Will Bore Gentiles For Food

Consider this the preamble to the preamble, which is always an apology of sorts. I have been way out of touch with the NBA these last few weeks. Limited cable access, little time to sneak off and watch a game of my choosing, and time spent (thankfully) with people who don't want to spend a Thursday at home with Barkley and Kenny. I've also been talking non-stop about some of the more axiomatic features of the league, which sort of dries out your appetite for day-to-day trainspotting.

I also have this weird feeling that everything in the league has been destroyed except for the Thunder, though that's probably just some unconscious way of guilt-tripping myself for going slack.

But I feel fully armed and ready to do what I do best—take something I said once already and more forcefully, desperately, throw it in the face of those who would doubt me. Yesterday, I put up a post that inquired into exactly what "the Jewish athlete" meant today. Some commenters, and at least one blog with a bigger readership than mine, took me to task as either questioning Farmar's Judaism (different from Jewish-nes, I think), or being guilty of the worst kind of self-stereotyping.

First off, Farmar's Judaism is unimpeachable, insofar as he takes it seriously, attends services, and was raised by two Israelis. That's more than I can claim. The whole "he's half-black, and plays a blacker game" had some awkward elements of racialized biology that no one really called me on, but the point mainly was that, for whatever reason, when he steps on the floor he's able to embody the basketball mainstream. Apparently, there are still American Jews out there who believe strongly in the imperative of, or at least the right to, assimilation. My Greenberg allusion was meant to date this attitude as something that, in theory, we've moved past. Jews now can assert the ways in which they are different from "white people" without endangering themselves professionally or personally. We won.

But the funny thing about Jews as an ethnic group: Except for the construction of Israeli identity, or going all-out religious, it's hard to pin down exactly what Jewish "authenticity"—the idea I was trying to nail down in my plea for a "Jew-y" player—would be, other than a bunch of semi-embarrassing stereotypes. That's why I was ridiculed for suggesting that I'd like to see such a player; it's regarded as self-satire, as opposed to alive and kickin' identity politics. I'm not content with today's criteria-based, near-polarizing system of classification, which is why personally, the "he attends shul" proof doesn't do it for me. Nor do I want a repeat of the Jewish Jordan fiasco. I want an athlete whose game I can identify with.

Someone suggested that my seach for a "Jew-y" player would ultimately be detrimental to the league in the same way "blacker" players have been. Ummm, okay. Allen Iverson's not perfect, but he's changed the game forever. As someone who, however foolhardily, takes the idea of a "cultural Judaism" seriously, it would mean a lot to me if—at a time when I'm increasingly asked to either shut up and accept my whiteness or ante up and pay membership dues at my local synagogue—there were a player that did something to work toward a contemporary version of this term. I threw out Woody Allen as an example; he was dismissed as "of the past," but while he may need updating (as would, say, Serch), that's the kind of figure I'd like to see reflected in sports, just as Iverson was to hip-hop.

(Sidenote: If anyone super-influential is reading this, please send me that lost footage from Annie Hall where the Knicks—the real Knicks—take on a team of famous philosophers)

So while it may have been unfair of me to single out Farmar, or accidentally turn him into a figurehead, the fact remains that sports are fucking huge in America, and insofar as I have spent a lot of time in this life of mine looking at so-called secular variations on Jewish identity, I would like to see this borne out in basketball. I don't know what I'm looking for, but I know it's not just a guy who self-identifies as Jewish but otherwise bears no stylistic markers. Or a monolithic, and largely implausible, version of what it means to project "Jewish-ness" for all the world to see. The internal tensions and external negotiations of culture are never an easy thing to pin down, and there's over a century of art, music, and literature that attest to this within the Jewish experience. With sports as central to America as they now are, why can't I ask for an athlete who uses this medium to continue in the critical, often confusing, tradition?

Fine, shove this right back at me as "allusive," guilty of reductionism, keeping the people down, and getting in the way of a more transparent, or flexible, definition of "Jew." Maybe I am living in the past, or preoccupied with my own personality quirks. But I'm not done wrestling with the meaning of secular Jewish identity, nor am I entirely comfortable dismissing an inherently unstable history and canon just because we can't give an easy account of where they stand today. That's the sort of work culture does, and big surprise here, but I think sports, and the power of style, are clearly capable of doing some of that work. They have for everyone else, in every other sport.

Imagine a cross between Rudy Fernandez, Shane Battier, and early Joe Johnson. Also, Stephen Jackson sometimes strikes me as really Jewish. Is Doug Moe the one that got away?

If you want to keep going down this path, I'd suggest consulting our NBA Race War, and its sequel.

I'm fucking exhausted. Don't call me Sarah Silverman or ask for a syllabus.

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At 12/13/2008 1:12 PM, Blogger Michael said...

While I'm not Jewish and I don't have a lot of experience with them, I think this is only a natural extension of what I've always considered to be the essence of FreeDarko-ism; since it's always been a search for meaning it's literally inevitable that faith, religion and the way those interact in the secular world would get brought up in more than just a cursory way.

There's nothing wrong with wrestling with identity. And there's even less wrong with projecting that struggle onto our habits and passions - in this case, basketball.

Insofar as the argument itself, well, Farmar has always struck me as a great guy. If he's going to be the standard-bearer (for now) I think that's fine.

At 12/13/2008 1:33 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Again, my whole thing is that I don't like being force-fed Jordan Farmar as THE JEWISH NBA PLAYER, when, although he is a 1000% real Jew playing at that level, his game doesn't speak to me on the level of personal identity. He can't be the standard-bearer by default, or at least not until someone makes a good claim for him as more than that.

At 12/13/2008 1:46 PM, Blogger The Other Van Gundy said...

I'm glad you stuck with this topic, because there's a lot to learn here.

I have a hard time imagining a quintessentially Jewish player. You mention Iverson as a representative of hip-hop culture, but the analogy is imperfect since Iverson embodies just one brand of blackness, that focuses on individualism and authenticity. Yes, he was radical, but he's working within the dominant cultural group of the league as a black man. A player obviously coded as Jewish (I like the point about Jewish-ness being different from Judaism, and I was surprised when I heard Farmar was Jewish) would be more foreign than Vlade Divac.

The challenge here - one you acknowledge as "hard to pin down" is that Jewish is as multivalent as black. "Playing black" is just a racist formulation for the stereotype that black guys jump high, dunk hard, and don't pass. The Jewish variant would be something like the back-handed compliments of the thirties, when Jews dominated the game and were praised for their Semitic craftiness.

You mention Woody Allen as a sort of icon for Jewishness in American culture, but how would that translate to basketball without coming off bigoted? A nebbish point-guard dithering about whether or not to take the last shot? Kvetching about the refs?

It really is challenging. Sherman Alexie said: "I think white fans love white point guards, even the disappointing ones, because of tribalism. The small white guys in the stands identify with the small white guys on the court. Makes sense to me. If a Native American ever makes it to the NBA, he will become one of my favorite players, even if he’s terrible."

