The Almost Chosen One

In the spirit of Passover, I make my McSweeney’s debut today, telling the story of Tamir Goodman, aka the Jewish Jordan. The 6’3” Hassidic guard exploded into our collective basketball consciousness and then immediately imploded, and it was all kind of my fault.

I’d considered axing the part about my brief but intense infatuation with Sam Jacobson, given its relative lack of relevance to the rest of the story, but I think it speaks to the Jewish fandom experience. Some of my non-Jewish friends couldn’t fathom that I went from total adulation to complete disregard for the man the moment I heard he was not a member of the tribe. Conversely, I couldn’t understand how they could be remotely bewildered by my emotional about-face. It seems completely ingrained in me that as a Jew, I must root for other Jews regardless of their ability or team affiliation. I have never and will never question this directive, and do not seem unique in my adherence to it either.

This phenomenon appears to be only universally true in the sports world. After all, Jews don’t go to a movie because Spielberg made it, or blindly vote for Bloomberg in New York, or (for the most part) unequivocally support Israel’s policy moves, but I can guarantee that if Shawn Green hits .245 all season, he’ll still get plenty of all star votes from Jews with ballots.


At 4/20/2006 2:28 PM, Blogger c-los said...

Good article....I actually went to Towson with him one year and we played ball alot together....he was decent but nothing like the hype people built him up to be....he was actually a pretty likable kid who i felt sorry for because at 17&18 he already had the look of a 40yr old with all the expectations of the Hebrew world on his shoulders.

At 4/20/2006 2:32 PM, Blogger T. said...

One of my co-workers was really backing Cal in the Vegas bowl because of Steve Levy. (Only later did I inform him that Levy is actually Catholic).

At 4/20/2006 2:34 PM, Anonymous themarkpike said...

Sadly, I think you extinguished your eternal flame at the exact time it should be turning into a bonfire.

Jon Scheyer, Duke's #1 incoming recruit, was part of a team that won the Illinois State High School Championship. The entire starting 5 was jewish, shattering some record that was never kept to begin with (though the Elias Sports Bureau will probably cash in on the heeb athletic niche market soon enough).


At 4/20/2006 3:40 PM, Blogger Mirabeau Lamar said...

I don't know if this has been discussed previously on this blog, but is that same principle the reason Yao is the perennial all-star vote-getter? Each year at the ASG, I hear so much noise about the millions of Chinese logging on and voting for Yao, regardless of his stats. Is there any merit to this? Would we have seen a similar trend if the Jewish Jordan would have been a competent Association guard?

At 4/20/2006 3:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the rebuttal to the above argument is 'Wang Zhizhi' the 7' Chinese who never made it in the NBA and was shown no all-star balloting love by his countrymen. Yao was a borderline all-star in the center-thin Western Conference after his first season, when it was clear he was on the right track to star-dom. If the Chinese voters jumped the gun voting for him in that first year, solely on the basis of six-block games against Shaq and millions of dollars of hype the commisioner's office force-fed China, can we blame them?

I never saw much Jew love for Amit Tamir, the center at California who loves to shoot the three. It's possible that the 'center-who-loves-to-shoot-the-three' quality is as uninspiring for the Jewish community as it is for the Chinese community.

At 4/20/2006 4:34 PM, Blogger T. said...

Lamar - I'm sorry. I'm so very very very very sick of this arguement - and as someone with knowledge of All-Star voting patterns I'm going to put a stop to it. (Not to you, but everyone puts out this arguement. And I know this blog is read by, at least a few national level journalists - so hopefully they'll stop putting out this tired old tripe).

1 - Yao Ming has won the paper ballots over Shaq (and Brad Miller) every single year he's been in the league.

2 - Shaq actually won the online votes (which are much much smaller) the two years he went head-to-head with Yao. If anything, the majority of die-hard NBA Chinese fans were more skeptical of Yao's abilities than general US fans. I also think that the hoardes of Yao fans in China are not die-hard NBA fans, and thus less likely to give a vote out based on skin color.

