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No, it’s not a joke

Talented writers reveal real ‘Jewish Jocks’

By Kurt Rabin

The Free Lance-Star

WHAT’S THE shortest  book of all time? the old joke goes. Answer: “Great Jewish Sports Legends.” That’s because Jews were thought to be feeble, bookish and cowardly. Somehow The New Republic’s Franklin Foer and Marc Tracy have turned the subject into a 300-page book. To manage it, they had to include a few coaches, owners and broadcasters.

“Jewish Jocks: An Unorthodox Hall of Fame” includes essays

on the most influential Jews in sports. Besides portraits of the holy trinity of Jewish jocks— slugger Hank Greenberg, hurler Sandy Koufax and quarterback Sid Luckman—there are bios on boxers and hoopsters (athletes among whom Jews were especially well-represented between the World Wars),  a matador, even  a competitive eater.

“Jocks” features work by today’s pre-eminent writers, including David Remnick on Howard Cosell; Jonathan Safran Foer on Bobby Fischer; and Atlantic magazine writer Jeffrey Goldberg on his namesake—professional wrestler Goldberg.

In a Slate magazine interview Foer said the greatest Jewish athlete of all time might well be  Daniel Okrent, the inventor of fantasy baseball who took the Jewish mania for stats and turned it into a national obsession. “In effect, he made us a nation of Jewish nerds,” said Foer.

Illustrated by The New Yorker’s Mark Ulriksen, “Jocks” makes the perfect holiday gift for the Jewish jock on your list, or  anyone who likes great writing.

Kurt Rabin is a copy editor with The Free Lance—Star.


Edited by Franklin Foer and Marc Tracy

(Twelve Books, $26.99, 304 pps.)


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