I feel like the odds of getting someone you can identify with as a Jew are vanishingly small, just because Pro Baller isn't very high on the list of Jewish professional ambitions.

Thoughts about JVG as a great, Jew-y broadcaster? He's hysterical, on-point, and intensely aware of his otherness in the world of basketball.

At 12/13/2008 1:57 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Wait a minute, so JVG actually is Jewish? For some reason I thought that, against all odds, he actually wasn't. Yeah, he's definitely the broadcast titan of our time in that respect, and weirdly, his coaching style does seem like a throwback to 1931.

The whole issue with "playing black" is that yes, if taken to the extreme, it's pejorative and essentialist. But that Nelson George book, however unnecessarily sweeping it may be at times, is full of examples of success on the court that came from "playing black" (which is in many circles synonymous with "style" in ball).

Iverson was so important because he's right on that crux between fullest realization of that tradition and its descent into absurdity. He's like the Woody Allen of African-American identity politics in ball.

I can't possibly ever write a better sentence than that, so I'll take a break for now.

At 12/13/2008 1:57 PM, Blogger Jamøn Serrano said...

As a 'cultural' Jew, I was at, at first, ready to poop in to my hand and fling said substance at the screen. Then I thought about it for a few seconds, and realized that this anger must come from the residual guilt that comes with winning the war against white people; Shoals is quite right in that regard, as I got in to a top-tier school on the basis of justifying Japanese-Jew as minority status.

There is a book called Haikus for Jews, my heart, that once brilliantly put it best I think;

Seven foot Jews
Slam Dunking in the NBA
My alarm clock rings

Glenn Robinson for assimilated jew recent retiree.

At 12/13/2008 3:19 PM, Blogger americanmidwestsamurai said...

As a 2nd generation, Japanese American, Yuta Tabuse making the league was a seminal moment in my life as a sports fan. Not only because he was Japanese but because somewhere in my convoluted, hypocritical world-view, he PLAYED Japanese.

So totally, I hear where you're coming from. "Tribalism" is only human. We like people who do things the same way we do things. It makes us feel not alone in the cosmos. It's probably some sort of evolutionary mechanism for survival.

But when we don't just interalize these feelings--when we write about these feelings, the equation changes. In this precarious state of social/ethnic conciousness Americans find themselves in, identity is as murky as it has ever been.

We're caught between old world stereotypes and post modern paradigms. Is Barack Obama the first black president or is he the first "post-racial" president? Or does it matter all together where we get in this discussion?

Personally, I think you've got stones to put it out there. Though I don't know exactly what it accomplishes. Thanks for starting the conversation, anyways.

At 12/13/2008 4:00 PM, Blogger Harris said...

Wouldn't the "Jewish player" have to be someone like Manu? To get the inevitable out of the way, ya, he's got the nose, but it's much more than that. Manu's style of play and the passion he plays with are one in a million. In the population of the NBA, it should be unfathomable that someone that looks like Manu should be, not just succeeding, but excelling. With this topic, it is impossible to avoid the stereotypes: a small fraction of the population, rising to the top, despite what would be logical or make sense.
Yes, Manu is Argentinan, but I feel that his game is closest to that of European basketball. Overall, isn't the Eurpoean product getting closer to that which would embody a Jewish style?

I'm rambling.

At 12/13/2008 4:34 PM, Blogger Soccergo9 said...

What about when the first Israeli ball player comes to play in the league. Though a Yotam Halperin or Lior Eliahu have a distinctly European skillset, would their traits be transfered as Jewish instead of European?

Also, what about a player who really came into their identity with their skill set at Maccabi Tel Aviv. Would Anothony Parker's skills be deemed Jewish?

At 12/13/2008 5:20 PM, Blogger El Presidente said...

Will chase windmills for booze:
I can dream, can't I?

At 12/13/2008 5:52 PM, Blogger Blogger said...

Reading these pieces on Farmar's Jewishness, I thought of Billy Crystal in the movie "Forget Paris", in which he plays an NBA referee. Also, there's an elephant: David Stern is Jewish.

At 12/13/2008 6:56 PM, Blogger Taliesin said...

This is an interesting discussion. Let me suggest that perhaps one thing that is making it difficult to define what Jewish style would translate to on the court is the lack of a quorum that allows you to calibrate the ideal. With Farmar currently the only option, there is no way to evaluate what you can generalize he keeps for himself.

The example is the Argentinians now, or earlier on, the Lithuanians. There have been enough of to draw up a style template for each group that doesn't rely too strongly on a single player.

At 12/13/2008 7:16 PM, Blogger Asher said...

"Someone suggested that my seach for a "Jew-y" player would ultimately be detrimental to the league in the same way "blacker" players have been. Ummm, okay. Allen Iverson's not perfect, but he's changed the game forever."

In a good way? In a positive way for black people? I mean, there are millions of white people across the country, particularly in Philadelphia, who ultimately think just a little less of blacks because of Iverson's career. For whom he just confirmed stereotypes of blacks as lazy, thugs, wife-beaters, selfish, flashy, arrogant, and I guess you could throw in homophobic. And some kind of NBA Woody Allen would have the same effect. There are a ton of people who watch the NBA who don't know very many or any Jewish people, just as there are white kids who get their whole idea of what black people are like from watching sports. This basketball Woody Allen comes on the scene, people who don't know otherwise would be like, "ah, Jews really are these nebbishy, crafty folks." It's arguably harmful in some respects - besides that, though, I guess I just have no desire for some NBA player to rep our culture. In the same way that I'm not all jazzed about Asher Roth, or wouldn't even be excited if there were a good version of Asher Roth. I'm very happy to leave basketball to blacks, Europeans, Chinese, and an ever-diminishing group of white Americans and never see "somebody like me" in there, just as I'm happy to see - and actually strongly prefer - a predominantly black rap scene. To me, our identity is borne out in basketball - by our very absence. That's quintessentially Jewish.

At 12/13/2008 7:38 PM, Blogger Tree Frog said...

Totally found the FreeDarko of soccer: http://www.runofplay.com/2008/12/13/tottenham-0-0-manchester-united-heurelho-gomes-is-the-hero-printer-repeat-till-page-is-full/#comment-3157

"Otherwise, well, there was some nice passing. Mostly from Luka Modrić to himself. I enjoy watching him do the backward Slinky while attempting to chest the ball down to where his feet would be if the pitch had been transposed onto a drawing by M.C. Escher. It's impressive, and it hurts to watch. He may be the smallest player whose thighs have ever been hit with the task of holding the space-time continuum together.

Aaron Lennon runs like a cockroach, but I mean that as a compliment. Has there ever been a more egregious case than Tevez-Woodgate of a one-sided collision that looked like a toss-up going in? I mean, if you see those guys from a distance, you'd think Woodgate could hold his own, maybe even that he'd have a slight advantage. In reality, there are doctors whose beepers are programmed to go off whenever Woodgate gets within 50 meters of Carlos Tevez. They keep a helicopter running just in case."

