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Kosher Pigskin

As football season starts, discussing backup Vikings quarterback Sage Rosenfels and other Jews in the NFL

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Quarterbacks Brett Favre #4 and Sage Rosenfels #2 of the Minnesota Vikings watch the scoreboard from the bench during the Monday Night Football game against the Green Bay Packers on October 5, 2009 at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota.(Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Football season is upon us once again—it kicks off on Rosh Hashanah, with a game between the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints and the Minnesota Vikings, a team that boasts the only Jewish quarterback in the NFL, Sage Rosenfels. (His playing time has been eclipsed mightily by Brett Favre.)

But Rosenfels isn’t the only Jew in professional football. Tablet Magazine’s Marc Tracy has been keeping tabs on his coreligionists on the gridiron. He spoke with The Atlantic Wire‘s Ray Gustini, a similarly avid fan who formerly wrote for the National Football Post, about which teams are friendly to the Jews—and which could end up as Tablet Magazine’s favorite squad. 

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Wonderful discussion, guys, enjoyed it all.

Joel Kauffman says:

How come you didn’t mention Sid Luckman?

Debby says:

Loved the podcast, very amusing to say the least. I must comment here that despite the fact that I have lived in the DC area longer than I lived in NJ where I grew up a Giant fan, and am related by blood to a few Redskin fans (and married one!), unlike your Grandfather (and my Uncle), I will never adopt my local team and be a Redskin fan. I just can’t do it. I suppose it is easier for him to root for the Dolphins as they are in another division.

Andy M says:

One term in the written intro bothers me. Nobody is accusing the NFL of anti-Semitism, so why are we invited to read about “teams that are friendly to the Jews”? Some teams happen to employ Jewish players and most teams don’t. But, as Tablet surely knows, the issue isn’t how the teams feel about Jews. Even if this is all tongue-in-cheek, it’s not cute or funny or useful. We shouldn’t use that term carelessly.
As for the podcast, a correction: the Packers aren’t owned by Green Bay, but by thousands of stock-holding fans throughout the nation if not the world, some of whom are Jewish. And one could argue that in addition to Curly Lambeau, the Packers were co-founded by a 5’4″ local Jewish cattle dealer named Nate Abrams, who also played for the team in its formative years. I write this as a native Wisconsite and, sigh, sports geek.

J Carpenter says:

. . . forget the NFL—-there’s a great football game in the Chicago area (Skokie) on Thanksgiving Day, the Indo-Jew Bowl. Regional players get together for friendly ethnic gridiron competition, mostly Indian/Pakistani v. mostly Jewish, with “ringers” on either side. Players and fans must donate foodstuffs to local food pantries; game has also been played as a fundraiser for local charities. Ten years running (and passing)—
:?)

Eric F. says:

Sage Rosenfels is technically Jewish-at least by the Reform’s definition of patrilineal descent, and he does say he learned about Judaism from his dad. But I’m not sure a guy who turns down invitations to speak to Jewish groups because he doesn’t want to give “false information” is really worthy of so much celebration as the “only Jewish quarterback in the NFL.”

http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/texans/2007-10-23-rosenfels_N.htm

But Rosenfels says that though he is of Jewish heritage, his family didn’t practice that faith.

“I’ve only been in a synagogue once in my life,” says Rosenfels, adding that his father is 100% Jewish. “We acknowledged certain Jewish holidays, and he taught us the history of the Jewish religion.”

Occasionally, members of the Jewish community phone Rosenfels’ teams, hoping he will speak to schools or youth groups about what they assume is his faith.

“I’ve always declined it, because I didn’t want to give false information,” Rosenfels says.

I have to give special props to Taylor Mays (and therefore the 49ers). Unlike Rosenfels, Taylor Mays had a bar mitzvah and, like the majority of Jews his age, graduated with a BA:

http://www.jewornotjew.com/profile.jsp?ID=543

Formerly of the 49ers is Harris Barton who started playing football while attending Jewish day school in Atlanta. When spontaneously asked by Bill Walsh to give a prayer before a 49ers game, Barton recited the motze lechem min ha aretz, which greatly impressed Jerry Rice. I think they won that game, but since they won most games in that era I’m not sure if the motze made a difference or not.

daniel schleifer says:

marc,

i am not sure what south you are referring to when you said that the redskins came from the south, maybe south boston (my dad’s uncle had a store there at that time), and that is why there is a rivalry with the cowboys. the redskins started in boston and moved to dc in 1937. http://www.sportsecyclopedia.com/nfl/wasbos/bosskins.html

Eric F. says:

Daniel,

Because there was no NFL team on the East Coast south of Washington until the mid-1960s-and the Atlanta Falcons, when they did join the league, weren’t very good for their first 15 years or so–the Redskins were the favorite team of many people in southern Virginia and the Carolinas, if not even farther south. When I went to college in North Carolina in the late 1980s-early 1990s, every Redskins game was on a local radio station in the Raleigh-Durham area, and the Redskins’ games were almost always the game broadcast down there on the networks. That’s likely changed now with the Panthers, though.

Les Miller says:

I believe Bret Favre is a crypto-Jew

BH in Iowa says:

Love the idea of reciting ha’motzi before a game. It implies the devouring of ones opponents.

Go Hawkeyes!

David says:

I agree with Eric. Further, it is a sad commentary that anyone cares so much about whether there is a Jewish NFLer that you would lead off a report about the topic with a guy who has disassociated himself from the Jewish community. Are you that hard-up for stories that you have to make them up?

Not only do the Patriots have a prominent Jewish owner. We also have a former linebacker (Andre Tippet) who has converted to Judaism. On top of that, many players have accompanied Robert Kraft on trips to Israel.

Blythe says:

I would just like to correct the hosts of this episode. One comment made referred to no jews going to Jacksonville. That is untrue. There is a large jewish community in Jacksonville. Check your facts.

Love the comment about Favre. Can’t stand him. When will he retire?

Wait…there’s pro ball? Huh…

Sorry busy watching college ball this time of year. Can’t be bothered with pro ball!

Go Canes!

hey, very funny, mr. marc.

btw, Art Modell owned grocery stores in brooklyn,I think, not sporting goods stores. He came out to Ohio and paid peanuts for the Browns.

correction to my previous comment . . . Modell didn’t own grocery stores. He worked in television production in New York, according to http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/entry.php?rec=1798

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Kosher Pigskin

As football season starts, discussing backup Vikings quarterback Sage Rosenfels and other Jews in the NFL

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