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John Edwards | Jalen Rose | Braylon Edwards

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
Athletes Baseball Hebrew Jewish Sports

Kevin Youkilis adds L’chaim to His Red Sox Shirt

Kevin Youkilis, a Jewish player on the Boston Red Sox, designed his own Major League Baseball t-shirt. While Youkilis wasn’t the only player to design his own t-shirt, he was the only one to include a Hebrew word on the front of the shirt.

The main design highlights his nickname “Dirt Dog” and the bottom part of the shirt says “L’Chaim,” the Jewish term meaning “To Life” which is used as “Cheers” before drinks.

Hat Tip:
(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
Athletes Celebrities Jewish Obituary Sports

Jewish Wrestler Randy Savage Dies

I grew up watching the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) on TV. In fact, I even went to three WWF events including Wrestlemania 3 in 1987 at the Pontiac Silverdome. My two favorite wrestlers were Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage.

Randy Savage, who was known as “The Macho Man,” died in a car accident this morning in Florida. Randy’s brother, Lanny Poffo (also a former pro wrestler) told TMZ that Randy had a heart attack while driving and lost control of the car.

Randy Savage was born as Randall Mario Poffo in Columbus, Ohio. His father Angelo Poffo was Italian, but his mother Judy was Jewish making Randy Savage Jewish according to Jewish law. So, was Randy Savage Jewish? Yes.

I remember thinking how cool it was that before Randy “Macho Man” Savage was a pro wrestler, he was a baseball player. Savage played minor league baseball as an outfielder for minor league teams of the St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox.

Savage, who remarried last year, was 58 when he died in the car accident this morning. Hulk Hogan said, “He had so much life in his eyes and in his spirit, I just pray that he’s happy and in a better place and we miss him.”

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
Athletes Football Jewish Sports Yom Kippur

A Jewish Calendar Primer for Gabe Carimi

The Chicago Bears top draft pick is Gabe Carimi, a 22-year-old from the University of Wisconsin. The 6-7, 314-pound All-American is nicknamed “The Jewish Hammer.”

I’ve written on this blog several times about Jewish Major League Baseball players and the conflict of playing on Yom Kippur, but I’ve never discussed how the Yom Kippur decision affects NFL football players. This is likely because when there’s a Yom Kippur conflict in pro baseball it is often an important post-season game, yet, in college and pro football it’s only the beginning of the season.

Gabe Carimi, however, has brought the Yom Kippur holiday conflict to the NFL when he responded to a question about whether he’d play on Yom Kippur in a Chicago Bears game.  A self-proclaimed Reform Jew, Carimi fasted until an hour before the Big Ten opener in his freshman season for the University of Wisonsin when the game fell on Yom Kippur. When Yom Kippur again fell on a game day last season, Carimi fasted for 24 hours, but not according to the time zone he was currently in. Rather, he fasted according to the Israeli sundown so he could eat and take intravenous fluids right before game time.

Gabe Carimi was quoted as saying, “It’s pretty big in my life. I’m religious, but I try to tweak it so I can still do my job.”

At the NFL Combine this year, when asked whether he would play on Yom Kippur, Carimi told NFL scouts, “I already looked out over the next 15 years, and Yom Kippur doesn’t fall on a Sunday.”

So, here’s some information on the Jewish calendar for Gabe Carimi. First off, the Jewish calendar was fixed in 358/359 CE by Hillel II so that Yom Kippur will never fall on a Sunday. I’m pretty certain this wasn’t done with the NFL schedule in mind, but rather because if Yom Kippur fell on a Sunday, it would not be possible to make the necessary preparations for Yom Kippur, including candle lighting, because the preceding day is the Jewish Sabbath.

So, Gabe Carimi doesn’t have to worry about any NFL games that are scheduled for Sunday conflicting with Yom Kippur. Ever. And had he kept looking beyond the next 15 years, he would find that there are no Sundays on which Yom Kippur falls.

What Carimi neglected to look for are Yom Kippur conflicts on other days of the week since there are the occasional NFL games on Monday nights, Thursday nights, and Saturdays when Yom Kippur can occur.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
Athletes Basketball Ethics Money Sports

The LeBron Decision From a Jewish Perspective

Aside from NBA star LeBron James leaving one Jewish NBA franchise owner in Cleveland (Quicken Loans and Rock Financial chairman Dan Gilbert) and going to work for another Jewish NBA franchise owner in Miami (Israeli-American CEO of Carnival Corporation Micky Arison), there are several Jewish themes and lessons in “The Decision” of which team the free agent would sign with.

Ne’emanut (Loyalty) – In the last couple of decades there has been very little loyalty among professional athletes. In a bygone era, a city’s fans could expect their star player to stick with the franchise from his rookie season until his retirement when he would be awarded a coaching or front office position. With free agency, loyalty is out the window. High profile athletes in free agency have their agents shop them around to the highest bidding teams. Last night, LeBron James decided he would leave Cleveland sans a championship ring and head down to South Beach, Florida because he wanted to win a championship and figured that the Miami Heat with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh would be his best shot. I’m sure building a Shaq-like estate on Biscayne Bay or Millionaire’s Row had something to do with the decision too, not that I have anything against LeBron’s hometown and current city Akron, Ohio.

Anivut (humility) – Realistically, I don’t expect many NBA superstars to be humble — the few guys in the league who are humble are widely praised as anomalies in the sport. These are guys who grew up with very little and became millionaires with their first signed contract. They live glamorous lifestyles, their image is worth millions, and their endorsement deals add millions more to their net worth. However, the way LeBron handled his free agency decision was embarrassing. The hour-long ESPN prime-time special in which he announced he’d leave Cleveland for Miami had LeBron sitting across from Jim Gray, whom he chose as his interviewer, and in the background were rows of children from the Boys and Girls Club sitting silently. I fault his management team and agent for not using better judgment and letting their mega-star client know how badly this would look to the world.

Malachim (Kings) – We know from the Bible that kings are flawed individuals. LeBron had no problem coming out of high school, signing a mega-contract with the Cavaliers, and proclaiming himself “The King.” It was a title he had yet to earn in the NBA, but he made a personal franchise out of it. While other superstars helped their teams win rings, King James would earn no ring in Cleveland. Today, Dan Gilbert (pictured) issued a letter to Cavaliers fans and finally expressed his own long-held opinions about his franchise player. To the Cleveland fans he wrote, “You simply don’t deserve this kind of cowardly betrayal.” He accused LeBron of giving up and tanking it in the playoffs this year (and also in last year’s post-season). Gilbert’s words lead us to believe that like the kings of the Bible, James is a flawed individual. He put himself before his teammates and the fans who supported him and paid for the tickets, souvenirs, and apparel that kept his stock high.

The people of Cleveland have every right to feel betrayed by LeBron. Superstar athletes may come and go, but the way LeBron handled this free agency decision was all wrong and hurtful to his fans (no fans, NBA; no NBA, no multi-million dollar contracts). Perhaps Cavs owner Dan Gilbert said it best and his words that transcend the NBA. I hope all pro athletes will take Gilbert’s words to heart.

He said, “It’s not about him leaving. It’s the disrespect. It’s time for people to hold these athletes accountable for their actions. Is this the way you raise your children? I’ve been holding this all in for a long time.”

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |