Tuesday, February 28, 2012

To Play or Not to Play

This question of playing or not playing is usually discussed around Yom Kippur when Jews are usually, not always, let down by our Baseball Super Heroes who decide to play ball over praying in shul. But recently a different type of sitting out has caught the attention of Jewish sports fans everywhere. Should a Jewish team, and I could go as far as say any Jew, play competitive sports on Shabbat?

When I was a Sophomore in High School there was a lot, well at least internally, of hype for my basketball team.  We lined up with 3 Jewish kids 6"3 or taller. We had a point guard who started all year long as a Sophomore. And now it was Spring League. This was a time that for us private school kids, to get a shot at the big boys. We played against some of the better teams in the state and usually won a game here or there. But that year we found ourselves in the playoffs against Providence St. Mel, which at the time was a powerhouse. We upset them and it felt good. I know it was only Spring League, but to beat a team of that caliber at any time was unique for my small Jewish school. Our next game was scheduled on Shabbat and could not be moved. I remember this dilemma; go against school rules and play or adhere to my traditions and let all the hard work I put in go to waste. In the end we didn't play in the game, we forfeited. It ate at me for days. But looking back at it, not playing had far more of an impact on my life than playing.

A few years ago, Solomon Schechter High School in Hartsdale found itself in an even bigger dilemma. Their game was scheduled immediately after Shabbat. The team chose to play in the game and form a Shabbaton at a nearby Hotel for family and friends of the players. They turned a tough situation into a learning opportunity.

But recently in the news several Jewish teams are having to end their seasons early. A few weeks ago Ida Crown Jewish Academy's wrestling team became the first Jewish high school to win their regional. Read more HERE. But Coach Doug Klein was honest that his players, if they made it to the State Championship as a team or individual, would not compete on Shabbat. The story just happen again recently in Dallas. Beren Academy was recently forced to forfeit their season because they refused to play on Shabbat. Click HERE to read more.

While this problem is hurtful for our Day School students, who impart choose Day School so that they can participate in sports and other extra-curricular activities that don't interfere with Shabbat and Holidays, it is also hard for public school students. Games, tournaments, and even practices are held on Shabbat which is the Jewish day of rest. It does not seem fair for any player or team to have to choose their religion or their sport.

What can be done? What should we do?

Well, for one thing I think we need to realize that the teams and individuals who make their Judaism a priority should be applauded. They are standing up for all of us. Secondly, I think it is time for States/Regions to begin to realize that Friday nights and Saturday afternoons are potential problems. If the NBA and NFL can have games listed as TBA, why can't High School sports? Our States need to change the times of the games when this does occur and we as fans of Jewish sports and parents of these kids should advocate for that.

This problem will continue and its tough to swallow. We live in a world that should celebrate our abilities on the field or court and not jeopardize our faith and beliefs. We as a community need to work hard to not only set an example for our kids but also put them in the best situations to succeed. It is a big hope of mine, and in part one of the reasons that I write this blog, that our decisions are framed not in a Sports vs. Judaism way rather Sports and Judaism.

And Let Us Say...Amen.
- Jeremy Fine

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner - Braun Avoids Suspension

Mr. MVP will remain Mr. MVP forever. No doubt or asterisk. Braun avoided his 50 game suspension. Read more HERE

Mid Way NBA Report

The world has been taking by storm via Lin-sanity. But we here in the Jewish world, well, we are still waiting for something to spark. Last year, Mark Cuban assembled a NBA championship and won it over Micky Arison. This year we do not have anything near that great of a story....yet. Let's take a look at how the Jewish NBA looks mid-way through the year.

Omri Casspi has found a home in Cleveland. The Cavs are 13-18...much better than last year. Casspi has started all 31 games he has played in. He is averaging 7.6ppg, 3.4rpg, and 1.4 assists. The Cavs are getting better and Casspi energy and consistency is a big reason why.

Jordan Farmar has shown some of the spark he gave Maccabi Tel Aviv. Farmar has given the Nets, who are getting better, a lift. Although recently sidelined by a groin injury he has averaged 10.5ppg, 3.3apg, and 1.6 rpg. His scoring has helped Deron Williams on the court and allowed him to take a breather mid-game.

The Detroit Pistons are bad. At 11-24, they are last in their division. Without any superstars it will be tough for Lawrence Frank to save the Pistons. Drafting Brandon Knight and Greg Monroe certainly are a start, but even if Rodney Stuckey continues his hot streak the Pistons are in for a long season.

