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Sports Quick Hits: November 29th, 2021
⚽️USWNT: The USWNT took their talents down under and came out on top, notching a 3–0 friendly win over Australia on Friday. They’ll finish out the year with a rematch tomorrow at 4:05 a.m. ET. Queue up the DVR.
⚽️MLS playoffs: Three conference finals spots clinched, one to go. The No. 2 Philadelphia Union, the No. 4 Portland Timbers and No. 7 Real Salt Lake punched their tickets to the next round over the weekend, while the No. 1 New England Revolution and No. 4 NYCFC will play for the final spot tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. ET. No pressure.
⚾️MLB: With the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) set to expire on Wednesday, the MLB could be heading for its ninth work stoppage, meaning all trades, payments, workouts and play will be halted until a new CBA is reached.
College: So offended that we had to double check
⚽️Soccer: And then there were four. Behind Friday’s upset win over No. 1 Duke, defending women’s champs Santa Clara clinched their spot in the College Cup semifinals, with No. 1 Florida State, No. 1 Rutgers and No. 4 BYU rounding out the rest of the
🏈Football: Former No. 2 Ohio State saw their College Football Playoff (CFP) hopes dashed after losing 42–27 to then–No. 5 Michigan on Saturday.
- As for Michigan, not only did they win their first “The Game” matchup since 2011, they also jumped solidly into CFP contention. Bet they’re not feeling so Blue today.
🏀Basketball: After last week’s rout of No. 2 UCLA, people were wondering if anyone could beat men’s No. 1 Gonzaga...until No. 5 Duke defeated them 84–81 on Friday, the Zags’ first regular-season loss in 36 games. Damn.
- As for the women: after snagging the No. 2 ranking last week, Maryland lost two games in a row, falling to No. 5 NC State on Thursday and No. 7 Stanford on Saturday. We live for the chaos.
🏐Volleyball: Okay, no upsets here (yet), but the 64-team women’s volleyball championship bracket is set and, surprise, surprise, undefeated Louisville grabbed the No. 1 seed. Single-elimination play begins on Thursday.
🏈NFL Week 12: Highlights (and lowlights)
Do you get déjà vu?: Stop us if you heard this one before, but Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback (QB) Tom Brady led his squad to a 38–31 comeback win over the Indianapolis Colts yesterday. Because of course.
Oh no no no no no: We promised lowlights, and this one’s a doozy. The New York Jets defeated the Houston Texans 21–14 yesterday, but Jets QB Zach Wilson was part of a brutal interception when he threw the ball off of his teammate’s back and into the Texans defender's hands. You have to see it to believe it.
Riding the pine: He’s baaack...on the sidelines. After a stellar performance in his first start of the season last week, Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton was benched yesterday after throwing two interceptions in a rough 33–10 loss to the Miami Dolphins.
Striking gold: The San Francisco 49ers extended their win streak to three, thanks to yesterday’s 34–26 win over the Minnesota Vikings. And look away Vikings fans, because there’s more bad news: star running back (RB) Dalvin Cook was carted off the field with a shoulder injury. Scary.
Monday Night Football: The fun continues tonight at 8:15 p.m. ET when the desperate-for-a-win Seattle Seahawks face the surging Washington Football Team (WFT). Can Seahawks QB Russell Wilson help his squad level up or will the WFT make the NFC East title race a little more interesting?
🏆The biggest moments in Jewish sports history
QUOTE OF THE DAY
He didn’t see the burden of his identity, he saw the possibility of it.
— Rabbi Michael Paley, talking about LA Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax and his impact on the Jewish community. Powerful.
⚾️ Dazzling on the diamond
We have to begin with aforementioned star pitcher Sandy Koufax. The youngest player ever elected to the Hall of Fame (36), Koufax garnered countless accolades and accomplishments over his 12-year career, including throwing a perfect game as well as winning three Cy Young awards and two World Series MVPs.
- But Koufax’s most notable baseball contribution came when he chose not to pitch in a big game.
Koufax led the Dodgers to the World Series in 1965, his third career appearance in the Fall Classic. As the ace, Koufax was expected to pitch Game 1, but there was a conflict: the opening game was scheduled for Yom Kippur, the holiest Jewish holiday. So Koufax declined to pitch in order to observe it.
- Koufax’s decision garnered national attention and, just 20 years removed from the end of the Holocaust, signaled a turning point in how Jews were perceived in sports, and the world.
- As for the on-field results, Koufax pitched well in the Dodgers’ Game 2 loss, threw a shutout in their Game 5 win, then clinched the series with a three-hit Game 7 shutout, a storybook ending representative of his courage on and off the diamond.
Perhaps inspired by Koufax, many other Jewish players have succeeded in the MLB over the years, including 2011 National League MVP Ryan Braun, four-time All Star Ian Kinsler and two-time defending World Series champ Joc Pederson (a big pearls guy).
- And, speaking of World Series champs, we can’t forget Atlanta pitcher Max Fried, an elite lefty, just like his idol Koufax.
