Jewish Jocks: An Unorthodox Hall of Fame
At first, the title read to me like a line in Jackie Mason’s shtick:“Jewish Jocks? Well that’s an oxymoron if I ever heard one!” What kind of self-respecting, doting Jewish mother would ever let her special son or daughter get involved in the primitive pursuit of contact sports? Jews are great intellectuals, men of letters, serious scholars. We are not known for our dexterity, hand-eye coordination, or athletic acumen. Well, I got it wrong. We have in Jewish Jocks: An Unorthodox Hall of Fame a parade of Jewish athletes of whom we can be proud.
This breezy anthology features many intriguing sports essays profiling Jewish athletes. Highlights include obscure figures such as famous British pugilist Daniel Mendoza. Known as "The Light of Israel," Mendoza was a seventeenth century folk hero and associate of King George famed for his furious fists. Another standout story profiles Nancy Lieberman, a famous female basketball player. Lieberman, shockingly skilled and strategically sound, developed her game as a street baller in New York City and later became the first female NBA D-League coach.
Editors Franklin Foer and Marc Tracy cast a wide net in their pursuit of Jewish athletes, sweeping in a sports agent, commissioner, boxing cutmen, and film producer (Joel Silver, a jock?). Although Jewish Jocks is uneven at times, the array of oddball tales and remarkable characters makes Jewish Jocks a light and entertaining read. Foer's fascination with sports predates this effort, having penned the stellar How Soccer Explains the World, in 2007. Tracy, now on staff at the New Republic, has covered the world of Jewish sports and culture as editor of Tablet Magazine's blog, The Scroll.
Read Marc Tracy's Posts for the Visiting ScribeSports Is Like Hollywood: They're Both Jewish!
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