a digital common place book | an @s_m_i production | one of a few

During the interwar period, public recognition of Jewish basketball led both Jews and non-Jews to describe basketball as a uniquely ‘Jewish game.’ The ‘Jewish game’ existed not simply because of the prevalence of Jewish players, but also because Jews were considered inherently good at basketball. This led to the construction of a racialized ‘basketball Jew,’ whose small, but quick body and mental agility produced the ideal basketball player. By considering the connection between racial identity and athleticism, this study of Jewish basketball will help reveal the relationship between sport and American Jewish culture, which involved play on the court and the meanings associated with this play.
New York Daily News sports editor Paul Gallico wrote in the mid 1930s that basketball “appeals to the Hebrew with his Oriental background [because] the game places a premium on an alert, scheming mind and flashy trickiness, artful dodging and general smartalecness.” We see how qualities such as cunning and wiliness were posited as the keys to Jewish basketball success and how these kinds of statements were indicative of early 20th century America.
stereotyping only makes sense in the absence of better data. In the case of Jeremy Lin, publicly available statistics proclaimed his value, but scouts preferred believing in stereotypes to trusting in data. Sadly, this kind of bigotry isn’t limited to the world of sports. Even here in Silicon Valley, where we like to think of ourselves as a meritocracy, we practice a particularly pernicious form of stereotyping on a daily basis…Indeed, I like to describe the default investing strategy of Silicon Valley as “invest in charismatic 20something Computer Science graduates from Stanford, MIT, and CMU (with Berkeley, UIUC, and Harvard as fallbacks), as long as they’re male and either Caucasian or Asian.”