Category Archives: Jewish

Jewish athletes, Jews in sports, Chico Resch’s use of Yiddish during broadcasts, sports in Israel. Kind of.

Mergers of the Tribes

Mergers and acquisitions aren’t reserved for failing banks or technology companies: Turns out there’s excitement and kvelling in the Jewish themed consumer goods arena.

Jewish Fashion Conspiracy had its run and their products sidled over to PopJudaica. In addition to “Jews for Jeter” t-shirts and matzah-print toilet seats, they put six-points of light into a bunch of housewares. It’s funny, quirky stuff.

Today ModernTribe announced they’re buying PopJudaica. Hip chanukiot, CBGB-inspired shirts and other coolness reign.

At some point, I’ll pester them about carrying the Jewish Hockey Book. I just have to finish writing it first.

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More Jewish Baseball T-Shirts

My “Jews For Jeter” t-shirt provided comfort, good luck and naches during the Yankees’ championship run. But if you’re a Mets fan, the off-season came early, without celebration or pre-holiday post-season splurges at the local Dicks or Sports Authority.

Take heart, fans of the injury-prone but get’em next year Amazins: New Rome Clothing has something equally sacrilegious for you. You can have “Messiah” embellished with the mogen david, sporting Sandy Koufax or Hank Greenberg on the back.

Tip of the yarmie to ESPN: The Magazine for the New Rome pointer.

Ou Sonts Les Habitants?

OK, my French is horrendous, my high school French teacher wants to rescind the award that she gave me upon graduation for “excellence in studies” and L’Academie Francaise is going to put a contract out on my tongue. Quelle frommage.

I don’t get the hockey writer’s negative sentiment about the Canadiens this season. Sure, goaltending is a question mark, but as Scott Clemmenson showed last season, scoring goals and playing as a team outweighs having a Vezina in the cabinet. Their top line of Gomez, Cammalleri and Gionta is far from the biggest in the NHL but it’s going to put up a lot of goals. If nothing else, they win the diversity award for having a Jewish guy with an Italian surname (yes, Cammalleri is a menorah man) and a Latino turning Francophone.

I think the Bruins-Canadiens games are going to return to the all-out, end to end, blood lust grudge matches of years ago. And those games may end up deciding who wins the Northeast Conference. I’m not a hockey writer, nor do I play one on TV or even on this blog, but I think the conventional wisdom is neither when it comes to the Habs this year.

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MoCCA and Jewish Comics

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m finding little to write about in the hockey world (and won’t have much to say until the draft and free agency roll around). At the same time, I’m moving more and more of my non-work related blogging, rambling and insanity here. Hence the new categories. I’d like to say that I’m doing it to mess with Google’s AdSense algorithms, but that implies far greater reach and impact than I have. I’m doing it because blogging about a variety of topics is like daily exercise for your brain.

This weekend is the annual Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art Festival. Finally having outgrown the semi-random floor layout in the Puck Building, this year the show moves up to the 69th Regiment Armory in New York City, on Lex between 25th and 26th streets (and according to the my sister, the home of some truly great Indian restaurants). In addition to seeing personal favorites Jeph Jacques, Meredith Gran and Richard Stevens, I inevitably find some new Jewish-themed artists, writers or print materials. There’s a great summary of Jewish-themed comics and their presence at MoCCA at the Jewish Comics blog. Last year I had a short but informative conversation with Miriam Libicki, whose comics about serving in the Israeli Army gave me a tremendous perspective of what my two “adopted Israeli daughters” will face when they enlist this summer. I discovered Joann Sfar and her Klezmer-themed comics, one of the bases for a 2007-08 Princeton University freshman seminar. And of course, Meredith Gran is Jewish; Steven’s Diesel Sweeties character Pete is Jewish; and Jeph Jacques has captured enough OCD in Hannalore to make me wonder if she (or the artist) has a Jewish mother hiding in that well-ordered family tree.

I’ll be tweetin’ and meetin’ from 11am on Saturday, with my newly-minted Moo cards literally in hand.