At 12/13/2008 7:46 PM, Blogger Harris said...

That's a great comment about the Argentinians and the Lithuanians. There is certainly a definite style to each, without being at all stereotypical. Its a authentic characteristic to a group.

At 12/13/2008 7:47 PM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

I second the love for Run of Play. Ben (and anyone with interest), if you haven't gone into the archives yet, I heartily suggest that you do, particularly the player portraits and the discussions about what we mean when we say "the beautiful game."

The only time I've brought up Judaism/Jewishness on this site, R. Lobstah called me a terrible Jew and said I'd forsaken Abraham, so I'm going to abstain from this discussion.

At 12/13/2008 8:39 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

Brett Leibowitz doesn't get what all the fuss is about.

At 12/13/2008 9:25 PM, Blogger Bobby said...

I completely agree with you Shoals. I am half Jewish/half catholic, I grew up playing basketball in LA (I played against Farmar a few times in in high school, my team won), I was not bar mitzphahed, and I didnt really discover my Jewish identity till I was in college and I somehow became "different".

And while I feel some sense of kinship w Farmar as a huge Laker fan, as well as, a former competitor, I can't say I feel any particular identification with him as a member of the tribe. Possibly this has to do with my own identity struggles as I somehow have found a way to be an Other in both the Jewish community (because of my nice goyish mother), and still refuse to be totally "white" because of my Jewish father.

I would probably say that Manu strikes me as the most "jewish" player in the NBA, but in a totally bad-ass Eric Bana in "Munich" sort of way. But then again, on face-value it seems, I make this assertion because Manu plays with a crafitness/cerebral manner which is a stereotype, with which, I am uncomfortable.

This unfortunately leaves the question then, of how does one define the modern American Jew? Is it even possible? And if it is possible, can it be done in a non-condescending and non-stereotypical manner, while still actually shedding light on the issue.

At 12/14/2008 12:01 AM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

@ bobby

Seems to me that your last questions are actually central Shoals's point. What it means to be a modern American Jew is difficult to define. If there were a "Jew-y" NBA player, his style might help both modern American Jews and the rest of America understand through his style what that (no reductionist, no essentialist) identity is.

@ tray

Yes, Iverson changed the game for the better. Whether it was good for black people I may not be the right person to say, but if asked, I would say yes. I'm not going to bother re-hashing how it happened, but beyond just legitimizing hip-hop culture in the NBA, he created room for players to publicly be themselves (young, urban, black (again, no reductionist, no essentialist) and express themselves in their games. He also opened up the meaning of guard play. And he did more beautiful things on the court than I can count.

Did he possibly make a bunch of knuckleheads think less of black Americans? Probably, but they're knuckleheads who most likely didn't think much of blacks to begin with and unreflectively use any excuse to lower their collective estimation of anyone.

At 12/14/2008 12:14 AM, Blogger Trey said...

Another way Jews won:

Scarlett Johansson is Jewish.

I found this out last night and was floored. Congrats.

At 12/14/2008 3:39 AM, Blogger Nate Jones said...

Funny thing is that I grew up with Farmar and never really even saw him as Jewish. I lived across the street from his father's family, and we just saw him as the the little scrappy mixed kid that was competitive as hell at a very early age. In the back of my mind I knew his mom was Jewish, but I just never really saw him as such. I always thought he modeled his athletic pursuits after his dad, who was probably the best high school quarterback in L.A. during his day and a pro baseball player. But then again, I never saw any of his life with his mother and his step father. So who knows, who or what influenced his game.

I do know that Jordan ended up playing in the city section for basketball, which is a distinctly urban/black high school league in L.A (Palisades/Taft/Westchester/Crenshaw/Fairfax/Dorsey, etc.).

I probably had more of a Jewish basketball experience/developed more of a Jewish basketball game because I got plucked out of my neighborhood school and sent to middle school and high school in Beverly Hills. I ended up playing in the southern section against a bunch of private schools and sub-urban kids. I've probably been to way more Bar Mitzvahs and dated way more jewish chicks than him too...

Interesting set of posts though.

At 12/14/2008 4:46 AM, Blogger D.J. Foster said...

With the first pick in the Racial Draft, The Jews select PG Ricky Rubio.

Chalk up another win.

At 12/14/2008 3:09 PM, Blogger Dude N Plenty said...

Ty, I apologize. I obviously have a way of stating opinions in ways that make people angry and can even say the same thing others state but with unequal consequences. As an example I made the point that "people are tribal" during the heat of the Palin Wars and was called racist while the very same idea was proposed in this post with no automated hate response. The point I was hoping to make then, and it applies to Farmar, is not a matter of bad-Jewishness but rather non-Jewishness.

I don't know what a Jewish-style in basketball looks like but for it to be Jewish it would have to be manifest by folks who keep kosher, keep the Sabbath holy, and follow the basic life-style as prescribed in the Torah and interpreted by the sanctioned courts. Being Jewish is not an otherness it is a holiness in the basic sense of the word, the setting aside and consecration of an object or person to G-d. This setting aside has been reduced by some to mean otherness but to be holy that otherness must be directed towards service to G-d. For it to be Jewish it would have to be set aside in service to G-d in the ways defined by the Torah.

I am certainly an other. The acts, thoughts and interests which coordinate into this otherness would not interest me to write out here but while my Jewishness certainly informs my otherness I do not kid myself in thinking that my otherness is Jewish. I do not behave in an otherly fashion in individual service to G-d, nor is it in done in the collective otherness that is Being Jewish.

Notice that when you define Scarlett Johansen, whats her name for the Star Wars movies, or even Woody Allen as Jewish you are using gentile definitions of race, culture and religion, not Jewish ones. Woody Allen is racially Jewish but his themes are more Greek and Christian then Jewish. Everybody kvetches and some even kvetch existentially. That is not uniquely Jewish. I have a cute little button nose. I'm still Jewish. I can trace my family back to Dayanim on both my parents' side to at least the 19th century with one maternal line going back to the late 18th century. I've read a book in which my ancestor was a character who goes with a friend to visit a magical rabbi who lived in a distant town in the time when the "iron paths" were not yet common in Europe. What does this story say about me and being Jewish? Nothing aside from I can drive a car and have flown in planes and yet that would make no comment to my Jewishness as all things follow the laws of Physics but I do not follow the Laws in the Torah. So, I am a living being with a culture and a lifestyle, but not a Jewish one.

Individuals having the right to define for themselves what is Jewish, for themselves is a blurring of the term. Reform, Reconstructionist, and Conservative Clubhouse membership does not bestow legitimate rights to vote on Proposition 613. To have any say on the individuality within Jewishness you have to be born to a Jewish mother. Then you need to live according to the Laws as given to Moses on Mount Sinai. Within those parameters there is plenty of room for a creative person to express individuality and if so inclined, to express it through basketball. Anything else is just goyishe basketball and judging from my balling against some Chabadnicks, I'll only pay to watch goys for now.

