as not a drug or a steroid.
Braun is facing a 50-game suspension if his appeal (he has denied any wrongdoing) is denied. There are also reports that Braun had requested another test soon after the one in question; Braun allegedly passed this test, which was conducted by an independent laboratory.
The star outfielder’s statement, a his spokesman, read as follows:
“There are highly unusual circumstances surrounding this case which will support Ryan’s complete innocence and demonstrate there was absolutely no intentional violation of the program,” the spokesman said in a statement, referring to Major League Baseball’s drug testing program. “We are confident that he will ultimately be exonerated.”
Thus far, no player has successfully appealed a similar suspension, and it is fair to suggest that all baseball fans (other than those who may have an irrational hatred for the Brewers, or for young superstar players) are hoping that that there were, indeed, highly unusual circumstances surrounding the case.
I am crossing my fingers while typing this piece—pease excuse any typos.
THE STERN LAW OF DAVID
New York City’s own David Stern, 69, has been the commissioner of the National Basketball Association (NBA) since 1984. His tenure has been a lengthy, productive and highly successful one and he has often been called the best commissioner in pro sports. Whether a huge compliment or a case of being damned with faint praise, many would agree with that assessment. At his best, one might even draw a parallel between David Stern and, well, King Solomon. Well, one might.
With the NBA due to tip off its regular season schedule in less than two weeks, Stern has come under fire from many, with one star player even calling the relatively diminutive commish a “bully.”
In brief, David Stern vetoed a three-team deal between the Houston Rockets, New Orleans Hornets and Los Angeles Lakers that would have—among other things—culminated with star point guard Chris Paul playing with Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. Stern stepped in to, apparently, protect the best interests of the Hornets.
Ironically, his activism ignited a hornet’s nest of criticism. Deron Williams, point guard for the New Jersey Nets and a friend of Paul’s, said of Stern: “You’re fighting a bully. David Stern is a bully, you can’t really go up against him.”
In yesterday’s NewYorkDailyNews.com piece, veteran columnist Mike Lupica called Stern’s veto “an outrageously dumb decision by a smart guy. And a ridiculous abuse of power that went to his head a long time ago.”
Oy vey! What would King Solomon have done?
THEOLOGY: CHECKING IN ON THEO EPSTEIN
The Miami Marlins captured the early headlines by signing the Mets’ Jose Reyes, the Padres’ Heath Bell and the White Sox’s Mark Buehrle. The Anaheim Angels then made an even bigger splash by luring Albert Pujols, the sports’ biggest star, from the Cardinals and signing the Texas Rangers’ C.J. Wilson.
The Cubs, and Epstein? So far, they have inked David DeJesus and Ian Stewart? Who? There are two months remaining until teams report to spring training, and some big names—such as Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder—are still on the market.
Speaking of “on the market,” according to the Chicago Tribune, Theo just paid $3.25 million for a newly built, 7,800-square-foot house, located just blocks from Wrigley Field, according to public records.
Just think: $3.25 million is about on par with the average salary of a Major League Baseball player. Good view optional.
JEWS IN THE NFL
The following Jewish gridiron players showed up in Sunday’s box scores:
Julian Edelman was credited with two punt returns for 18 yards, and somewhat remarkably, three tackles and two assists in the New England Patriots’ 34-27 hard-fought win over the host Washington Redskins. Edelman is often the smallest guy on the field, and is playing defense for the first time this season due to other injuries on his squad.
Erik Lorig, a hulk of a fullback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, does not get to tote the pigskin too often. This has more to do with his position than anything else. He did catch one pass for 22 yards in an otherwise soul-crushing 41-14 loss ot the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Taylor Mays made three solo tackles and had a “pass defended” for the Cincinnati Bengals in their close, 20-19 loss to those surprising Houston Texans. The Texans, despite some key injuries, have clinched the AFC South and their inaugural trip to the postseason.
Punter Adam Podlesh had another big day in a losing cause for the stumbling Chicago Bears, who lost 13-10 in overtime to Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos. Playing without stars Jay Cutler and Matt Forte, the Bears now have trouble generating an offensive attack. Called upon to punt 11 times, Podlesh did so for a terrific 47.8 yard average with four kicks downed inside the 20.
In a related story, Tim Tebow (religious, but not Jewish) is now 7-1 in his eight starts this season.
In a more unsettling story, Igor Olshansky, a Ukranian-born defensive tackle, was waived by the Miami Dolphins at the end of November. On December 1, he was arrested in Broward County, Florida as part of an undercover bust; he was found with 19 grams of marijuana.
SOME GOOD NEWS FROM THE NHL
Eric Nystrom, of the Dallas Stars, has been skating on much thicker ice than Olshansky. Not known for his scoring touch prior to this season, Nystrom is tied for this team’s lead with 10 goals. The Stars are tied for first place in a very close Pacific division.
On this relatively upbeat note, that is all for this week’s edition of Bagels and Jocks. 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.
Filed Under: Bagels and Jocks: This Week In Jewish Sports
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