Posted by Jeremy Fine
TGR is, as you all know by now, big on wrestling. We have showcased Colt Cabana several times. Recently, I got a tip about another Jewish wrestler named Brimstone. Brimstone, like Colt, is an independent wrestler. In the old days all wrestlers started small, honed their craft, and then tried to make it to the WWE or NWA. Brimstone seems like that kind of guy. Old school in nature. He leaves it all in the ring. Personally, I would love to see Colt and Brim mix it up in the ring for the Jewish Heavyweight Title…hmmm…there’s an idea.
1) How did you get started in the business?
I had the opportunity to meet with a few icons in the industry at a small convention while I was working for the Village Voice’s sister publication, the LI Voice. I’ll never forget meeting the Iron Sheik for the first time and him telling me, “you look like a wrestler, you should be a wrestler!” in that special ‘Sheik like’ way. Following our intriguing conversation, Bret Hart approached me and offered his advice on getting into the business. I took it as some type of omen that these two athletes of such high caliber would have any interest in talking to me in general, not to mention offering positive advice. I found out soon after that there was a new professional wrestling school opening up in Queens, New York called The Doghouse. To make a longer story as short as possible… I began training in 1996 under the tutelage of Homicide, Low-Ki (Senshi in TNA or Kaval in WWE), Laithon and the Original Gino Caruso (Super Calo in WCW). The rest is history. Eventually, I branched out and opened my own school Critical Mass Professional Wrestling and federation, the New York Wrestling Connection.
2) Where are you currently wrestling and have you ever held any championships?
Up until last year I was a mainstay at Pro Wrestling Revolution which was run by one of my former students, “Johnny Ova.” It was a great promotion while it was open with a lot of homegrown talent to watch for. Funny thing was it was run out of a church and I’m as Jewish as Jewish gets! I did my time and paid my dues traveling in and out of the country, I am currently spending my time on marketing everything Brimstone. I’m not a one trick pony; I have a comic book based on my character, a Brimstone video game in the works for Xbox LIVE, multiple film roles, television projects, my autobiography and the BrimWEAR clothing line. Things are a bit too busy to be wrestling as much these days. Add in family time, appearances and the vast charities I work with and I barely have enough time to think! I love the business and everything it’s given back to me, but I also don’t want to be that guy in his sixties still bumping around the ring! After thirteen years I figured it was a good time to start focusing on the continued branding of the name outside of the squared circle. I did hold numerous championships while touring including the NYWC, NWA and Wrestling World Wide Heavyweight Championship as well as the NYWC, LIWF and PWR Tag Team Championship. I’ve held others as well; however these are the ones I was proudest to achieve.
3) Who was your favorite opponent of all-time and your favorite match?
My favorite match of all time was when I teamed up with John “Earthquake” Tenta as an honorary “Natural Disaster” against the Bushwhackers. It was an honor and a privilege to be asked by John to be his partner. Luke actually ribbed me in the locker room before the event (which can be read about in my upcoming autobiography). A couple of years ago, Luke and I were reunited at an independent event and he filled me in about how the rib came about… Tenta set me up! Rest in Peace John, we miss you!!!
4) What are your future wrestling goals?
As I mentioned earlier, I am currently focusing more on mainstream appeal. I will always be a part of the business and the business will always be a part of me! I have a few things that I am working on involving wrestling with my friend and fellow Jew in wrestling, Missy Hyatt. Aside from this project, who knows what the future will hold.
5) Which other Jewish wrestler would you most like to face and why? (Raven, Colt Cabana, Goldberg, or Randy Savage).
Barry Horowitz hands down! Do you realize that Barry is one of the most under-rated and technically sound workers in the history of professional wrestling? If I had to choose from your list though, I’d say Goldberg… for the simple fact that I’d like to see once and for all whose spear is more devastating!
6) What was your Jewish upbringing like? Do you do anything Jewish today? What is your connection to Judaism?
