August 30, 2001
Comic Gets Kippah
The funny pages are getting a little Yiddishkeit.
Syndicated comic strip "Gil Thorp" will soon feature a storyline about star athlete David Greene, an Orthodox Jew who joins his high school football team.
The strip, which has been published since 1959 and runs daily in more than 65 newspapers, focuses on the challenges of a high school sports coach.
The addition of the Jewish Greene to the team, forces the coach, Thorp, to confront new issues, according to Gil Fried, a sport management professor at the University of New Haven in Connecticut who provided the idea for the strip.
Problems arise because the school's weekly games take place on Friday afternoon or evening and conflict with Shabbat.
The strip also will tackle other religious issues, including being Jewish in a predominantly Christian community, Fried said.
An observant Jew who is a longtime fan of the strip, Fried gave strip writer Jerry Jenkins the idea for the story. Fried became friends with Jenkins four years ago when he pitched a story idea to Jenkins about risk management. Since then, Jenkins has used a number of Fried's plot lines.
"I thought it would be a nice thing to show Jews in a positive light," Fried said. "A lot of people think Jews can't be athletes. Here's a person dealing with this battle."
Jenkins, a best-selling author of sports biographies, including Nolan Ryan and Hank Aaron, has also written a biography of Christian evangelist Billy Graham.
Writing Greene into his script was an extension of his own faith, Jenkins said.
"As a man of faith myself, an evangelical Christian, I share God's love of His chosen people," Jenkins said.
"I was happy to be able to portray a person of faith in a positive light, standing true to his beliefs."