A Potential Moment of Ethnic Pride, and Then…

The Curmudgeon lost touch with professional basketball a long time ago – around the time each team had at least one player whose last name was Johnson and he couldn’t keep them straight and then he saw a beloved local player shake the hand of a teammate who had just missed a free throw, as if that was a reason to congratulate someone. So when he heard on the radio right before he went to sleep two Saturdays ago that someone named Zach Levine had won the NBA slam dunk contest he thought…

Is it possible…

Could it be…

Nah, it’s inconceivable, but…

Is there any way a Jewish guy named Zach Levine won the NBA slam dunk contest?

A Jewish guy?   A landsman? In the NBA at all? And one who could…jump?

Even the fellow Jews who get that far, they get there on guile; no way they can…jump.

The Curmudgeon’s people haven’t accomplished a whole lot in the world of sports. In the 1930s and 1940s there were a few prominent Jewish boxers; one of the all-time great NFL quarterbacks, but he’s from the 1940s and few remember him; the man who more or less invented how professional football teams have played on offense for the past fifty-five years; and the greatest coach in the history of professional basketball. Coach, not player.

We have no one in hockey and had to root – hard – against the swimmer Michael Phelps because of our allegiance to Mark Spitz. There’s the former wrestler who went by “Goldberg,” but wrestling doesn’t count. A few years back the American Jewish Historical Society created a set of baseball cards that it claimed included every Jew who ever played major league baseball, but after reviewing the set he purchased, The Curmudgeon found that other than Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax (about whom The Curmudgeon has written in the past), that is one sorry group of ball players.

You see, as athletes, The Curmudgeon’s people make for…very good students. Doctors. Lawyers. Guys who own professional sports teams, not guys who play on them.

So you can imagine how the possibility that there might be a Jewish guy in the NBA who was good enough and athletic enough to win the league’s slam-dunk competition could be pretty exciting to The Curmudgeon.

So the next morning, right after he wiped the sleep out of his eyes and turned on the heater, which he extinguishes every night an hour before bed, The Curmudgeon turned on his Mac, went to the ESPN web site, and…

Saw his hopes dashed.

Zach Levine was Zach LaVine, pronounced like La-veen, and he was certainly no landsman. Instead of being a brother, LaVine is…a brotha.

Once again, as Jim McKay announced for all those years at the start of ABC’s Wide World of Sports as that poor Yugoslavian skier plummeted off the ski jump, “The thrill of victory – and the agony of defeat.”

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