It’s very interesting… every time someone hears that I am Jewish, the normal response is, “Get out of here! You don’t LOOK Jewish!” The truth of it all is that I’ve had a very close relationship with my religion throughout my life. I began attending the Suburban Temple in Wantagh, New York at an early age for my religious studies and I continued there until my Bar Mitzvah on September 5, 1987. I also stuck with the Suburban Temple Youth Group (SUYO) well after becoming Bar Mitzvah. My summers consisted of being shipped to all Jewish camps such as H.A.N.C. (Hebrew Academy of Nassau County) and Camp Eisner in Massachusetts. I’m not going to lie, I hated it at the time; but in retrospect it has made me a better person. I learned a lot and had experiences that I may not have had otherwise. I grew up in Uniondale, New York which is a predominantly black and Hispanic area; so it was a real challenge being the only Jew in the school, this included the teachers. I became the official educator of basic Jewish studies whenever the holidays came around! After I graduated elementary school, my mother signed me up for the Liberal Jewish Day School / American Jewish Academy as opposed to the local junior high school (middle school for you young folk) in which I attended until my last two years of high school back in Uniondale. I may not look like your stereotypical Jew… but I’m certainly more “Jewish” than most! Truth is, I am proud of my heritage and who I am. I continue to try and give back to not only the community, but the Jewish community by making special appearances in Hebrew schools and Temples to talk to the kids about being all they can be. I’m glad that I can show a younger generation that Jews can be strong athletes and be a dominant force to be reckoned with (especially in a sport not known to contain many Jews)! My family and I try to attend Synagogue on all the religious holidays when my scheduling permits. I was actually nominated for the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame twice but have not been inducted. It was nice to be thought of; I actually received some really nice recommendations… I guess pro-wrestling still isn’t considered a “real sport.”
7) Did you always want to be a wrestler? Who inspired you?
Actually, I have always loved wrestling… but my first love was music. I was a drummer for a very long time and enjoyed success performing in bands for years before wrestling. I was inspired to want to wrestle by The Undertaker, Shawn Michaels and Ultimate Warrior, each for specific reasons. Although, I was also inspired by the people who paved the path for me to pursue a career outside of the ring! If it were not for talent like Captain Lou Albano (like another father to me), Hulk Hogan, Mick Foley, The Rock… there would not be guys like me! These are the people who blazed the way to prove that wrestlers can be more than just meatheads and can be successful in all of entertainment. I’m a business minded and goal oriented person, so to see what these guys have accomplished and to emulate that… that is truly inspiring to me.
8) What would your dream match look like?
Any match where both parties can display their strengths and tell a story in the ring.
9) Best wrestling Diva of All-Time? (Trish Stratus, Stacey Kiebler, Kelly Kelly, Gail Kim, Tammy Sytch)
Well I love Trish and Tammy… but I would have to side with closer friends of mine and make it a three way tie for Diva between Torrie Wilson, Missy Hyatt and Dawn Marie. Trish however is the best worker of the bunch, there is a huge difference.
10) Do you watch WWE and if so what do you think about WWE NXT?
I have not ‘watched’ wrestling in years except when I heard Bret was doing a stint back on WWE. Every so often I’ll tune in to see friends, but for the most part I am not crazy about the direction they have taken. Truth is, wrestling back in the day was something that families could watch together… Grandparents to little kids! Nowadays, it has gotten to a point where it is extremely raunchy. I won’t even let my kids watch the product and they know a lot of the guys personally. TNA has been taking that stance as well which upsets me. Only thing I know about NXT is that it is similar to the Tough Enough project, but utilizing the boys who actually deserve the opportunity.
Big Thanks to Brimstone for hanging out with TGR. For more on Brimstone check out Entrancetohell.com or www.thebrimstoneroast.com.
And Let Us Say…Amen.
Photos by: Heidi Kikel and Fernando Cuestas
For More Jewish Sports Stories and News check out www.TheGreatRabbino.com
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April 11, 2010 | 4:36 am
Posted by Jeremy Fine
Yes The Great Rabbino prefers baseball, basketball, football, and wrestling…but I also really like the Masters. I am not the biggest golfing fan but ever since my I met my wife and realized my father-in-law’s passion for the game, I have gotten more involved. But…its hard for TGR to write about it.
We have a handful of baseball and football players. The popularity of basketball and hockey are growing. We even have Jewish skaters and wrestlers. But for some reason golf is just one sport we can’t really make it in.
It is one thing to not have any good players, but we barely have any players. None in the masters. None ranked.