Mark Cuban's Mavs are 21-13, second in the Southwest behind the Spurs who have been on a roll. Could the Mavs come out of the West, sure. But they will need another ridiculous run and maybe one more piece to the puzzle.

Micky Arison's Heat are tied for the best record in the NBA. Even without Dwayne Wade's best season, his other investment in Lebron James has provided tremendous on the court performance. The Heat should coast to the Eastern Conference Finals.


Last but not least in David Kahn, GM of the Minnesota TimberWolves. A few years back people were ripping his draft choices. But with Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio shining it is hard to doubt his picks. Derrick Williams is a little bit of a project but if he pans out, those 3 could really be the future of basketball. Johnny Flynn might have been a bust but the T-Wolves are at .500 and 1 game out of a playoff spot.

And Let Us Say...Amen.
- Jeremy Fine

Monday, February 20, 2012

Top Ten MLB Stories Going Into 2012

Crazy to say but Spring Training is on deck. Last year saw the emergence of new Jewish ball players and most importantly MR. MVP Ryan Braun. But plenty of questions continue to swirl and TGR has decided to tackle them even before the season starts.

10) Minor Arms to Major Guns
Can both Michael Schwimer and Aaron Poreda make it back to the Major Leagues. Schwimer should eventually find his way onto the Phillies roster. But can Poreda, in his new Pirates uniform, find his way back to the bigs.

9) NY Infield
With Ike Davis healthy and Josh Satin being called up to the majors, can these two serve together as Met infielders? Health and opportunities, that is what these two need.

8) Feldman Back in Full
Scott Feldman made a comeback last year, enough to earn him the TGR Sandy Koufax Award. He showed signs of what made him so good a few years back, but this time out of the pen. What will 2012 hold for Feldman?

7) The Lavarnway
Yes Kelly Shoppach and Jarrod Saltalamacchia are higher on the depth chart, but is Lavarnway the Sax catcher of the future? I am excited to find out.

6) Kinsler the (Ball) Killer
Can Ian Kinsler continue to be one of the most valuable players in baseball. He runs, hits for power, hits for average, can hit in many spot in the lineup. He is a big reason the Rangers have been so successful the last two years. Can he, we are confident he will, be the great player he has been.

5) Super Sam Sighting
Last year Sam Fuld took baseball by storm. He was Chris Shelton hot. While his bat cooled down, his web gem highlight reel on ESPN did not. Can Fuld stay in the lineup just with his defense? Can the hot bat he swung at the beginning of last season find its way back with more longevity?

4) Boston Comebacks
Jewish fans (and Boston fans) want to know if Kevin Youkilis and Ryan Kalish can come back from their injuries. Obviously, Youk is more important to the Sawx success and Kalish has shown promise and without the moves we have grown to expect in Boston during the off-season, a healthy Kalish would be a welcomed addition.

3) Minnesota Marquis
Will a new team make Marquis the top tier pitcher the Nationals once paid him to be? Marquis will can a chance to help a team with who needs a consistent starter. He should be helped by the always defense first Twins.

2) Youngsters Ready to Grow
Will Satin, Davis, Lavarnway, Schwimer, Danny Valencia, and Paul Goldschmidt find their place in the the majors? Can they be significant players in the bigs?

1) Will Mr. MVP Become Mr. MVP*
The steroid buzz around Ryan Braun has one of the main MLB stories of the off-season. How will Braun handle it? Will he return in top shape? Will his protest reduce his 50 game suspension? He is a big reason the Jews have a renewed attention to baseball. We are rooting for him to come back strong.

Get ready for baseball season! And please, Adam Dunn hit the ball.

And Let Us Say...Amen.
- Jeremy Fine

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Best Jewish Sports Characters

Ready for the Oscars? Today TGR looks at the Top 10 Jews to play a character/athlete in sports film. Some great films and characters to be considered, but we chose our favorites. On the side their will be a poll to vote for the number Jewish actor to play an athlete in a film.

Honorable mentions go to Jon Favreau as D-Bob in Rudy, Daniel Stern as Brickma in Rookie of the Year, and Rhea Perlman as Coach Phyllis Saroka in Sunset Park. Also big shout outs to two Jewish athletes who appear in movies. Bill Goldberg for is roles in Ready to Rumble and The Longest Yard and Kevin Youkilis for his role in Milk Money. And Jon Voight who is not Jewish but a huge fan of Israel for his role in Varsity Blues as Coach Bud Kilmer.