🤸♀️ Flippin’ good
Two-time Olympian Aly Raisman’s 2012 Olympic floor routine was yet another pivotal moment in Jewish sports history. Performing her routine to “Hava Nagila,” a traditional Jewish folk song, Raisman won individual gold and helped the U.S. to team gold.
- She and the rest of the Fierce Five’s win captivated the world, but it wasn’t until later that Raisman would understand the full impact of incorporating her heritage on the global stage.
Reflecting on the routine, Raisman later said, “I didn’t realize at the time I was representing not only the United States but the Jewish community.”
- The Olympian also noted that she received a letter from a Holocaust survivor saying she could’ve never imagined seeing a young girl perform to that song in front of the world, let alone winning while doing it. Incredible.
And we’d be remiss not to mention U.S. gymnast Kerri Strug. While she’s best known for powering through injury to complete her vault and help the U.S. win gold during the 1996 Olympics (a moment we understand differently in hindsight), what’s less commonly noted about Strug is her pride in her Jewish heritage.
Later writing about her sports success, Strug connected her accomplishments to her Jewish faith, saying in part, “I think about the attributes that helped me reach that podium: perseverance when faced with pain, years of patience and hope in an uncertain future...In my mind, those are attributes that have defined Jews throughout history.”
💪 Barrier breakers
Here at The GIST, we know representation matters. Here are a few more notable Jewish athletes who broke barriers in their sport.
🏀Basketball: While Seattle Storm legend Sue Bird is undoubtedly the best Jewish athlete to play in the WNBA, hoops trailblazer Nancy Lieberman — who played in the W’s inaugural season at age 39 — was the very first.
- As a player, Lieberman won silver with Team USA at the 1976 Olympics, won two college national titles with Old Dominion University and even became the first woman to play for the Washington Generals, an opponent of the Harlem Globetrotters.
- But her accomplishments aren’t limited to the court. Lieberman went on to become the first female coach of a pro men’s team and the second female assistant coach in NBA history. Not bad for a “poor, skinny, redheaded Jewish girl from Queens.”
⚾️Baseball: The first-ever known Jewish baseball player was Lipman Pike, who also became the game’s first pro back in 1866. But the game’s first true Jewish superstar was third baseman Hank “The Hebrew Hammer” Greenberg.
- Before Koufax opted not to pitch on Yom Kippur, Greenberg also notably sat out during the holiday in 1934 in the middle of his team’s hunt for the playoffs.
- Greenberg faced antisemitism throughout his career, a horrible reality but one that helped him forge a friendship and bond with fellow baseball barrier breaker Jackie Robinson.
🏈Football: Former New England Patriots wide receiver (WR) Julian Edelman once described himself as “Jew...ish,” but his role in Jewish sports history comes with no caveats.
- Edelman became the first Jewish athlete to be named Super Bowl MVP during New England’s 2019 win, and he continues to be a crucial voice in the community (more on that below).
🚫 Combatting antisemitism in sports
While we celebrate these trailblazing athletes, it’s important to call out recent moments of anti-Jewish hate in the sports world amid an uptick of antisemitism in the world at large.
- Last year, former Philadelphia Eagles WR DeSean Jackson shared an antisemitic quote attributed to Adolf Hitler via Instagram.
- Many in the sports world rightfully admonished Jackson’s post, but the aforementioned Edelman saw it as an educational moment, offering to have a conversation with Jackson and even accompany him on a visit to the U.S. Holocaust Museum in D.C.
Earlier this year, basketball player Meyers Leonard (who then played for the Miami Heat) was heard on a video game stream using a horrible antisemitic slur.
- Leonard was fined and suspended from the team “indefinitely,” but Edelman again saw this as an opportunity for growth, penning a powerful open letter to Leonard.
These high profile moments of antisemitism are deeply troubling, but, as Edelman demonstrates, we can find comfort and a path forward in how we choose to respond. As Edelman has said, “Antisemitism is one of the oldest forms of hatred. It's rooted in ignorance and fear.”
- So, just like our quote of the day, let’s choose to see the possibility. Through tough conversations, education, celebration and uplifting stories of change, we can overcome.
🏈Thanksgiving football: Buffalo Bills (6-4) vs. New Orleans Saints (5-5) — 8:20 p.m. ET
The GIST: Although New Orleans Saints QB Jameis Winston is sidelined for the season with a torn ACL, you’ll still want to save room for this primetime matchup.
Bills: After a red-hot 4-1 start to the season, Buffalo has struggled of late, losing two of their last three with both losses coming to mediocre teams. Early MVP candidate QB Josh Allen will need a standout performance to squash the surfacing doubts about his squad.
Saints: Winston went down with a torn ACL then backup QB Taysom Hill suffered a concussion, ceding the starting role to third-string QB Trevor Siemian, who’s 0-3 in his three starts under center. Not great.
- That said, New Orleans will have an elite running game if RBs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram are available.
Prediction: With both squads coming off embarrassing losses in Week 11, it’s hard to know which version of each team will show up tonight. But with the uncertainty surrounding the Saints’ injuries, we have to go with the Bills and their top-ranked defense in this one. Just don’t jump through your Thanksgiving table in celebration, Bills Mafia.