We do have a few players who were born Jewish or have a Jewish parent. Corey Pavin was born Jewish but has publicly converted to Christianity and preaches Christ. Jim Oppenheim has a Jewish father but doesn’t consider himself Jewish at all. Jonathon Kaye is Jewish but isn’t really a factor in the golfing world. Also, Skip Kendall is supposedly Jewish, but I have no confirmation on that. So the PGA tour seems to be without a real J-E-W.
What do we have going for us in the Jewish golfing world?
The LPGA does have Morgan Pressel, who is actually pretty good. You can check out her website morganpressel.org/index.php.
Tony Kornheiser is Jewish but not a golfer. However, he holds a charity golf tournament every year. Go to www.kornheiserwilbongolf.com to learn more about it.
Lastly, we have Tom Watson. No, Watson is not Jewish. But he married a Jewish woman. And while I am not saying intermarriage is a good thing for the Jews, Watson has stood up against anti-semitism. One of the first articles TGR ever posted was about Waston’s stand. If you haven’t been with us since day one, check it out at www.thegreatrabbino.com/2009/07/tom-watson-i-salute-you.html.
If you love golf and the Masters and you are having trouble finding someone Jewish to root for, I say root for Watson. A friend of the Jews and it would make for an amazing story for the 60 year old. He has fallen a little back since day one and as of now is -2 (10 off the leader), but we can root for a good finish for Watson.
And Let Us Say…Amen.
April 8, 2010 | 9:43 am
Posted by Jeremy Fine
At first I was very upset about the news that fans would be deciding the NBA MVP. I was so ticked off for two reasons. One, the All Star game voting is already a joke. When Iverson and McGrady make All Star teams after playing 3 games in a season (not too mention both 5 years past their prime), every fan who voted for them should be removed from basketball stadiums everywhere. Secondly, it would allow for the same winner or decision every year. Kobe or Lebron? Lebron or Kobe? Boring. In fact if I had a vote I would vote for Kevin Durant. How horrible would Oklahoma City be without him? I mean they would be like New Jersey Nets bad.
But thank God David Stern was not that stupid to allow the fans be the primary voters. Fans equate to a total of ONE of the 124 votes for MVP. Which basically means they want more fan interaction but recognize how stupid NBA fans really are. So now Lebron James will get one extra vote as fans will of course pick King James to repeat as MVP (okay…maybe Kobe will get the fan vote).
But I want to propose something on this site. Why not, since Commissioner Stern is allowing us to, vote for Omri Casspi. Sure he is not this year’s MVP. He is not even this year’s Rookie of the Year, but he has had a huge impact on the game globally (at least in Israel). He made the Rookie All Star team and competed in the H-O-R-S-E tournament. He is a great person for the game. And lets face it he deserves the MVP award more than Iverson is an All Star.
So Jews unite and lets get one strong MVP vote for Casspi.
And Let Us Say…Amen.
For more Jewish Sports check out www.TheGreatRabbino.com.
April 6, 2010 | 1:15 am
Posted by Jeremy Fine
Many of you laughed. Many of you tried to find problems with my logic. But look who is laughing now! The Jewish bracket which I had up about a few weeks ago now reigns supreme (if you don’t know what I am talking about check this out www.thegreatrabbino.com/2010/03/ncaa-bracket-with-jewish-twist.html).
Like I said, Jon Scheyer and the Dukies would win it all. I told you Tennessee was better than you all thought. I told you Syracuse wouldn’t be out in the second round. I told you that God was on the side of the Jewish bracket. And God was. Tomorrow in school when the shekels are transferred over I am thinking of giving a victory speech. I will show everyone how God is in sports. God defeated all of the CBSSportline “experts” and even Barack Obama. How could they not believe me?
But in reality it was all about Jon Scheyer. Critics said it was a mistake to go to the fast pace ACC and they said he was too skinny to play at the next level. But he proved us all wrong. I think Scheyer will be just fine as he now turns his attention to solidifying his status as a first round NBA draft pick.
At The Great Rabbino we will switch our attention to the drafting of Taylor Mays, the rise of the Mets’ Ike Davis, and of course baseball season. But I leave you with two videos (one funny/one unbelievable) of Jon Scheyer. Congrats man.
And Let Us Say…Amen.
