by Sala Levin
The Super Bowl is upon us, and this year the New England Patriots (owned by Robert Kraft, heavily involved in Jewish philanthropy) and the New York Giants (partly owned by Jewish businessman Steve Tisch) are facing off in Indianapolis. (Or at least so we’re told. The other week someone had to explain to us how many points a field goal was worth. Three, right? Yes. We just Googled it.) Plus, Madonna is this year’s halftime performer, so we should expect some Kabbalistic magic. In honor of the Super Bowl’s Jewish connections, here are a few notable Jewish sports stories of semi-recent years.
- Amar’e Stoudemire, power forward for the New York Knicks, announced in 2010 that his mother was of Jewish lineage, and embarked on a “spiritual and educational” trip to Israel, where he took to wearing a kippah and keeping kosher. (The practice has sort-of-but-not-quite continued: Stoudemire told Bon Appetit “I figure if you want to have a strong body, why not eat kosher?” But his cholent-loving personal chef admits that “if Amar’e had a good game, he might want crab legs, or maybe lobster macaroni and cheese.”) As of late 2011, Stoudemire had a rumored interest in opening a Hebrew school. Please hurry, Amar’e–without your guidance, how will the Jewish children of New York know how to put together the perfect Purim costume?
- Jeffrey Toobin’s 2011 New Yorker piece about Fred Wilpon is an excellent look at the personal and professional struggles the New York Mets owner has faced in the wake of the Bernie Madoff scandal. Though he and brother-in-law Saul Katz face a lawsuit that could find them liable for as much as $386 million, Wilpon is still holding on to ownership of the financially struggling Mets.
- For a certain group of us who grew up in the Baltimore/Washington, DC corridor at the turn of the century, the name Tamir Goodman carries a very specific meaning: the potential to be deeply immersed in both the religious and the secular world; the sacrifice of putting personal beliefs before professional gain; the possibility of being a Jewish kid who could play some serious basketball. The Baltimore-raised “Jewish Jordan” garnered national attention, perking up the ears of University of Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams. Goodman ultimately attended Towson University, where he was allowed to sit out of games played on Friday nights or Saturdays. Though Goodman no longer plays basketball, he recently introduced the “Sports String Tzitzit,” a garment that “features hi-performance properties and a compression fit.” We’ll take his word for it.