Return of Jews For Jeter

In t-shirt form, at least. After sitting shiva (electronically) for Jewish Fashion Conspiracy, the company that originated the “Jews For Jeter” t-shirt I was faced with a quandry about my favorite Yankees t-shirt: wear it and risk Premio sausage stains rendering it unfit for a trip outside, or retire it like an out-of-print Beanie Baby? Fortunately, the shirt has been picked up by Pop Judaica’s store. So the shirt is outdoor-safe, but I have to lay off the Carvel: it only comes in sizes up to XXL.

If you’re wondering what the fakokta letters are on the front, it’s not a funky pair of silent hebrew letters – it’s the two loudest letters on the East Coast – a stylized NY. I guess interlocking them would have been confusing to the reader.

The Other Kippy

Kippy, the Flames goalie with a goofy nickname, has given up 3 goals on 9 shots tonight. One was on a power play and one was a misdirection that fooled all three Flames pretending to occupy the slot, but this isn’t good for those of us who wanted to see Mike Cammalleri do his thing late into May.

There are two characters nicknamed Kippy. One is a goalie, the other is a Hebrew-speaking, 5-foot tall porcupine. Tell me which is more whacked.

Bending Space-Time

It’s late, the Devils just pulled out a game that they had won, then lost, then won again because Patrik Elias can reshape physics, Brian Gionta’s passes and all bounds of sensibility to score goals. Hockey isn’t well suited to TV, because so much of the play develops away from the puck; it’s a game of position and movement, not of following the puck with a long camera angle. The TV shows you Patrik tipping in Gionta’s pass from along the boards; what you don’t see is that Patrik starts cutting into the slot, anticipating a pass, stick down, ready to make a variety of plays.

The Dec 19 Ottawa game had another moment like that: Elias has the puck down low, and Oduya drops in from the point. The pass from Elias to Oduya was timed so perfectly that even I could have put that one in the net, relying on momentum, simple geometry and elastic collisions to convert puck kinetic energy into fan kinetic energy. What you don’t see on TV is that Elias timed the pass with nothing more than a passing glance at Oduya; it wasn’t enough of a look to make the defense shift or even have a winger drop and follow Oduya. Seriously – Elias gives the Large Hadron Collider a run for the money when it comes to bending space-time in fortuitous ways.

And for those following the home version of Calgary’s game, Mike Cammalleri continues to be the Ex-King of Alberta, netting a hat trick in last night’s game against the Sabres. Eight goals in four games. Kind of like the All-Star Game, except he did it against guys back checking and playing something resembling defense. When the Flames have a playoff game on pesach, I think he gets a matzos pass.

Cammalleri Is (Not A) King

I’ve had a soft spot in my Tri-State area hardened hockey heart for Mike Cammalleri since last season. Playing for the Kings, he seemed out of place, out of (contract) time and out of luck. The guy can skate, shoot and create plays; he is (flame suit on) the Jewish Scott Gomez at a greatly reduced price. He was the first Flame this season to reach 20 goals (ahead of All-Star Iginla). He’s tied for 7th in the league in points. His face-off win percentage looks like a money center bank failure rate since the season began. On November 27, he had a hat trick on three shots. 100% face-off wins is one thing; 100% goals on shots is freaky. Oh yeah, he’s only 26.

The Flames are riding high in their division, 9 points ahead of rival Edmonton. A playoff run is not only possible but expected; how well the team continues to play into the spring will answer questions about chemistry and off-season moves that included bringing Cammalleri north from LaLaLand. It begs the larger question of exactly what the Kings were doing by not making sure they had a spot for him, and used him literally and figuratively as the center of a rebuilding effort. Cammalleri commands about $3.3M from the Flames this year; he’s an unrestricted free agent this summer (thanks to the new CBA that lowers the UFA age and only signing a 1-year deal). If the Flames go deep in the playoffs, riding high on Mike HaMelech (Mike The King), expect some Flame-hot money love. Otherwise, he’s a hot property who has shown that given the right environment, he can create offense – even if none was taken in LA.