For more on Jewish Sports check out www.TheGreatRabbino.com
April 3, 2010 | 11:46 pm
Posted by Jeremy Fine
Opening Day is upon us. Yes, even the Pittsburgh Pirates are on top of their division today. As usual my White Sox start the season in the hunt for a division title. And this year the Sox have Jake Peavy and Mark Buehrle, basically two starters worthy of starting opening day.
I noticed this year (thanks to www. Jewsinbaseball.blogspot.com) that Scott Feldman will be the Texas Rangers opening day pitcher. Which means this year there will be two Jewish opening day starters, the other being Jason Marquis for the Washington Nationals. That is really a huge moment for Jewish Baseball fans. It definitely adds to the idea that this is an exciting era for Jewish Baseball. That Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg legacies will continue. And we see that with the All Star caliber in players like Ryan Braun, Kevin Youkilis, and Ian Kinsler (unfortunately, Kinsler will begin the season on the DL).
With Feldman and Marquis atop their teams depth chart, we wanted to see which other MLB Jewish pitchers have started for their team’s opening game. Surprisingly, these two are the first since Steve Stone in 1981 for the Orioles to open the season for a team(Stone also opened for the White Sox in 1978). Below are some other opening day starters.
Dave Roberts - Tigers - 1977 and Astros - 1973-74
Ken Holtzman - A’s - 1972
Joe Horlen - White Sox -1968
Saul Rogovin - White Sox - 1953
You know I love White Sox Jewish pride.
So now you are all wondering about Sandy Koufax. I remind you that Koufax pitched with some other great pitchers including Don Drysdale.
Crazy enough, Koufax only started one opening day for the Dodgers in 1964.
As you can see this really is an honor and a day to be proud of our Jewish ball players. Hopefully, in the future others will join them, maybe Aaron Poreda will be an ace soon enough.
Enjoy the season. Lets Go Go White Sox.
And Let Us Say…Amen.
***Since writing this I have learned that while Marquis was brought in as an Ace he will not be the opening day starter.
April 2, 2010 | 12:02 am
Posted by Jeremy Fine
Ever wonder who is behind your team’s mascot suit? Well, I hate to break this to you but if you went to Brown it might not have been a drunken sports fan or a flexible male dancer…rather it could be your future rabbi. Recently, I caught up with fellow Jewish Theological Seminary Rabbinical Student Ari Lucas, who by the way comes from a great line of Lucas Rabbis, and instead of talking God we talked sport mascoting(?). Ari was nice enough to share his story. Take it from me he is a great guy and gonna be an even better rabbi but undoubtedly his best quality is being a Bear.
1) Ready to be famous?
2) How did you get your position as the Brown Bear?
I was at a basketball game my freshman year and was underwhelmed with the performance of Bruno the Bear. I grew up a Phillies fan and the Philly Phanatic had a huge influence on me (see the attached picture from a bump-in I had with the Phanatic while on Spring Break in Washington DC - he was recording some clips for the Washington Nationals’ first visit to Citizens’ Bank Park.)
I inquired with the athletic department, came to my interview with three pages of brainstorm ideas and was hired on the spot.
3) Did you ever fight with other mascots?
Only once. The bear before me was arrested at a Yale football game for instigating a fight, so I was instructed to keep a low profile, but one time I couldn’t hold back. I had to represent Brown pride. It was a home basketball game against Penn - the winner would win the Ivy League and clinch a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Brown had given out rally towels to the fans and the Penn Quaker got his hands on one. (I don’t know that it was a “he,” but the Quaker costume is a man, so I’ll refer to him as a “he”) He started tearing the towel, so I went up to him and grabbed it out of his hands. The crowd cheered. Then he pushed me, so I pushed him back. Then he hit me, so I hit him back. His head was made of plastic and it hurt my hand. The refs quickly broke up the fight and warned us that they would throw us out if we kept it up.
4) What was your most memorable game and moment?
Skating on the ice at a Men’s Hockey game. My older sister, Dina, came to cheer me on. It’s not easy to skate in the suit. I stood in the goal between periods while some local kids tried to score score goals on me. It was a lot of fun.
5) Was it hot under that Bear suit?
You have no idea. They switched suits my senior year. I preferred the old model because you looked out of the eyes instead of the mouth, but the one advantage of the new model was that it had a fan that would blow air out the top of the head. I used to bring a camelback with me in the suit so I wouldn’t dehydrate. There were a couple freezing football and soccer games when I was happy to have a layer of fur, but for the most part it was sweaty.
