Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another

thescroll_header

An Orthodox Jewish Cowboy

The football kind, that is

Print Email
This year’s Lombardi Trophy, which will go to the winning team Sunday night.(Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

We learn in the New York Times today about Shlomo Veingrad, a former Green Bay Packer and Dallas Cowboy offensive tackle who should probably be counted as among the best Jewish football players since Sid Luckman led the Chicago Bears to NFL championships in the 1940s, if for no other reason than that he wears a Super Bowl ring! (He was on Dallas’s 1992 championship squad, from before the Cowboys started sucking.) Now, an observant Jew, he tours Chabad houses talking about how he rediscovered his religion when a Green Bay, Wisconsin, shop owner took him under his wing.

The article contains this provocative meditation on how Jews feel about Jewish athletes:

For Jews, abundant as fans but uncommon as top players, the visibility of a Shlomo Veingrad serves both reassuring and cathartic roles. Having a Jew to root for—whether Hank Greenberg, Sandy Koufax or the Israeli N.B.A. rookie Omri Casspi—“has a lot to do with our desire to define ourselves as Americans in the most American way, which is sports,” said Jeffrey S. Gurock, a history professor at Yeshiva University and the author of Judaism’s Encounter With American Sports.

At a deeper and more anxious level, American Jews continue to grapple with the stereotypical view of the Jew as egghead, nerd, weakling. That dismissive portrayal was a staple not only of anti-Semites, but also of early Zionists, who envisioned their “new man” with his plow and rifle as the antidote to the “golus Yid,” the exilic Jew unable even to defend himself.

A Jewish ballplayer is one thing; a Jew on the ultra-violent, no-holds-barred gridiron—and one who plays not one of the daintier skill positions like quarterback, or wide receiver, or even cornerback (or even, HaShem help us, kicker), but offensive lineman—might be the ultimate “new man.” Anyway, if sports are America’s (mostly) harmless, (mostly) guilt-free outlet for all those primal tribal urges that are best not put to more consequential use, then surely the original Tribe deserves to get in on it, too.

Oh, and a reminder for Sunday night: Jews have no special obligation to pull either for the Indianapolis Colts or the New Orleans Saints. It’s usually more fun to root for the winner, though, so you should probably root for the Colts. The Scroll’s pick: Colts (-6) over Saints.

An Offensive Tackle Named Shlomo [NYT]

Earlier: Jewish QB Got Zero Playing Time

Print Email

COMMENTING CHARGES
Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

WAIT, WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY TO COMMENT?
Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

I NEED TO BE HEARD! BUT I DONT WANT TO PAY.
Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at letters@tabletmag.com. Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.

2000

Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

An Orthodox Jewish Cowboy

The football kind, that is

More on Tablet:

Why the Teenage Girls of Europe Are Joining ISIS

By Lee Smith — Because they want the same things that teenage boys want: a strong sense of meaning and purpose