10) Randy "Macho Man" Savage as Bone Saw McGraw - Spiderman

9) Daniel Stern as Cyril - Breaking Away

8) Adam Sandler as Bobby Boucher Jr. - Waterboy

7) Shaun Weiss as Goldberg - Mighty Ducks 1-3

6) Charlie Sheen as Oscar "Hap" Felsch - Eight Men Out

5) Emilio Estevez as Coach Gordon Bombay - Might Ducks 1-3

4) Adam Sandler as Happy Gilmore - Happy Gilmore

3) Walter Matthau as Coach Morris Buttermaker - Bad News Bears

2) Rodney Dangerfield as Al Czervik - Caddyshack

1) Charlie Sheen as Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn - Major League 1 & 2

Enjoy the Oscars and if you haven't seen these movies, check them out!
And Let Us Say...Amen.
- Jeremy Fine

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Check out this amazing article about Ida Crown. Standing up for their beliefs and representing on the mat. Click HERE.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Interview: Eric Fishkin and the Staples Center

 TGR got a hot tip from Rabbi Erez Sherman, one of the TGR correspondents. Eric Fishkin has all the scoop on the Staples center from the Lakers, Clippers, and the Pac 12 Tournament. Its going to be an awesome Jewish heritage night. Bring your Purim masks!

1) Tell TGR a little bit about yourself. 
I graduated from North Carolina State University in 2010 with a B.S. in Sport Management and Business.  During school, I interned for Anschutz Entertainment Group, AEG, here in Los Angeles.  About a year and a half after graduation I realized this is where I want to be and what I want to do and was afforded the opportunity to come back and work in their sales department.  I now handle all events STAPLES Center, Nokia Theatre, L.A. Live, and Home Depot Center.  It was just two months ago that I moved permanently to the Los Angeles area.  It is an unbelievable opportunity that I am very grateful to have received.

2) How did you get involved with AEG?
Look back at number 1 – I interned in the summer of 2008 and came back out around October of last year for an interview and the rest is history!

3) What is the coolest thing you have seen at the Staples Center?
The events.  My office is located in STAPLES Center and I am fortunate enough to see the court change to ice and vice versa.  When clients are in suites for different events, it is our job to be there and make sure they are doing well.  Never use it for personal use :)

4) Obvious question. Lakers or Clippers fan? Who is better this year?
I am actually new to the area and have a different perspective on this rivalry than most, however, I think I am a Clippers fan.  Clippers are better this year , although the loss of Billups might really hurt.

5) Is Lob City that amazing in person?
It is.  Watching Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and Chris Paul in person is pretty incredible.  It is great to see a fan base that has struggled for decades to have something to be proud of.  There are definitely the bandwagon fans that are coming out of the woodworks; however I am very happy for the true fans that have stood by the team.

6) Whats going on at the Staples Center for Jewish heritage night?
We are calling it Jewish Community night.  It is going to be an awesome event.  We have some of the biggest local cantors singing the National Anthem.  Cantor Nathan Lam from Stephen S. Wise, Cantor Arianne Brown froTemple Sinai, Cantor Don Gurney from Wilshire Blvd Temple, and Cantor Alison Wissot from Temple Judea.  There will be Kosher food available for purchase in the main concourse, and a Purim themed costume competition on the STAPLES Center roof (City View Terrace) before the game.  We will have fun group experiences, PA announcements, and Jewish Community specific discounts for the different organizations and families.  The event will be held on Thursday, March 8th for the Pac-12 Basketball Tournament Men’s Quarterfinals.

7) What is it like hosting the Pac 12 tournament? Anything people should be aware of?
 I am still pretty new and not very familiar with the back end of things, however I do know we are working extremely hard to make this event a success.  Each school receives a certain allotment of tickets that they can distribute to their network of customers.  It is then our job to make sure the rest of the stadium is full and to create an atmosphere that is enjoyable for our fans.  This is why STAPLES Center, with the help of many local Jewish organizations created this night for the Jewish Community.  To not only make this night fun and exciting, but to build a relationship with the Jewish Community.

8) Best thing Jewish about Los Angeles?
 The best thing about being Jewish in Los Angeles is the acceptance and the fact that there is such a large Jewish population.  Los Angeles as a whole and as a community is very diversified and tolerant.  This has nothing to do with religion, but the weather and people are amazing!