6) What did you do on games that conflicting with Jewish holidays?
I was one of 3 bears, so we used to coordinate so that I wouldn’t work on holidays. But sometimes, I would do a basketball or football game on Shabbat. I could walk to the stadium and I wouldn’t log the hours I worked on Shabbat, so that I wouldn’t be paid for those games.
7) What are you doing these days?
Learning for the year in Jerusalem as part of my rabbinical studies at The Jewish Theological Seminary.
8) If you could suit up as any mascot which would it be? Who would your team play against?
I love the Bruno suit and wouldn’t betray him. I will say that I’ve always admired the St. Joseph’s Hawk. He flaps his wings from beginning to end of every basketball game (that’s hard work) and I’m told he gets a full tuition scholarship.
I know this is mixing and matching sports, but I would like to play the Milwaukee Brewers. I always thought their mascott was lame.
Thank you to Ari Lucas. May his Torah be as good as his school pride.
And Let Us Say…Amen.
For More Jewish Sports visit www.TheGreatRabbino.com.
March 31, 2010 | 9:00 am
Posted by Jeremy Fine
Recently TGR was featured the Chicago Jewish News. We are super excited about the exposure. The Article is below.
At the beginning it mentions how the blog got started. I want to make it clear that I was totally JOKING when I mentioned not having say in my wedding. I did. My in-laws are wonderful people and my wife is the best. Having been my first interview I should have realized that jokes do not always sound as good on paper.
Thanks for reading.
And Let Us Say…Amen.
A REAL (JEWISH) SPORT…
By CJN staff (03/26/2010)
Like many young Jews, Jeremy Fine always loved sports and was fascinated by Jewish athletes.
But it took a wedding - his own - to lead him into creating what is now a popular Jewish sports blog.
It wasn’t really the wedding but the preparations for it that spurred him into the blog world, Fine said recently in a phone conversation from Israel, where, as a rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City, he is spending his obligatory year of study.
“I was getting married (last) summer, and my wife was busy dealing with details of the wedding, which didn’t interest me so much or she didn’t let me be a part of,” Chicago native Fine says. “I wanted something to do, so I thought about my two loves, Judaism and sports.”
The two had sometimes been in conflict as Fine had to decide “whether to go to Hillel or go to a sports event” and the like.
He soon started a blog, writing three times a week at first. “I noticed a lot of people were reading it, so I launched it as an official Web site,” he says. “It’s just taken off. Now it has almost 20,000 readers and has been picked up by a lot of other blogs and sites.”
It’s called the Great Rabbino (www.TheGreatRabbino.com), a takeoff on one of Babe Ruth’s nicknames, the Great Bambino, and features a picture of Ruth wearing a tallis on its logo (Photoshopped, of course). “My friends and I were going through names of what we could call it and it kind of just came to me - because I’m going to be a rabbi,” Fine says.
The blog/Web site features news about Jewish athletes and coaches, college and professional, in all sports, as well as interviews that Fine and a few volunteers conduct, such as with the Cubs’ Sam FuldYuri Foreman, plus popular polls where readers can vote for their favorite players, then order a TGR T-shirt. Before the start of the NCAA tournament, for instance, Fine listed all the Jews on teams playing in post-season tournaments. The site also features lists of Jewish sports resources, Jewish sports Web sites, kosher stadiums and more.
“In the Jewish (sports) blog world, there are a few of us, and we talk to each other, confirm who is Jewish, share stories. It’s this kind of social club through the Internet,” Fine says.
“People love following Jewish sports, and I don’t feel there is enough press about it,” he says, adding that fans of the site range from “young people through college age through retired people.”
He recalls that when he wrote a column about Harry Shuman, an obscure Jewish baseball player who was in the major leagues from 1942 to 1944, “his granddaughter wrote in, saying how wonderful it is that people know about him.” His favorite interview, though, has been with , whom he calls “no doubt the greatest Jewish basketball player who ever lived.”
Fine sees sports and Judaism as being alike in many ways.
“Tradition and faith are the two big words,” he says. “In baseball, you always root for the same team; you don’t switch, and you have faith that every year they’re going to win. For Jews right now (the sports world) is so exciting. Omri Casspi (the Israeli basketball player now on the Sacramento Kings, and the first Israeli to be drafted into the NBA) is a huge deal, and in this past Olympics you had two Jewish swimmers.
