TOP 10 Jewish Athletes of 2012 – Thursday’s Top Ten List
Created by Matthew J. Goldberg, tipofthegoldberg.com
It has been another momentous year for Jewish athletes, and picking a Top 10 is not an easy task. Of course, no self-appointed task should be too easy, just fun, right?
Baseball and the 2012 Summer Oympics dominate the list; that should come as no surprise. Let’s count down the Top 10 Jewish Athletes of 2012. Kudos to them, and feel free to sound off below in spirited agreement or gentle dissent. Or vice versa.
10. ADAM GREENBERG
The record book will show that the outfielder had only one at-bat—on October 2 for the Florida Marlins—versus the Mets and their Cy Young Award-winner R.A. Dickey. Greenberg struck out on three pitches, but the point was that he got an opportunity to step into a big league batter’s box seven years after his MLB career consisted of just one pitch—a pitch that struck him in the head and changed his life. His determination to get back was admirable and he has battled hard over the last seven years to hold onto that dream. Kudos to the Marlins for giving him that opportunity. Greenberg also suited up for Team Israel in the qualifying round of the World Baseball Classic, and just signed minor league deal with the Baltimore Orioles.
9. MICHAEL CAMMALLERI
By Cammalleri’s high standards, it wasn’t the best of years. He got traded from the Montreal Canadians to the Calgary Flames, and is now being locked out of the 2012-13 NHL season. When he did play (2011-112), he had 20 goals and 21 assists in 56 games.
8. ANTHONY ERVIN
He was, easily, one of the most eclectic personalities of the Olympics and not only because of his ethnic dualities—Jewish on his mom’s side, and Native American and African-American on his dad’s. At age 19, he won gold in the 50-free at the 2000 (Sydney) Olympics, but within three years, he stopped swimming competitively and even auctioned off his medals (he also swam to silver in a relay) to benefit victims of the tsunami.
Ervin returned to competitive swimming last year and found a way to once again make the powerful U.S. Olympic Swim Team. He qualified for the finals of the 50-free once again, and did well, finishing fifth against a pool of younger opponents.
7. YOSSI BENAYOUN
Perhaps, Israel’s best known soccer player (footballer), the midfielder now plays for West Ham United (England), on loan from Chelsea. I’m still not sure why soccer players (I know…footballers) are loaned out more often than library books, but the man has skills…or is it skillz?
6. DARA TORRES
At age 45, the legendary swimmer almost qualified for yet another Olympic appearance, finishing fourth (and just 0.32 seconds behind the winner of the 50m freestyle) at the U.S. Olympic Trials. She had been the oldest swimmer on the women’s team 12 years ago, and has earned 12 Olympic medals (three of each type) during her remarkable career.
5. JO ALEH
The 26-year-old native of Auckland, New Zealand and her partner Polly Powrie, (nice alliterative name) sailed to Olympic gold in a competition known as the 470 class. I think that means she sails in a two-woman dinghy that is 4.70 meters long. My expertise only extends so far.
4. NATE FREIMAN
The 6’7” first baseman, who starred at Duke, was the power-hitting phenom of the short World Baseball classic qualifiers for Team Israel. Nate had two two-homer games in the qualies, but it wasn’t quite enough for Israel to advance past Spain in the finals.
3. IAN KINSLER
The Texas Rangers’ second baseman made a third All-Star Game appearance, while being the leadoff man and sparkplug of another dynamic offense. His stats dipped slightly from his 2011 numbers, but he still scored over 100 runs for the fourth time in the last five years.
The superstar left fielder of the Milwaukee Brewers successfully appealed what would have been a 50-game suspension, and then proceeded to play just as well as he did in his 2011 MVP season—despite the added scrutiny and without Prince Fielder batting behind him. Braun hit .319, hammered a career-high 41 homers, drove in 112, scored 108 and stole 30 bases. He led the National league in runs scored, homers and OPS (on–base percentage plus slugging average).
Okay, it took quite a performance or two for a gymnast to beat out an MVP-caliber MLB player on my list, and that’s exactly what Aly Raisman did this year. When you captain the U.S. Olympic team—aka the Fierce Five—to gold, come in fourth (really a tie for a bronze, but barred from the podium due to a silly gymnastics technicality) in the all-around and win two more individual medals (a gold in floor and a bronze in balance beam), you deserve the #1 spot.
Aly was that great, and her success was all the more enjoyable as she showed herself to be graceful, gracious, articulate—and also a great teammate and a consummate sportswoman. She not only soared through the air to the infectious beat of Hava Nagila, but spoke about the 11 members of the Israeli delegation who were slain by terrorists at the Munich Games of 1972. The young lady also showed her support for the petition to hold a Minute of Silence at the Opening Cermonies—which was, of course, denied in an act of great cowardice by the IOC and their president, Jacques Rogge.
On that golden note, this concludes my list of the Top 10 Jewish Athletes of 2012. As always, feel free to share and to comment below. If you have a suggestion for any future lists, please also comment below or send me an email.
Matthew J. (call him Matt) Goldberg will be presenting a Jewish-style Top Ten list every Thursday on this site. 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. His new Facebook Fan Page (“to like, to like, l’chayim”) can be found here.
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