Rus Westbrook might find me some religion.

At 12/14/2008 3:12 PM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

No hard feelings. I actually look back on that discussion fondly.

At 12/14/2008 3:32 PM, Blogger El Presidente said...

Jason Kidd plays pretty damn Jewish.

At 12/14/2008 3:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

R. Lobstah,

I guess my confusion lies in your assumption that a personal sense of Jewishness somehow eclipses a perceived sense of Jewishness. After all, the somewhat stereotypical Jewishness that is spoken-to in Woody Allen movies is very much a reaction to the ways in which Jews are perceived and classified in society. My problem with your analysis is that Jewishness, as any "othered" classification in American society does not carry a single connotation. I grew up a relatively reform Jewish in North Carolina in a town that was overwhelmingly Protestant. Thus, I was a Jew on a few different levels. I was a practicing Jew who was Bar Mitzvah-ed, confirmed, and one who read Torah at least once every two years; I was a Jew who was perceived as an other in a primarily Protestant area; and I was a Jew responding to both of these identities, one internalized, one prescribed by external forces. Reading my situation as a microcosm of American society, which it is for the people who don't live in the Northeast or select Mid-Western and Western metropolis' suburbs, it is tough to read Jewishness as a simple matter of adherence to faith when the hegemony reads it as something different, a specific connotation of ethnic origin, spiritual practice, and ideological difference.

We are not a monolithic people, but we also don't live in a vacuum, in which the perception of the dominant group goes unnoticed.

With this in mind, Jordan Farmar's Judaism is particularly representative. The "blackness" of his game non-withstanding, Farmar has been publicly othered in the NBA as an outlier, as an exception to the demographic rule. In light of this, his continued adherence to Judaism and issues that directly involve Jews (holding clinics in Israel to better the relationships between Israeli and Palestinian youths) are both responses to and acceptance of his "other" status in both the NBA and in American society.

Sure, it would be nice if we could self-classify as Jews and as non-Jews and have that be the determinant factor in society. That said, in America, some people don't have that option. And, while assimilation is an option for some, it is not an option for all, despite the level of faith a Jew possesses and embodies. Jews have a privilege of existing as off-white in American society, and some can even exist as white in American society (depending, of course, which social, geographical, economic, and political spheres a Jew inhabits), but this privilege does not guarantee the right of self-determination when it comes to issues of identity. Jews can self-identify, but that is claiming an ignorance of the hegemony's governance of identity that exists in America.

Basically, Jews can't hide from their history in the United States by claiming themselves as the sole determining factors of their individual identity or what constitutes a Jewish identity. I think Shoals is ultimately right in the respect that Jews want to see Jews make it into the sporting world, yet maintain a degree of cultural legitimacy in American society. Where I disagree with Shoals, however, is in the claim that Farmar's "blackness" makes him a non-Jewish sports figure. Farmar is more of a Jewish sports figure than Shawn Green, who I tried to idolize, but simply doesn't do it for me. Farmar is a guy who has his Jewish-ness in mind and knows the ways in which he can make a positive difference with the acceptance and pride in his identity.

Maybe he doesn't skip Friday night games, but I think that Farmar is about as much as you can ask for in a contemporary Jewish American sports figure. He's not good enough to be a hero in the sense that Koufax, Schayes, and Greenberg were heroes (and yes, I know that the comparison is weak to begin with- these are simply our most well-known heroes), but in terms of being a representative member of the tribe in the NBA, who really uses his Jewish identity in positive ways in addition to fulfilling his own sense of spiritual obligation, Farmar is the real deal.


PS: Woody Allen movies are Jewish in the sense that when Jews watch his movies with people of other cultural identities, certain levels of Allen's humor and the various situations he presents (for instance, the scene where he imagines Annie's family looking at him like a Goy) carry a completely different level of gravity (and often hilarity) for Jews, particularly if they've lived those situations.

At 12/14/2008 4:16 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Coincidence that Spanish players are being mentioned as "Jewish"? (Not counting Manu in that).

Also, this whole "Woody Allen is Greek and Christian, not Jewish" line is lazy. The whole question, intrigue, and glory of Diaspora Jews is how to mix and match influences, how much to assimilate, how much to assimilate them, and how to recognize all the paradoxes and ironies that come with the territory.

At 12/14/2008 4:28 PM, Blogger T.A.N. said...

seeking out who's repping for jewdom in the nba, and the varying derivatives from the as-yet-determined j-nba standard seems mos definitely a well-worthy task.

makes me think a followup to the almanac might be some sort of annotated ethnocultural history of the nba. real work with noble purpose, that.

that's getting ahead of myself, but i think that because Farmar seems almost irrelevant to the larger issue which seems to be about Shoals, as a jew, questioning how black people got to co-opt the sport he religiously abides by.

that's not a hostile or possessive sentiment, but NBA-as-black doesn't seem to play by the standard rules of ethnocultural assimilation/exploitation.

i mean, the way we think about the NBA today it seems George Washington Carver should have invented it right after peanut butter. but what about naismith? i don'tk now his religious history, but presumably non-jew, not black, not international etc. seems like going from him to the prevailing nba ethos would be like MLK's dream speech being coopted by transgendered asians (they have a dream too, and i guess MLK isn't the most manly non-asian person, but you get my drift i hope).

all that said, i thin it's more important to get someone who typifies Woody Allen - whether the schtick is authentic or not -- to see a confident skittish kvetching guard would be hot. center would be even better.

maybe eddy curry could have been that with the proper support system ...

At 12/14/2008 6:09 PM, Blogger BreadCity said...

I want to chip in and say how much I've enjoyed reading these posts/responses! The whole thing is making me a little giddy.

In my opinion, a Jewish style of play would involve a certain fatalism, the knowledge that no matter what happened on the court was in essence a big joke compared to the unforeseeable plans of the universe. In other words, a guy who could make shots like Gilbert, but who would shrug and walk away afterwards instead of throwing his arms into the air.

Who is such a man? Well call my crazy, but give Stephon Marbury 7 more years in the L, and he just may be the guy. Think about it: you already have him telling people on the opposing bench that they're caught up in basketball and they need to be caught up in life. What if he turned those thoughts inward instead, somehow sublimating the idea that basketball isn't so important through basketball? What do you think? (Please ignore irony that Marbury is extremely Christian .)

At 12/14/2008 6:20 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Definitely Rudy. Fatalist swag.

WV: equal. DEEP.

At 12/14/2008 6:22 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Excuse me, fatalist Murrano swag.

(I am totally sounding like someone else right about now)

At 12/14/2008 6:29 PM, Blogger The Other Van Gundy said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 12/14/2008 6:32 PM, Blogger The Other Van Gundy said...

@T.A. Negro: James Naismith was born in Canada and devised the game in 1891 in Massachusetts. It was developed as a fun, non-rough indoor game that men could play as an alternative to the more gruelling and boring gymnastics.