“If you go back to (Sandy) Koufax, some people consider him the greatest (baseball) player of all time, and there’s a lot of pride in that. Anyone who is Jewish is going to root for the Jewish player,” he says.
In sports, he adds, “it’s an area where your religion, your race, your ethnicity doesn’t matter so much. If you’re a good athlete you’re going to have a chance.” As for Fine, his Chicago baseball allegiance might surprise some, considering his North Side-north suburban cred: He grew up in Deerfield and graduated from Solomon Schechter Day School and Ida Crown Jewish Academy. But his heart belongs on the South Side of the city.
“I’m the biggest White Sox fan you’ll ever meet,” he says. “We had two rules in our house: Marry Jewish, and never bring home a Cubs fan. My wife is not much of a sports fan but she knew the number one rule was, no Cubs clothes. The first present I bought her was a Sox hat, and one of our wedding presents was these amazing White Sox seats.”
His traces his family’s antipathy to the North Siders to his great-grandfather. “He came over to this country and went to Wrigley Field, and there was a sign there that said, no Jews or dogs allowed,” he says. “That was a no-brainer,” he continues. “My ancestors have a lot of Jewish pride, and that was a big one for them.” His family even subscribes to the Chicago Sun-Times because “the Tribune owns the Cubs.”
This year, “I think (the Sox) have a really great chance,” Fine says. “They have a different look and the feel of a real team. They have the best pitching staff in baseball, and their offense is exciting. They have some really young, talented guys who are still pure and haven’t been swallowed up by the game. And they still have (Paul) Konerko and (A.J.) Pierzynski. I see them winning the division and getting into the playoffs, where they would have to deal with Boston and New York. But I don’t think anyone would want to face us.”
As for the Cubs, “they have two Jewish players (Fuld and John Grabow), and I will quietly root for them,” Fine says. “This is the first time since I’ve been alive that they were kind of quiet in the off-season and didn’t spend hundreds of millions of dollars on broken-down players.”
He also likes the Blackhawks’ chances of being in the Stanley Cup finals. “There are some really really good teams they are going to have to face, but this team is set for a while and will be able to compete for many years,” he says. “If they don’t win this year, they’ve got these guys locked down for a long time. I have no reason to believe they can’t do it, that they shouldn’t be at their very best.”
Fine, meanwhile, will be finished with his year of study in Israel this summer and hopes to live in Chicago after his graduation. And then, the Great Rabbino will indeed be written by a rabbi.
March 28, 2010 | 3:07 pm
Posted by Jeremy Fine
At The Great Rabbino (www.TheGreatRabbino.com) we interview Jewish athletes of all kinds. We have interviewed professional wrestlers, major league baseball players, and sports broadcasters. Today we are bringing to the Jewish Journal an interview with Tani Mintz. She is an old friend of mine from way back in the day. Tani is attempting to qualify for the Olympics in Speedskating. Besides being a great athlete she is a nice Jewish girl. Oh yeah did I mention she is sponsored by Powerbar!? Below is my interview with her.
1) Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got involved with Speedskating?
My name is Netanya Shira Mintz, I’m 25 years old, and am extremely proud to say I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. I went to private Jewish school my whole life until junior year of high school when I switched to public school. Athletics and sports have always been essential in my life. I was a diehard Michael Jordan fan since I can remember. (The two of us even used to hang out at the Multiplex when the Bulls practiced there! OK, maybe not hang out, but he knew my name and I hugged his knee. ) In junior high I played basketball and ran track. I also ran track at the Maccabi Games in 1998 and 2001 and earned a total of 12 medals: 3 bronze, 5 silver, and 4 gold. And in 1999 I played basketball at the Maccabi Games, and despite having a team of 6 (yes, 6 players total on our team!), we finished in a strong 4th place.
I started speedskating much later in life relative to other speedskaters. When I was 17 my family and I went to Salt Lake City for the 2002 Olympics. We all had tickets to see alpine skiing events because we are a family of skiers, but I really wanted to see a short track speed skating event as well. Admittedly, I totally bought into the Apolo Ohno hype and was super excited at the opportunity to see him live in action. It was at the Delta Center one night during the Olympics, watching Apolo win the gold, that changed my life forever. I knew I wanted to be a part of the Olympics. Now that I had experienced what it was to be a part of the crowd feeding the athletes the energy, I wanted to actually taste the energy. In an instant, I wholeheartedly believed I would be an Olympian one day. I would pursue speedskating the second I got home to Chicago, and I would make it happen.
