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Good afternoon, sports fans!
It’s been an exciting month for Jewish athletes across sports — from last week’s Jewish pitching duel to Jewish brothers on the NHL’s biggest stage.
But one of the biggest stories in sports right now is the NBA Playoffs, which have been riveting. All four semifinal series have reached Game 6, with the Boston-Philadelphia series headed to Game 7 this weekend. The Lakers-Warriors matchup offers a cinematic face-off between all-time greats LeBron James and Steph Curry.
It’s safe to say that Hanukkah came early for NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who is no doubt pleased with the big market matchups. And since the NBA Finals run through mid-June, the oil isn’t running out anytime soon.
How Arnold Horween changed Harvard — and America
The 1920s were not an easy time for American Jews.
But over in Harvard Yard, one unsung Jewish hero was quietly changing the culture of American sports.
Arnold Horween, a burly Chicagoan and the son of Jewish immigrants from Ukraine, was unanimously selected as the captain of the Harvard Crimson football team in 1920, and after a few years playing and coaching in the NFL, he would return to Harvard as head coach in 1926.
“In American Jewish culture, the only thing greater than being the captain of the Harvard Crimson, the only higher station in American culture might have been the president, or the coach of Harvard, which he eventually becomes,” said Zev Eleff, the president of Gratz College and a scholar of American Jewish history.
Eleff explored Horween’s story and its impact in his recent book, “Dyed in Crimson: Football, Faith, and Remaking Harvard’s America.” He traces the history of Harvard athletics in the early 1900s, exploring how Horween altered the landscape of America’s most prestigious college.
I chatted with Eleff about his book, Horween’s legacy and how he fits into the pantheon of American Jewish sports history.
EASY, YEEZY. Months after Adidas cut ties with rapper Kanye West over his antisemitic tirades, the sportswear company has finally decided what to do with its enormous stockpile of West’s signature Yeezy shoes. Adidas said it would sell the parts and donate the proceeds to charity, including organizations “that were also hurt by Kanye’s statements.”
GET YOUR HOT DOGS HERE. Wrigley Field vendor Jonah Fialkow, or @JewishJonah as he’s known on TikTok, has attracted a large following with his videos sharing his experience selling food at one of sports’ most iconic venues. Fialkow caught up with the Canadian Jewish News’ Menschwarmers podcast to talk baseball, hot dogs and Jews.
KVELLING. The New Jersey Devils were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Thursday, ending an exciting season for Jack and Luke Hughes. On Sunday night, Luke made his playoffs debut, tallying two assists, while Jack scored two goals and had two assists of his own. Though their season is over, the Hughes brothers’ future is bright — Jack is 21 and Luke is 19.
OUCH. This hasn’t been Max Fried’s season. After getting bested by Dean Kremer last week, Fried landed on the injured list for the second time this season — and this time he could be out a while. With Fried and Atlanta Braves pitcher Kyle Wright both hurt, prospect Jared Shuster may get another chance in the big leagues.
BALL SHEM TOV. The haredi world’s annual Adirei HaTorah event, which draws thousands of men for a night of music and prayer, is set for June 4 at Wells Fargo Arena in Philadelphia. There’s just one problem: that’s the date of Game 2 of the NBA Finals, meaning if the 76ers advance, the event may need to find a new home. The Forward has more on the story.
Israel returns to a soccer World Cup, hoping for a second goal
After 52 years, an Israeli national team will participate in a soccer World Cup organized by FIFA, the global soccer government body.
Israel participated in only one major World Cup, the 1970 tournament in Mexico. But this month, the Israeli youth team will participate for the first time in the Under 20 Cup in Argentina — in the land of global superstar Lionel Messi.
Led by manager Ofir Haim, the team will face Colombia on May 21 and Senegal on May 24, both in La Plata City, the capital of Buenos Aires Province (35 miles south of the city of Buenos Aires). Then the team will travel almost 700 miles northwest to theMendoza province — home to the iconic wine — to play against Japan. The tournament has six groups composed of four teams each. After the first three matches, the best two of each group will qualify for the next stage.
Could Israel score another goal at a World Cup? Their only previous one at a FIFA tournament was made by Mordechai “Motaleh” Spiegler against Sweden. This month, Israeli players — especially the top scorer Oscar Gloukh — will have another chance to score.
– Juan Melamed
Jews in sports to watch this weekend
🏒 IN HOCKEY…
Zach Hyman and the Edmonton Oilers face the Vegas Golden Knights in a pivotal Game 5 tonight at 10 p.m. ET. Game 6 will be Sunday.
⚾️ IN BASEBALL…
The story of the young MLB season is the dominance of the AL East. The Baltimore Orioles have gotten off to an excellent 24-13 start, with help from Dean Kremer’s strong performance. On Wednesday night, he led them to a 2-1 victory over the first-place Tampa Bay Rays. The surging Boston Red Sox have turned things around after a slow start, and now sit in third place. Sox reliever Richard Bleier has struggled out of the gate, allowing 15 hits and 10 runs in 15 innings — but I’ll be at Fenway on Friday night to see the Team Israel veteran in action. The New York Yankees are in last place, but outfielder Harrison Bader is crushing it in his first nine games back, hitting .400 with 12 hits, three homers and 11 RBIs.
⚽️ IN SOCCER…
Manor Solomon and Fulham F.C. host Southampton tomorrow at 10 a.m. ET.
Jews on first
In just six weeks, 14 Jewish players have already appeared in the MLB this season, after Chicago Cubs prospect Matt Mervis made his debut last Friday. According to Jewish Baseball News, another 15 Jewish players are currently in Triple-A, almost all of whom played for Team Israel.
Who do you think will be the next Jewish player to make his MLB debut? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your guess, and we’ll keep an eye out for the winner.