’Tis the season of family drama.
The three-week holiday season opened last week on Rosh Hashanah with the reading in synagogue of the biblical story of Abraham attempting to butcher his son Isaac. The season will close next week on the holiday of Simchat Torah, the Rejoicing in the Law, with the reading of the tale of Cain killing his brother Abel. That’s how we bookend this season of redemption. And they talk about Jewish family warmth.
As if to bring these morality tales to life in modern garb, we are privileged this season to witness the real-time reenactment of the eternal brother-vs.-brother struggle on two distinct playing fields, six days and an ocean apart. Yesterday, September 19, all eyes were fixed on Indianapolis for a rare, highly charged face-off between the brothers Peyton and Eli Manning, respectively the quarterbacks of the Indianapolis Colts and the New York Giants. Peyton, the older of the two, dealt his brother a humiliating 38-14 trouncing.
Next Saturday, a strikingly similar drama will be played out in Great Britain, when the Labour Party announces the results of the unusual leadership contest between the brothers David and Ed Miliband, respectively former foreign and environmental ministers in the recently defeated government of Gordon Brown.
If either Miliband makes it to 10 Downing Street, he will be Britain’s first Jewish prime minister (unless you count Disraeli). The Mannings, who have both led their teams to Superbowl victories, are not of the Tribe, but they did spend their early years attending the private Isidore Newman School, originally the Jewish Orphans’ Home in New Orleans, where their father Archie was a Saints quarterback.
The British contest won’t be as violent as the one in Indianapolis. David Miliband probably won’t have his followers physically jumping on Ed and wrestling him to the ground, though you never know. But the Milibands’ end result could be uglier than the Mannings’. The brothers Miliband took to the field last spring vowing not to let the political rivalry affect their family ties. The latest news reports indicate that it’s not working out that way. Jewish family feuds often tend to be more verbal, but less forgiving.
The Daily Mail reports that “David Miliband, 45, and Ed, 40, are locked in a blood feud over the leadership that threatens to tear their party and their family apart.”
The brothers are “bitterly divided,” the Daily Mail reports, “over whether Labour needs to win back the middle class voters who put Tony Blair in No10, as David believes, or focus on the working class supporters who abandoned Gordon Brown, as Ed has been arguing.”
Numerous reports describe David’s surprise and dismay last spring when Ed jumped into a race that David expected to win in a walk.
This week the left-wing daily The Guardian reported that the Milibands “insist they will remain loving brothers whoever is declared winner,” but they unmistakably “struggled in recent weeks to hide personal tensions as the contest narrowed to a two-horse race between them.”
The Edinborough Journal reports that the Conservative prime minister, David Cameron, “was overheard at a summer party in June saying that he is hoping Ed Miliband, the younger brother of David, would succeed in the leadership election, because he feared David Miliband as a very serious threat for the Tories.”
That could help David, who was ahead in the polls this weekend with about 37% of the Labour electoral college — a complicated mix of lawmakers, union leaders and branch members — to Ed’s 29%. The rest is divided among three other candidates, though the also-rans’ supporters could put Ed over the top if the contest goes to a runoff. The voting ends Wednesday.
Still, former party leader Neil Kinnock, a supporter of Ed’s, reportedly complains in an appearance in a docudrama scheduled for airing this Friday night, “Miliband of Brothers,” that big brother David’s “response to Ed running has, to my astonishment, been deeply resentful. David’s people are spreading all kinds of bloody bile about Ed being in thrall to the left and he would be in the pocket of the unions and all kinds of crap like that.”
Compare that with the gentler, almost tender confrontation between the Manning brothers in Indianapolis. Here’s how Sporting News told it:
Before most games, Colts quarterback Peyton Manning taps defensive end Dwight Freeney and tells him to go after the opposing team’s quarterback. Manning did not follow that ritual Sunday night. “No, I didn’t,” Manning said with a straight face after the Colts’ 38-14 victory over the Giants. That’s because the opposing quarterback was Eli Manning, Peyton’s little brother.
On the other hand, the brotherly touch didn’t help Eli much. As it turned out,
The Colts’ defense didn’t need Peyton’s encouragement to make Manning Bowl II a miserable experience for Eli. Freeney and fellow Pro Bowl end Robert Mathis each had two sacks of Eli, who also lost two of three fumbles, was intercepted once and was held to only 161 yards passing on 13-of-24 attempts.
Peyton told NBC Sports afterward that he had hugged Eli after the game and told him he loved him and was proud of him. Eli, on the other hand, “refused to address the matchup after the game.”
“They outplayed us, and that’s what it came down to,” Eli was quoted as saying.
Jonathan Jeremy “J.J.” Goldberg is editor-at-large of the Forward, where he served as editor in chief for seven years (2000-2007).