Reporter John Kalish says “professional Jewish athletes are eagerly embraced” by the Jewish media, “because they refute the stereotype of the Jew as weakling or nerd.” (Of course, we bloggers might argue that we embrace them because they are our way into talking about sports, a welcome break from political conflict.) Whatever the deeper motivation, football player-turned-Orthodox Jew-turned-motivational speaker Alan “Shlomo” Veingrad was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame over the weekend. Kalish, a Vox Tablet contributor, reported on Veingrad’s second career for National Public Radio’s show Only a Game.
Maybe because Veingrad had long left any connection to his religion behind—as he says in one of his engagements, his bar mitzvah was his “exit out of Judaism”—he wasn’t creeped out when a stranger named Lou Weinstein called him out of the blue while he was playing for the Green Bay Packers in the 1980s. Rather, he went with the guy to High Holiday services and, says Kalish, Weinstein “instilled in him an obligation Jews have to reach out to their fellow Jews.” By the time he got transferred to the Dallas Cowboys in 1991, Veingrad went eagerly, hoping there he would “have a better chance at finding a Jewish wife.”
“If he wasn’t 6’5″ and dressed in a conservative business suit,” says Kalish of Veingrad, “he might be mistaken for a member of ZZ Top because his beard is that long.” More interesting to us is the fact that, as Kalish reports, Veingrad’s mother “altered his football resume” to give him a better time on the 50 yard dash and help him get onto the team at East Texas State. What Kalish calls “this ‘by any means necessary’ spirit,” reminds us of the good old days when the family would gather to “help” with someone’s school assignment or college application. We can only hope Veingrad inspires his fellow Jews to keep up the tradition.
Alan Veingrad [Only a Game]