This time of year always makes one think of a few things – football playoffs, bowl week, to name two of them – and of course affords everyone the chance to look back at the year that was and the personalities that filled the headlines.
The “Chosen 1’s” certainly is not a column above doing one of those end-of-year retrospectives, a column that looks at and selects a Jewish Sports Personality of 2008. So here goes, with some nominees:
Robert Kraft, owner, New England Patriots: Sure, his team didn’t win the Super Bowl in 2008, getting upset by the Giants. But they did make it to the title game for the fourth time in seven years. Perhaps more important to our people, he is the title sponsor for the Kraft Family Israel Football League. That’s right, American football in the Holy Land. Check out www.ifl.co.il and see who won the second annual Chanuka Bowl. I kid you not.
The Commishes: Say what you want about them – and there are sure to be varying opinions about them – but it’s still pretty cool to know that the head of Major League Baseball (Bud Selig), the National Basketball Association (David Stern) and the National Hockey Association (Gary Bettman) are all lansmen. No word on whether they’ve cornered NFL Commish Roger Goodell about converting.
MLB All-Stars (Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox, Ryan Braun, Brewers, Ian Kinsler, Rangers): Always a solid contributor and an emotional leader, Youkilis had the best season of his career, making the All-Star team for the first time and finishing third in the American League Most Valuable Player voting. Kinsler was also a first-time All-Star and also got a few MVP votes, though he missed some time with an injury. Still, he hit .319 with 18 homers and 26 stolen bases. Braun, last year’s National League Rookie of the Year, was third in NL MVP voting, with 37 homers and 106 RBIs to go along with 14 steals while winning his first silver slugger award.
Sage Rosenfels, QB, Houston Texans: For several years, he was part of an all-Jewish quarterbacking tandem in Miami, backing up Jay Fiedler. He was backing up Matt Schaub in Houston, but stepped in as a starter for five games over the course of the season. He’s not a superstar, by any means, but he did complete 66.7 percent of his passes, including winning his last two before giving the ball back to Schaub as the Texans finished the season winning five of their last six. Honorable NFL mention: Igor Olshansky, Chargers.
Michael Cammalleri, forward, Calgary Flames: I’m the first one to admit my hockey knowledge is extremely limited, but according to Jewishsports.com, Cammalleri is a member of the tribe. He’s got 12 goals and 17 assists for 29 points. That’s 53rd in the NHL, 16th among left wings and certainly first among Jewish hockey players. Honorable NHL mention: Matthieu Schneider.
Olympic athletes galore: According to one site, there were more than 60 Jews participating in Beijing (there has to be a joke about Jews and Chinese food to be made here). So many had successful Olympic experiences, but to me, there’s no question who the 2008 Jewish Sports Personality of the Year is:
Jason Lezak, swimming: Had he only won his first individual medal by getting a bronze medal in the 100-meter freestyle, that would have been enough. But he will be most remembered for his swim in the 4×100 freestyle relay. He swam the fastest split in history, coming from behind to beat the world record holder and the guy who won the individual gold in the 100m freestyle, Alain Bernard. Without that effort, Michael Phelps wouldn’t have won his eight golds. Lezak also took home gold in the 4×100 medley relay. For that, he’s more than worthy of being the Chosen 1’s, umm, Chosen One.
(Jonathan Mayo, The Chronicle’s sports columnist and a staff writer for MLB.com, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)