Thank you to Eric. If I was in LA you know I would be there.
And Let Us Say...Amen.
- Jeremy Fine

Friday, February 10, 2012

Proud to Be an Ace

Unprecedented Double Regional Championship Titles This Week! 
Varsity Lady Aces Win Regionals 
Wrestlers Take Regional Championship Title Sat. Night
girls bball 

For the first time in ICJA history, two teams became IHSA regional champions this week! 
   Following this week's astounding championship win by the wrestlers, the Lady Aces just won their regionals tonight, February 9 against North Shore Country Day School, 43-38. Congrats to the girls and their coaches. (More details on the game to come next week.)
   Congratulations to the Aces wrestlers on winning the IHSA Regional Competition on motzaei Shabbat, February 4! Congrats to the coaches, Doug Klein, Elie Saltzman, Bill Porter and Danny Robinson, and the reserves, Jason Greenspan & Eli Bernstein.
   The wrestlers took 1st place in the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) regional tournament - out of nine teams. With wrestlers in only 12 of the 14 weight classes, Ida Crown wrestlers had four in 1st place, four in 2nd place and four in 3rd place. Every member of the team contributed to the victory.  
   The team is the first Jewish high school wrestling team to win at the regional level and the first time that any ICJA sports team has won at this level.
   The regional was a very close three-way race between ICJA, defending champs Walther Lutheran, and Gordon Tech. ICJA edged Gordon Tech by 4.5 points & Walter Lutheran by 5 points. It was the most closely-contested 1A region in the state. Both Walther and Gordon are strong squads with state-ranked wrestlers. This marks the best team result for any Jewish wrestling team ever in any comparable competition. It also marks one of the few times a Jewish high school sports team has won a state qualification tournament in any sport in the country. 

Following are the individual scores:

106  Noah Lewis 2nd place
120  Zach Cohn 1st place
126  Zack Bernstein 1st place
132  Nirel Kakon 1st place
138  Barry Greengus 3rd place 
145  Natan Nagar 3rd place 
152  Ezra Kapetansky 3rd place 
160  Brennen Muller 2nd place 
170  Eitan Redlich 1st place 
182  Gabe Michael 2nd place 
195  Mack Muller 3rd place 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Tough Super Bowl Loss #2

Robert Kraft and the New England Patriots lost Super Bowl XLVI.

Julian Edelman had 3 kickoff returns averaging 24.3 yards per return with a high of 31.

Time to turn our attention to the NFL offseason.

Super Bowl Prediction

With Robert Kraft and Julian Edelman, I got to go with the Patriots.

Pats - 20
Giants - 17

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Where is the Next Big Jewish Basketball Star?

The NBA is up and running. Omri Casspi is starting without very impressive numbers and Jordan Farmar remains a solid backup on the verge of leading a team. Since everything is status quo with our star NBA players, TGR begs to ask the question, who is next? (Not a Goldberg reference).

In the college game right now, our upperclassmen and top scorers play for small schools. Certainly Zach Rosen and Jake Cohen will have a chance to play overseas, but it is unlikely either will make the NBA. Corbin Moore and Chris Wroblewski have improved but there chances are even dimmer. 

If we look at some of the younger players at top programs, we have a few. Jacob Susskind at Maryland, Danny Rubin at Boston College, and Nate Lubick at Georgetown. As of now none of them show NBA caliber potential  but should improve at these big time programs. Also, next year Aaron Liberman will join the Northwestern Wildcats. At 6'9 he is a project but could have some potential if he puts on weight, but again NBA is very unlikely.

So we look overseas to Israel. I bring to you Idam Zalmanson, a 6'9 forward who is only 16 and already playing with the pros. He is not draft eligible until 2017, but with his size could make Zalmanson the next big Jewish star. He was pre-draft already by Maccabi Tel Aviv, so he will get top competition and European recognition.

Of course, there is the outside chance that Jon Scheyer or Sylven Landesberg put it together and make a run at the NBA, but neither has been NBA impressive in their short time in Israel. Landesberg is averging 21.8 ppg but his team has been a big let down at 3-12.

So watch out for Zalmanson even if its a little ways away, so until then enjoy the Casspi and Farmar moments.
And Let Us Say...Amen.
- Jeremy Fine