3 - Paper ballots are only issued in the US (movie theatres, team events and NBA games).

So Yao's votes are coming from a combination of 1. Not a lot of competition 2. Commercial visibility (Apple, Visa, Reebok, Gatorade) 3. Good image 4. Quality of play

While not denying that a tendancy to vote for someone who is similar culturally exists, it's a much much smaller influence than the 4 factors I noted above.

Anon - Tamir actually made a lot of NBA-draft watch lists when he was a junior, but he kind of regressed his senior year. I believe he's back in Isreal playing ball.

My outside guess is that he, like Deron Scheffler, didn't get as much Jew love as players who grew up in the US - because they weren't home grown.

At 4/20/2006 4:34 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

there are a lot more chinese people than jews. also, even in his rookie season, yao was a legitimate choice as an all-star center.

of course people want to see people like them succeed, that shouldn't be surprising.

At 4/20/2006 4:35 PM, Blogger T. said...

Dammit. Bad editing. Point #2 above should read:

If anything, the majority of die-hard NBA Chinese fans were more skeptical of Yao's abilities than general US fans, and thus less likely to give a vote out based on skin color.

I also think that the hoardes of Yao fans in China are not die-hard NBA fans, and are a lot less likely to take the time/effort to go to NBA.com and cast a ballot

At 4/20/2006 4:38 PM, Anonymous themarkpike said...

Similar trend? Probably. Similar result? Definitely not. 1.5 billion vs. 15 million.

At 4/20/2006 5:24 PM, Anonymous illwafer said...

i went to midnight madness at Minnesota the year Sam was a rookie. i even videotaped it (still have it).

that guy could get up. i remember when he was in high school, and when Minnesota signed him. he was their biggest signing in a long time, but he never really met expectations - see Trevor Winter.

At 4/20/2006 5:27 PM, Blogger T. said...

One thing I loved about Sam Jacobsen - his commitment to wearing the Jordan IIIs - well before the retro craze caught on. (A good 6-7 years even)

At 4/20/2006 6:13 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

jews already invented basketball of the non-ncaa, non-hoosier variety. . . we were done with that shit LONG AGO.

consider it reparation for all the royalties we've jacked over the years.

At 4/20/2006 9:37 PM, Anonymous Aaron said...

T., Doron Scheffer got plenty of Jew-love in the NYC area, at least... He was at UConn, so that was pretty natural. But I agree, I think most people expected him to go back to Israel after college, so he wasn't quite the great NBA hope that Tamir Goodman was.

At 4/20/2006 10:29 PM, Anonymous Torgo said...

While it's not exactly a sport, I remember hearing about kids in hebrew school loving Goldberg, the wrestler with WCW. The idea that there was this hulking monster of a man, who happened to be Jewish, made the kids think: "Hey, I don't need to be a stereotype." Aside from that, and Shawn Green (sp?), are there very many Jews out there in sports? Does anyone have a list, or a link?

That, and seeing Goldberg beat the crap out of Santa Claus on Leno was a nice touch. World's Biggest Jew, and all.

At 4/20/2006 10:52 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...


game. set. match.

goldberg was like the hank greenberg of his generation.

At 4/21/2006 10:38 AM, Blogger T. said...

Aside from that, and Shawn Green (sp?), are there very many Jews out there in sports?

'3,000 years of beautiful tradition: from Moses to Sandy Koufax'

At 4/21/2006 2:50 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

now that jordan farmar has declared for the draft, it looks like there'll be more jews than giraffes in the league next year.

i didn't realize dude's stepdad was israeli. OFFICIAL.

At 4/21/2006 8:19 PM, Anonymous Torgo said...

T., sorry, I should have been clearer, but I meant active players. Forgetting Koufax would be like forgetting the four questions.

At 4/24/2006 1:52 PM, Blogger T. said...

Torgo - That's a line from the Big Lebowski.

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