Brooklyn Nets Back in the 'Hood

Hoops Team Returns to Heart of Jewish New York

Tattoo You: From the era of baseball’s Dodgers to the arrival of basketball’s Nets, sports has been an indelible aspect of growing up in Brooklyn.
Getty Images
Tattoo You: From the era of baseball’s Dodgers to the arrival of basketball’s Nets, sports has been an indelible aspect of growing up in Brooklyn.

By Mendel Horowitz

Published October 18, 2012, issue of October 26, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

For some, The Nets’ arrival in Brooklyn is a religious experience. After a 55-year exile, “the folks on the stoop” (as Brooklynites are designated in an NBA promotional video) have been granted a sports franchise. With the Nets now on Atlantic Avenue, borough president Marty Markowitz has claimed to see “the ghosts of Ebbets Field departing,” taking with them a half-century of tears and the heartache of betrayal. For Markowitz and his kindred, the team’s arrival suggests that prayers do get answered, that devotion — and patience — are rewarded.

As fate would have it, the longed-for Dodgers stand-ins are confessedly Brooklyn-spirited and the borough will not have to adjust its iconic swagger. With its multiple owners — one, Jay-Z, a black rap mogul from Bed-Stuy — the sole Brooklyn franchise seems eager to assert a fresh urban attitude. Not everyone has been impressed. Phil Mushnick of the New York Post drew attention to the Nets’ new color scheme and was criticized for his racist rant about it. What a shame. By heralding neighborhood and loyalty, the Nets’ bold outlook should appeal to blacks and Jews alike. Both cultures have suffered countless indignities, both have flourished in the County of Kings and both relish similar community values. Within hip-hop’s bravado lies a fiery Jewish soul — downtrodden, bullied, ready. Consider Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys.

The allure of Jay-Z — like that of professional athletes — is his exploitation of graphic imagery to evoke powerful emotions in his enthusiasts. Sure, some hip-hop language is vulgar, misogynist and racist, but its message can be motivational, educational and inspirational. Organized sports are sometimes violent, always aggressive and fiercely competitive (and bigoted and sexist), but they are cherished for the invaluable lessons they are said to impart.

Owing to its unhurried pace and lack of physical contact, baseball is the most elegant of professional team sports. There is a reason New York University offers a course entitled “Baseball as a Road to God” and not a similar one about football, basketball, hockey or soccer. There is no Ken Burns documentary about any other Great American pastime; no “Casey at the Bat”; no “Who’s On First?” for the NFL, NBA, NHL or MLS. When the Nets say “Hello Brooklyn!” and hail “tradition” in their promotional video, the spirit conjured is of the Dodgers and Jack Roosevelt Robinson.

Before The Fall: The Dodgers, circa 1954.
Getty Images
Before The Fall: The Dodgers, circa 1954.

For some Big Apple Semites, religion and sports are tastefully combined in a cholent of symbolic meanings. My father, a tribesman from East Noo Yawk (Berriman and New Lots), speaks often and emphatically of baseball as a religious metaphor. To him our national pastime is inherently Jewish and “Dem Bums” were a nine-man minyan. “Baseball’s lack of boundaries — both in time and space — reflect God’s infinite nature,” my father will preach to anyone listening (and sometimes to anyone at all). His “baseball as an expression of the divine” postulate includes such gems as relating the exquisite distance between bases to divine providence. I once suggested that Ted Williams’s observation that those who fail “only” seven times out of 10 attempts will be the greatest in the game serves as consolation for devotional lapses. Father heartily agreed.

My bloodline is not alone in turning to baseball for immortal truths. Nota Schiller, in a lecture entitled “The Jewish Metaphysics of Baseball,” claims that uniform infields correspond to the uncompromising Written Law and dissimilar outfields to the plasticity of tradition. Schiller also shares my impression that baseball is alone in determining triumph by returning home, an achievement that has defined Jewry for millennia. George Carlin’s reflection that only a baseball manager dons the same uniform as his players mirrors the Psalm “I will be with him in trouble.” God, like a faithful skipper, stands by his team.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.