As for his religious background, he was a Muscular Christian ("a movement within the Victorian era which stressed the need for energetic Christian activism in combination with an ideal of vigorous masculinity."), and envisioned the game as a vehicle for morality. It would teach self-discipline, team work, fair play, etc.

But really, it was only his game for a few years. Basketball globalized quickly due to Christian missionaries, who would preach hoops after they preached the gospel. So I don't find it all surprising that blacks co-opted the game - after all, it was cheap to play and didn't require much space, making it a perfect game for the urban poor. Blacks at the turn of the century certainly fit this bill.

At 12/14/2008 6:41 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

The early history's a little more complicated than that, as detailed in Robert Peterson's Cages to Jump Shots. Black Fives is a fantastic online resource for this stuff, too.

Naismith kind of knew what he wanted, but the exact rules ended up varying from place to place, changing quickly, and the tone differed when it came to physicality, skill, etc. It wasn't so much co-opted as it was contributed to by blacks, and Jews, in its inchoate stages.

At 12/14/2008 6:52 PM, Blogger Dude N Plenty said...

Raoul's points are very interesting and I want to give them more thought. But Homebread, you are way off on both the significance of Woody's Jewishness and in what his influences are based. Whether it be Alice in Wonderland, Shakespeare, Greek Drama, or any other of his subjects, Woody is most certainly echoing goyish traditions not Jewish ones. If Woody, as his character in his films, explores something of a Jewish theme it is the dissolution of Jewishness. It's like agreeing that Nazi propoganda films showing Jews living in filth is a Jewish film since it portrays the hegemon's view of the Jew. If you are prepared to be defined by the insiders then by all means, do so and assimilate. Just know that either your children or grandchildren will cease to be aware of the Jewish quirk in their gene pool. You don't see the point to keeping kosher, or keeping the Sabbath holy or going to the mikve after sex. Your kids won't see the point to going to shul even two days of the year. If they won't see the point to going to shul even those two days they also won't see the point to bar-mitzvahing their kids or subjecting them to a bris. Kararites, Samaritans, Hellenists, the list can be made longer if you care to survey those Jews who saw fit to disappear through assimilation. Jews who remember themselves as Jews are those who keep the laws. It takes only a few generations to forget.

Yes, of course there is no pure Jewishness in the sense of excluding all influences. Alexander and the philosophies that came with him informed Jewish philosophy then and now. It was done in such a manner as to conform the ideas to the general basic concepts that Judaism possesses but leaves aside those which contradict the basic principles of Jewish life. One can be a Jewish Epicurean if Epicurean thought allows for keeping kosher, keeping the sabbeth, the ritual bathing etc....

Raoul, notice even that your version of Jewish practice is basically Lutheran but of a different house. Replace Christmas and Easter with the two or so Jewish festivals that seem appropriate. Instead of baptism and confirmation you have a bris and bar-mitvah. Perhaps the wedding is at a synagogue rather then a church and so one. There is no law which states we must have a bar-mitzvah. Its a tradition we follow to celebrate the male's first time being called up to read from the Torah in front of the congregation. It signifies that from this time on the boy is responsible for keeping the laws and his parents no longer bear guilt for the child's sins. It is an important time but the meaning of that ritual is based on accepting that you are responsible for keeping the laws. We did the ritual but don't honor the commitment it symbolized. We call ourselves Jews but don't follow the laws which give being Jewish any meaning.

The best any of us can do, including Jordan Farmar, is express the style of the assimilating Jew.

At 12/14/2008 6:58 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Maybe I'm extra salty because I'm being forced to watch Ravens/Steelers, but dude: YOU ARE A DIASPORA JEW. THAT IS THE ESSENTIALLY CONFUSED AND CONFUSING TRADITION I AM TALKING ABOUT.

If you can't accept that, or feel that's a waste of time and nothing more than a digression from the return to Zion, maybe you should sit this one out.

At 12/14/2008 7:01 PM, Blogger Dude N Plenty said...

There are plenty of Diaspora Jews who keep the laws. My point is they represent Jewishness, not us.

At 12/14/2008 8:09 PM, Blogger Nate Jones said...

T.A.N: George Washington Carver did invent basketball right after Peanut Butter, right?

At 12/14/2008 9:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Today I had a killer freedarko/dorko moment.

I was in a independent book store today shopping for the gentiles in my life when I saw it.

I was feeling a little faded from the xmas bliss with all eyes on 4 o clock pints and an Adrian Pet fix. I was suited to head out into the cold Maine air when I was drawn back toward a hard cover display. You know the one "book rec by the book sellers". They had the usual shit...Eggers, MArtha Stewart, 24 copies of the Road, and what should I see, but one lonely copy of the Phenom.

It was the first time I had seen it or held it. I was small child happy. The shit looks nice in 3-D.

I find out a guy who works in the shop is a huge fan. We compared pocket protectors and I was on my way.

While it may seem silly-in an uncertain world and uncertain times, there will always be hoops! Right?

Keep up the good work. Shoals I still want to know how your jewness comes out in your posts!

All the best.

At 12/14/2008 9:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shoals actually embodied the entire nature of my lengthy schpiel with that one word: diaspora. The Jewish-American experience, in all of its diversity, is complicated and far more than merely adhering to laws. Some American Jews are othered as Jews regardless of whether or not they follow all 613 commandments... Judaism isn't any single concept unless you're an orthodox Jew in Israel. As a reform Jew from North Carolina, I have a distinctly different experience as you do, R. Lobstah.


I'd like to hear more about what you think about Jordan Farmar's inability to embody Jewish basketball aesthetic. Going along with that, what is the Jewish basketball aesthetic (or even the Jewish sports aesthetic)?

At 12/14/2008 9:54 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I pretty much said everything I had to say about Farmar's aesthetic, and what a Jewish aesthetic might be, in my post and previous comments.

As far as how my Jewish identity comes through in my writing, I don't know, did you ever suspect me of being a black dude from Appalachia?

At 12/14/2008 10:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry to go off topic, but I find it strange that nobody on this site has yet mentioned how absolutely fucking gully the Clippers starting lineup is. I was looking at box scores last night and couldn't belive that it took back to back wins for me to notice. Z-Bo, Camby, Al, Boom, and Fats Gordon. Ridic.

At 12/15/2008 12:57 AM, Blogger Timothy C. Davis said...

Longtime fan of the site/first time commenter.

IF I may be so bold:

Did we ever figure you as a black dude from Appalachia? How would that sound (or read, rather) exactly? I'm from G-Force country, Charlotte, and there's some witty black dudes in Appalachia. But I know what you're getting at.

I'd say that outside of reading this and one or two other pieces (and maybe the Bethlehem nom-de-blog thing, which I recently got -- I'm thick) I never gave your religion or culture a whole hell of a lot of thought.

I should say here that I'm a humanist (or atheist, if that's stronger), and I'M waiting for someone to represent, hardwood-wise, for the nonbeliever. (Would seem it's going to have to be a Euro, if polls are any indication.)

