Navigate to News section

The Brief History of Jews and the Super Bowl

A look at the themes more than the players

Adam Chandler
February 04, 2013
SodaStream ad.(Vimeo)

SodaStream ad.(Vimeo)

Seeing a Jewish player in the National Football League these days is like seeing a blonde in Jerusalem. In fact, according to the Jerusalem Post, exactly eight Jewish players have ever won Super Bowl rings before.

The list of Jews to win the big game is even smaller: including [Patriots punter Josh] Miller, Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Randy “The Rabbi” Grossman (who won a Jewish-record four times in 1975, ’76, ’77, ’78), San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman Harris Barton (1989, ’90, ’95), 49ers tight end John Frank (1985, ’89), Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman Alan “Shlomo” Veingrad (1993), Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Bobby Stein (1970), Miami Dolphins offensive guard Ed Newman (1973) and Los Angeles Raiders defensive end Lyle Alzado (1984).

While last night’s big game, in which the Baltimore Ravens won 34-31, didn’t have anything in the way of Jewish sports heroic, that doesn’t mean the game itself wasn’t thick with Jewish themes.

1. Picture two brothers locked in heated battle for the blessing of their father. Jacob and Esau? Or Jim and John Harbaugh, head coach of the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens respectively, whose teams fought up until the last seconds when the game was finally decided.

2. The redemption narrative. Days after Art Modell, former owner of the Baltimore Ravens and grandson of the sports apparel magnate, failed to garner enough votes for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, his spirit exacted revenge on the league as his team won the biggest game on the biggest stage. Modell was a hugely influential figure in pro football, he helped broker the NFL’s deal with TV networks, was a driving force behind the creation of Monday Night Football, and he infamously moved the Cleveland Browns from Cleveland to Baltimore, where they became the Ravens.

3. Something to kvetch about. According to Twitter, the biggest amount of the 24 million-plus Super Bowl-related tweets that went out during the Super Bowl weren’t from some of the games biggest moments like Jacoby Jones’ inexplicable 108-yard kickoff return for Baltimore or the 49ers’ touchdown that brought them within a two-point conversion of tying up the game after being down 22 points. No, the biggest surge in tweets came the moment lights went off during the Super Bowl’s first ever power outage and carried through the 34-minute break in the action:

– Power outage: 231,500 TPM [Tweets Per Minute]
– 108-yard kickoff return for Ravens TD by Jones: 185,000 TPM
– Clock expires; Ravens win: 183,000 TPM
– Jones catches 56 yard pass for Ravens TD (end of 2nd quarter): 168,000 TPM
– Gore TD for 49ers: 131,000 TPM

4. Then, of course, there were the ads. SodaStream, an Israeli company that makes your tap water fizzy and has been the target of numerous boycott attempts by people who hate soda and Israel, made an effective pitch to consumers. Their ad focused on the amount of the plastic that would be saved if we made our own soda instead of having millions of plastic two-liter bottles shipped across the country.

5. Portnoy’s Domain. Perhaps the ad to cause the biggest stir was the ad that featured a Jewish actor, Jesse Heiman, and Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli intensely making out to…somehow represent the nexus of intellect and sex appeal of the internet hosting company We wrote more about the ad last week. If haven’t seen it yet, you might not want to.

6. A little controversy. What’s a huge game without some fodder for intellectual dissection. Take two of the game’s final plays. One was a crucial non-call by the officials that would have put the San Francisco 49ers in position to score easily at the game’s end and win. Despite some pretty obvious holding, the refs kept their flags in their pockets. The second play was a punt, during which the Baltimore Ravens committed a few penalties that weren’t called, but due to a loophole in the NFL rulebook, wouldn’t have harmed them anyway.

Until next year!

Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.

Support Our Podcasts

In addition to Unorthodox, the world’s No. 1 Jewish podcast, and Take One, our daily Talmud meditation, we’re hard at work on exciting new Jewish audio series.