3rd Annual Israel Ice Hockey Tournament

It’s not a joke; it’s an annual gathering of Jewish puck heads in the sole ice sheet with Jewish soul. The Israel Ice Hockey Tournament is a chance to play hockey in the northern town of Metulla, at the Israel Canada Center (home of various Olympic figure skaters and the Israeli national ice hockey team — also the only place that lists “buffet” as an activity on the daily tote board).

I’m thinking seriously about going, and would be willing to organize a team of “C” or “D” level skaters to compete representing the United States of Beer League and Mezuzot. And if the hockey slap shooting isn’t so great, there’s a wonderful school for security guard training fairly close by where you can rent an Uzi by the clip for target practice.

Trip Eights: Beijing Begins

With a tip of the propeller hat to the Beijing Olympics, I wore a USA hockey jersey to a training class today (I was one of the co-instructors; we all wore hockey jerseys representing USA, Russia and the Ukraine). Right theme, wrong Olympics, but for some reason I’m finding it hard to get excited about these Games. Some of the malaise is that the summer games don’t thrill me the way the staggered winter events do; my mental images of the Olympics involve a snowy mountain, cold weather, down jackets emblazoned with small flags wrapped around athletes enjoying a guilty hot beverage. Lake Placid, Garmish, Salt Lake City, Torino. When I think of Los Angeles, Sydney, and Beijing, I think of humidity, oppressive heat, and traffic jams.

I’ve also been looking for the “story” of these games. For years, I’ve tried to balance the horrors of the 1972 Munich Games, which left a deep impression on this 10-year old kid, with the 1984 Los Angeles Games, ones I watched as I packed my things to move, at last, out of my childhood home into my first “real” apartment. Mary Lou Retton proved that in a world of infinite possibilities, sometimes the impossible happens. Summer events since then: doping in track, a USA basketball team that seems to play only when it feels like it, with no sense of playing for something more valuable than a contractual bonus, and baseball’s denouement as an Olympic sport.

The Olympics has also intersected my job as Sun is providing online infrastructure for the 2008 Beijing Games. I’ll be tracking the more obscure events online, both to follow the sports where the unknown athletes (and countries) compete and also to make sure the online experience remains one of which Sun and NBC will be proud.

Bottom line: I’m looking for a hero or heroine. I want to cheer for our gymnasts, watch Michael Phelps prove that the Chinese fixation with the number eight is well-placed (it works for this snowman), and hope that the USA basketball team demonstrates that professional athletes can have an affiliation with a power higher than money: national pride. My personal hope that figure skater turned triathlete turned cyclist Kathryn Bertine would compete at these games ended when Bertine failed to qualify as a cyclist, a two-year training and travel odyssey that she documented wonderfully for ESPN’s E-ticket. Read all 13 parts; it’s a novella-length story with all of the Greek drama you can digest. And of course I’ll follow the Israeli delegation, competing in gymnastics, sailing, judo, and the steeplechase, among other events, because hearing “Hatikva” played at the medal ceremony pushes 1972 further away.

Why all of the fuss over the Olympics? Why would anyone want to train for years, travel halfway around the world, and compete under duress with a billion Internet viewers watching? It’s not like there are endorsement deals for medalists in sailing – Americans want their heroes to play sports that are accessible and recognized, the precursors for commercialization. But that hits the distinction between a professional athlete and an Olympic athlete (with all due respect to hockey players, who are among the few who carry both roles with respect): Olympians are trying to prove they are the best, in the world, at what they do, and do so carrying their country’s shield and colors, not those of their team, college, or corporate sponsor. Everyone has had that longing, at one time or another, to be the undisputed best, whether in sailing, judo, basketball, selling Internet infrastructure, or writing short stories. When it comes down to matters of our own mental and physical facilities, we all dream.

Despite not making it to Beijing, Kathryn Bertine conveyed the moral of her mental and physical voyage quite simply: “Above all else, we owe it to ourselves to show up for our own dreams.” And the Olympics remind us to take that advice to heart, every one of the other 1,420 days between staggered torch lightings.