"To YOU I'm an atheist; to God, I'm the Loyal Opposition." -- Woody Allen

And this, from "Hannah and Her Sisters" for no real reason:

Mom: Of course there's a God, you idiot. You don't believe in God?

Mickey: Then why is there so much evil in the world?

Mom: Tell him, Max.

Max: How the hell do I know? I don't know how the can opener works.

At 12/15/2008 1:48 AM, Blogger Trey said...

You know, if Nate could just tell us how Jeff Weiss plays basketball, this would all be settled.

At 12/15/2008 2:20 AM, Blogger josh said...

There's something about Barry.


At 12/15/2008 3:02 AM, Blogger Dude N Plenty said...

This is America. Everybody is othered here.

I don't understand how being an orthodox Jew living in Israel provides anyone with a single concept of Judaism.

I'm fairly interested in definitions and since you define yourself as a reform Jew I would like you to understand how I relate to that self definition. An orthodox Jew, whether in Israel or Mars, is someone who was born to a Jewish mother and whose life-style is defined by adherence to the laws. A reform Jew is someone born to a Jewish mother whose life-style is defined by something else.

I know orthodox Jews who smoke pot, are doctors, are alcoholic, are into sex for money, are record produces, are writers, are scholars, are all the various things which any of us might decide to be. But, either in adhering to or in breaking the laws, their lives are defined by those laws.

The occasional subject matter of this site has clued me into the racial and cultural identification that some of the writers on this site have with Judaism. Other then that I haven't the sensitivity to notice a Jewish style. I see leftist American. My goyishe friend in Iowa, an Irish-English/German mix of a man could contribute to this site in terms of style. I am sure that not a one of you is familiar with Rashi's style or with the writings of the Rambam. The scholarship of many Jewish writers is simply not being explored by the writers on this blog. Have you heard of Sura or Pumbadesa? The style of medieval Jews in France or Spain is still on record. So is the style of Persian Jews who wrote early in the first few hundred years of the Christian era. Much of Yiddish writing remains as does scholarship of the Chasidic era. The writing of The Ari is individual and deep. He wrote from Safed, up in the hills above the Sea of Galilee back in the 16th century. These are the most obvious writers that any of us could begin exploring. Once you gain the basics of Jewish scholarship you can find yourself exploring more and more obscure writers. What binds all these writers to each other is adherence to the laws. Even during the Babylonian Exile, during the Hellenistic Era, during the Arab Conquests, in Medieval Europe, you get the point, we had folk like us who did not adhere to the laws. One of two things happened. They either returned to adherence or they stopped being Jews. Being Jewish is this adherence to the laws. Anything that we do in their stead is assimilating.

If black-style basketball is developed from immersion in individual expression, in black music, in Soul Food, in life in the inner-city then I suppose Jewish style, as I would recognize it, would have to be a reflection of traiflessness, of keeping various lunar based holidays and festivals, of klezmer music, of the discipline of sanctification. I bet David and Jonathan could have run a killer pick and roll.

At 12/15/2008 10:05 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

From the WWL's recap of the Friday night Bobcats/Pistons game:

"Gerald Wallace had 22 points and nine rebounds for the Bobcats in his return after missing three games following the death of his grandmother. Wallace's father also died on Thursday, and he may miss another game next week."

Cap this off with the trade talks and what type of maniacal beast will emerge?

At 12/15/2008 11:08 AM, Blogger ohkeedoke said...

Although Ryan Gomes game isn't very "Cabo," I'll accept it anyway. He is the only Cape Verdean in the NBA, and I'm just glad I can say that.

A true cape verdean style would be similiar to Leandro Barbosa or Nene, two Brazilians.

At 12/15/2008 11:10 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

Give me the Lenny Bruce of basketball. Or a real life Swede Levov. Those two poles are the signifiers of American Jewishness that I'm interested in.

The Marbury connection has something to it, I think.

At 12/15/2008 11:14 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

@ Lobstah

I've heard of Bobby Sura

At 12/15/2008 11:55 AM, Blogger Chief Malone said...

Thanks for responding to my post. Here is another entry: http://www.myjewishlearning.com/blog/general/more-on-jews-and-basketball/

At 12/15/2008 12:25 PM, Blogger MC Welk said...

My ex-stepfather was Jewish, and had perfected Kareem's skyhook; alas, he was only 6'1".

At 12/15/2008 12:28 PM, Blogger Quick Draw said...


...or wouldn't even be excited if there were a good version of Asher Roth.

The Beastie Boys would like a word (as would Eminem in a non-Jewish context).

At 12/15/2008 1:26 PM, Blogger G Wolf said...

Shoals - I think you're ignoring (obfuscating?) a very important piece of the puzzle. You touched on it when you referenced Black Fives (Claude can and has talked my ear off on the subject of Jewish ballers).

However, I think we need to explore what it was like for Max Zaslofsky and the rest of them in the NBL/BAA. With so many MOTs on the court, did they feel like they needed to be trail blazers? Did they feel pressure to "play Jewish" on the court? Or perhaps the way Jews played back then ended up being the dominant style of the league; in a way, playing Jewish was co-opted by the rest of the league, rendering it meaningless.

At 12/15/2008 2:05 PM, Blogger Bhel Atlantic said...

Being neither black nor Jewish, I hope I don't get in trouble for saying this, but when Farmar talks, his vocal mannerisms sound more "black" than "Jewish". Perhaps this is part of why Shoals cannot fully identify with him as a co-tribesman.

My own ethnic lineage has been poorly represented in the NBA, despite plenty of big guys in the gene pool. On the rare occasions when one has emerged, I feel only a sense of ironic excitement, largely because the guys come directly from the old country and not America.

At 12/15/2008 3:05 PM, Blogger milaz said...

OK so I put the macrophenomenal book down, to check this post... I know it's been up a couple of days but anyway....

I sort of understand what you are saying in the sense that as GreekCypriot I tend to look out for those people that made it to the NBA and were Greek or had ties with Greek culture. The most prominent and successful have been Stojakovic (who although Serbian is loved as a Greek, he came to Greece to play when he was only 18 and has dual citizenship).... Spanoulis, who played one solid year with the Rockets and left... and we have even heard and watch Kostas Koufos - the Utah rookie, who is Greek-American...

To confuse you even more I myself do not have Greek citizenship, but I speak Greek and have the same culture/tradition, but I am Cypriot...

If you check the ESPN polls... you will see how people behave at the most unconscious level... For example, the question asking where LeBron will be playing in 2010 got a 90+% reply of Cleveland in the state of Ohio... We are all biased, even the most open minded of us... we all want to identify with someone... that someone that is closer to me and gives me that illusion of being closer to the league... "Hey one of 'us' made it too" .... As ridiculously human as it is...

At 12/15/2008 3:54 PM, Blogger Timothy C. Davis said...

That's nicely put, Milaz.

Speaking of ridiculous humans, your post made me think of the lushly maned former NC State Wolfpack center Panagiotis Fassoulas. Dude was my favorite Pack big man of the post-Washburn years. Certainly appears to be doing well for himself:


At 12/15/2008 4:49 PM, Blogger dizzle said...

This might be only tangentally related, and to make it even worse I could be just making this up: but what about the special relationship between jews and blacks (not strictly speaking nba here)? at the very least there always seemed to me somesort of mutual respect, which I always assumed came out both being minorities, but also jews thinking blacks are cool.

At 12/15/2008 5:02 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

The Jazz Singer and The Pawn Broker with Rod Steiger are two good places to look at the Jewish-black connection. Maybe Goodbye Columbus.

Lenny Bruce tried to drive the venom out of "nigger" a decade before Richard Pryor became famous.

At 12/15/2008 5:26 PM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

On the off chance the FreeDarko readers aren't familiar with it: Lenny Bruce famously explained "How to Relax Your Colored Friends at Parties."

wv: iddyed--a new technique in suppressing/altering basic human urges through color therapy

At 12/16/2008 6:49 AM, Blogger Flud said...

You got me thinkin'

Pat Burke and Marty Conlon have done nothin' for us Irish. I'd love a hair-bag mentaler who's real sly and will take on anyone regardless of size or skill.

At 12/16/2008 8:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of other ridic human beings...Paul Millsap went for 32 points on 13-20 from the floor (felt like all dunks), 10 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 40 last night against the Celtics.

Nice, but I don't think he is Jewish.

At 12/16/2008 10:18 AM, Blogger Claude said...

First of all, are Jews a "race"? I thought it was just a religion. Or is it more than either of those? Can someone school me on this, because I know lots of Jews but have never asked them. They've never asked me, is "black" a color or an attitude or an ethnicity.

The comments about basketball being co-opted by blacks strike me as funny and also slightly racist and definitely revisionist.

I say revisionist because the real (and main) reason why blacks hit the mainstream in basketball was because of a little Jewish guy named Abe Saperstein.

I say funny because to me it seems like it was the Jews who co-opted basketball, if you look at it from the Saperstein, Gottlieb, Rosenblum, Silver, Stern perspective.

I say slightly racist because it was these "shrewd" businessman who "exploited" blacks "into" basketball and profit "off of them". (Those quotation marks are all intentional.)

Apart from all that, isn't Nat Holman (of the New York Original Celtics) the mold of the quintessential Jew of basketball? Right now he's my favorite Jewish player of all time. He was terrific off the court as well, as a coach.

Personally, I can't stand Manu. I don't know him as a person but from the way he plays he's probably a jerk, and maybe that's the point. Is it?

Finally, I'm not sure I agree that AI was or is the quintessential black player. That kind of underestimates a lot of things.

At 12/16/2008 11:31 AM, Blogger Nate Jones said...

From Farmar's latest blog post: "People have noticed that I can get some air. It's true, I do have a 43-inch vertical leap, one of the highest on our team. My dad was a pro ball player, I've always been a good athlete, so it's been a sort of natural attribute, to be fast and able to jump."

Seems like he's giving credit for his athletic ability completely to pops. Maybe I'm reading too much into that? But I'm telling you, his dad was a great athlete in his day.

At 12/16/2008 11:49 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

There's no question that Farmar sees himself as a proud Jew, and is also proud of his mixed race background, and probably has a lot of Israeli to him. Along these lines, I'm perfectly willing to accept Nate's first-hand explanation of why Farmar plays like he does. But this entire line of inquiry has never really been about whether Farmar "counts" or not, but if on a subjective, self-serving level, he delivers some hypothetical Jewish ballplayer of 2008 to yours truly. Typically, that's as much about figuring out what that player might look like (yes, a form of stereotyping), the a priori creation of a modern myth that may or may not have a culture connected to it (so sayeth Lobstah).

I actually feel kind of bad about making Farmar so central here. I'm not trying to build him up or tear him down, or prove his pedigree. That stuff only came up when the issue became "isn't it enough that he's a Jew," because then you get into "who's a Jew?"

Also, notice how little we've talked about the Israeli aspect of this.

At 12/16/2008 12:05 PM, Blogger Nate Jones said...

I get you that the post wasn't about does Farmar count. And even if it was he definitely would count. To say the contrary would be almost as ridiculous as those that say that Barack isn't really black or isn't really the first black president. Shit, he grew up in a Jewish household. Anyone that's seen any of Eli's embedded vids can see that influence. However, I just wanted to point out how from my perspective, I never saw any of that in him because I wasn't exposed to it. Even though he was clearly mixed, me and everyone in the neighborhood never thought of that other side.

I think that also might have to do with Farmar himself. A lot of muli-cultural kids learn how to be chameleons. Wouldn't be too far fetched to say I've seen it in Barack too.

At 12/16/2008 12:11 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I think my "could there be a Jewish style" somehow got twisted into "why doesn't Farmar provide it?"

At 12/16/2008 12:31 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Ah goddamn so much hand-wringing so little interest!!! I could only slosh through three paragraphs before my eyes glazed over. Religion is so sixty years ago, especially religious racial identification. I can't say I give a fuck what religion you or Farmar or Najera or ABDUL-RAUF practice or how it defines you as a person (barffff). I know this kind of talk that is only tangentially related to basketball is what Free Darko is all about, but I could type "jewish blog" into the googlez and read this exact entry twenty times over. Can we get some 2009 in this motherfucker? I'm tired of religion/nationality having a place in conversation.

At 12/16/2008 12:36 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Two words: John Scheyer

At 12/16/2008 1:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Jim did you catch the title of the post.

Mission accomplished.

At 12/16/2008 3:03 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Dub2 you need to do some soul searchin. No wonder you missed da crux; you hawkin a Wu-Tang concert at a damn ski-lodge, wheres your hip-hop knowledge. This post shouldn't just be boring to gentiles, it should be boring to any person who has/had the wherewithal to shed race based identity. I ain't askin Shoals to shut up and accept "whiteness" OR go orthodox. I'm sayin we're humans already, we've got our identity. I don't identify with Najera on the basis of his mix of semens and eggs,I feel him the same way I feel Popeye Jones. Fuck a zeitgeist we're gonna do the things that really win games and be damned if playin "black" means scoring with style or playing "mexican" means takin a siesta after your third foul in the first half. Shit is retarded and circle jerking over shared Cohenism is embarassing to this quarter-breed.

At 12/16/2008 4:21 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

Farmar's blog post is more interesting to me because he used the phrase "get some air." I've only heard skaters use that term. Twenty years ago. In hoops, isn't it usually something like, "people have noticed I have mad ups" or "hops" or something? Maybe I'm the one with the outdated slang.

Jim hates the Chappelle Show.

At 12/16/2008 4:52 PM, Blogger Teddy said...

Shoals, I don't know if I see why you'd look to hoops if your interest is in what a "jewish" game would looks like at the highest level of a sport. I'm Portuguese (and, like many Portogees, probably also arguably Jewish, though that's another story), and if I was interested in knowing how the national character is expressed through sport, I wouldn't look to basketball because Portuguese simply don't play the sport in the requisite numbers at the requisite levels. I'd instead look to soccer, where, I note, there are also a number of Jewish players operating in the highest European leagues. Eff Farmar, spend some time deconstructing Yossi Benayoun.

In other words, speculation on how Portuguese culture would be expressed through basketball style is pointless, because Portuguese sporting culture doesn't manifest itself in high-end basketball players. Neither does contemporary U.S. Jewish culture.

At 12/16/2008 5:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do believe I have been run.

At 12/16/2008 5:30 PM, Blogger jwm said...

Jim identifies with Stephen Colbert.

At 12/16/2008 8:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim, I'd like to live in a world where "I'm sayin we're humans already, we've got our identity." is some sort of valid point, but until we get alien invaders to unite us, its kinda hollow. I won't presume to guess your ethnicity, but fwiw I can tell you I've never heard a non-white person say that and its made more than one non-white friend of mine roll his or her eyes so hard I thought they were going to sprain their lids.

At 12/17/2008 1:34 AM, Blogger Chief Malone said...

To add on to what I posted on my blog (shameless plug, sorry), the issue isn't how Farmar plays on the court. The fact is that Jews identify with him. It's the same thing with Yao and the Chinese. Why has basketball exploded over there and why is he hoarded by every young Chinese girl he sees? It's not because he reminds them of their game (I've also yet to meet a 7'6 Chinese woman).

Outsiders may see Judaism as only a religion but it is much more than that. That is why I don't think there is as much hoopla in the Muslim community for someone like Shareef, because he isn't arab.

But Jews are very much a people, and when one of your people make it big, you pay attention.

At 12/17/2008 5:47 AM, Blogger StreakShooter McFloorburn said...

I couldn't wait for a more appropriate topic to appear to shout out the most FD highlight (or at least most relevant to The Almanac) ever, Josh Smith getting the block on one end, then Gerald Wallace doing the same on the other. Check it out on nba.com's daily top ten for Monday. Quick, Shoals - or whomever, we need a new post before this one gets to 100 comments! I'm not helping though...Is this the most commented-on post ever seen here? If not, what's the record? On the subject, could Jordan Farmar's being insufficiently compelling as a Jewish sports figure (in this setting) really be more because of his far-less-than-NBA-supernova status and less to do with his embodiment, or lack thereof, of readily identifiable cultural symbolism? If there really was a "Jewish Jordan", would you need him to be all super-obvious about it? I mean, you are liberated fans, right? Can you be liberated Jews as well? By the way, I'm a gentile, but this post, topic, thread, (and my girlfriend's Star of David tattoo) all get me overstimulated! This just in: the 2009 class of Coffee Table Book High voted The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac "least likely to be used as a coaster". We see bright things in it's future!

At 12/17/2008 6:47 AM, Blogger sooha210 said...

bethlehem, this may be an article of interest...

At 12/17/2008 10:58 AM, Blogger Chief Malone said...

T, I got a question though. Chinese kids who play ball, do they not look at Yao as someone who "made it?" Obviously, they don't try to emulate Yao's style of game because you can't teach being 7'6. It is much easier to try to play like Kobe than Yao.

On the same level, I'm not saying Farmar should be every Jewish kid's favorite player. My favorite player of all time is Mitch Richmond. Farmar will never replace him (if he becomes a King, he'll have a shot though). Jews (like everyone) aren't one dimensional. But Jewish kids should still look up to Farmar as a great Jewish basketball player.

At 12/17/2008 11:47 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

To clarify: I've never raised the question of whether or not Farmar looks like a Jew. I really don't believe that's even a valid question.

At 12/17/2008 12:02 PM, Blogger Chief Malone said...

Also to clarify. I don't mean that someone like Yao is popular with the Chinese because he looks Chinese. Rather, that what Yao signifies for Chinese culture.

At 12/17/2008 12:14 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Okay, you've all got me: I just want Jack Molinas reincarnated and reinstated.

At 12/17/2008 12:17 PM, Blogger Claude said...

Hey Bethlehem,

You must be aware of the House of David All Stars, the barnstorming basketball team of the 1920s and 1930s, who actually "looked like" Jews. Well, they were billed as Israelites. Is that the same thing? They also had a baseball team.

I'm not sure if they had any particular playing style. But they had a distinct visual style (full beards, etc.) that must have been appealing because they did well as an attraction. Probably as well or better than the Cincinnati Lion Tamers (colored) or the Chicago Hottentots (colored). :-)

At 12/17/2008 12:23 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I'm leaving this in comments sections everywhere: I've never questioned whether Farmar "looks Jewish."

And for the sake of everyone's sanity, I have kind of avoided the entire American Jew/Israeli issue here, though have had several email discussions about it.

At 12/17/2008 12:27 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

The hair on some of those House of David photos is straight up Samsonite, which might explain the "Israelite" tag. I'm only half-kidding.

At 12/17/2008 5:34 PM, Blogger BreadCity said...

I thought those House of David guys were actually some weird pseudo-Amish cult.

At 12/17/2008 5:45 PM, Blogger Harris said...

Sorry, this is a pretty ridiculous name-drop, but (try to follow along here) my great-uncle-in-law, Ralph Kaplowitz was a member of the original Knickerbockers, the team that won the first NBA championship. I never got to meet him, but he was gracious enough to send my brother and I autographed pictures of himself many years ago.

My point is, Jews of the early 20th century America, were an oppressed group, much like blacks were, and unfortunately, still are to a great deal. The early style of the game was born in the ghetto's of New York and Chicago, much like it is today. In this respect, Kaplowitz and Iverson have much more in common than logic would suggest. The street style of today is just evolved from the ghetto game of the past. This puts it far simpler than this complex issue requires, but still, you get my point.

At 12/18/2008 4:10 PM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

Apologies for busting on Jim a little more, but ...

Post-racialism is boring. And definitely not 2009; more like a retread of 1969 hippie "we're all part of the human race" clap trap. And ahistorical.

Which isn't to say that future won't be different from today or that today isn't different from yesterday, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

wv: rhype--good feelings about Anthony Randolph

At 12/18/2008 4:53 PM, Blogger Martin said...

OK - 1. Farmar is frikin awesome and was awesome in UCLA. 2. I've been really going over the "jew" type player characteristics and I come accross someone of non-jewish origin: could Chris Quinn possess "jewish"-type basketball qualities? could he be a proxy for the way us jews play ball? - I guess in a sense I think of small,totally underrated, runs around awkwardly and has a great outside shot...thoughts??

At 12/18/2008 11:43 PM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

Enjoyable but probably ultimately unhelpful to this topic: McSweeny's "Recreational Jewish Youth Basketball: An Ethnography".


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