2) What was in like to tryout for the Olympics?
When I first began speedskating in 2002 the thought of competing in Olympic Trials was right up there on the “cool” meter behind actually competing in the Olympics. I remember the day in 2005 when I qualified to skate in the 2006 Olympic Trials. It was a blur of emotion because it didn’t sink in when I crossed the line and saw my qualifying time. It didn’t even sink in when I told myself “Hey, you just qualified to skate in the 2006 US Speedskating Olympic Trials.” It sunk in when my coach skated by me and said, “Congratulations. You will be skating in Olympic Trials.” What takes many skaters a decade or more of hard work to accomplish took me a short four years – albeit a daily routine of intensive training, full-time schoolwork, and a little Starbucks on the side, but a short four years nonetheless.
Two months later in December, I skated my fastest races ever at the 2006 US Speedskating Olympic Trials. Not fast enough to make the team, but that didn’t matter (well, I can say that now, of course at the time I was a little disappointed). It didn’t matter because I realized sometime during that competition that I truly was capable of fulfilling my Olympic dreams. I had just proved to myself that hard work and dedication will lead you to success. As long as I was in control of my life the Olympic Games would be mine one day. The 2006 Olympic Trials was just another opportunity to gain some competitive experience so that next time I would be even more prepared.
Fast forward four years later and I’m at the starting line of the 2010 US Speedskating Olympic Trials. The past four years (2006-2010) had felt the most uncertain and unstable of my life. The only thing I learned to expect from life was the unexpected. Having only known a world of constants and stability, I decided to redirect my path along one with more certain outcomes. I retired from speedskating in 2007 and pursued law school. Slowly but surely the competitive fire came back, and with a vengeance. After being accepted to a couple law schools, I decided to put that avenue on hold and come back to speedskating. In September of 2008 I moved to Utah to train with no expectations of qualifying for any national, let alone international, competitions the next couple years. Three weeks later I qualified for every single national competition between Sept. 2008 and March of 2010… including the 2010 US Olympic Trials. I also finished 3rd overall. Again, I didn’t place high enough or skate fast enough to make the Olympic Team, but I did renew my sense of confidence that the Olympics will be mine… next time.
3) Are you hopefully for 2014?
4) What do you do in when you are not skating?
I don’t train on Thursdays and Sundays, so those are the days I usually work 5:30am-2:00pm at Starbucks. (Yes, on my off days I wake up at 5am!) To be honest though, Starbucks doesn’t feel like a job. It’s my social life! And there’s no better place to be at 5:30am than a coffee shop. And when I’m not at Starbucks or training I’m devoting all of my attention to the cutest, cuddliest, and craziest puppy in the world – Capone.
5) What are some of the coolest/most interesting experiences you have had because of skating?
Another loaded question! Where to begin? I remember my first race in Salt Lake City. I was trying to qualify for the 2003 Junior Nationals. My best shot was in the 1000m. I signed up for time trials that weekend. Saturday rolls around and I take a look at the pair sheet. Chris Witty – Inner Lane, Netanya Mintz – Outer Lane. Are you kidding me? My first race ever in Salt Lake City and I’m paired with the Olympic gold medalist and world record holder in the 1000m? How cool and ridiculous was that? I told myself, “Just keep her in your line of vision and you know you’ll be having a good race!” She did stay in my line of vision (barely), but I just missed the qualifying time by a couple seconds. Oh well! Cool experience!
Speed skating also took me to Torino, Italy in 2007 for the World University Games. Skating on another Olympic track (even if it was a year late!), was very inspirational. Not to mention the cool opening ceremonies I participated in that felt like a mini-version of what to expect some years down the road…
But probably the most interesting experience I’ve had because of speedskating actually has nothing to do with, well, speedskating. In 2005 Starbucks began an Elite Athlete Program. Long story short, I became their sponsored athlete. When I retired from speedskating in 2007 I asked Starbucks to please keep me involved in any future endeavors they pursue regarding health and wellness. Passion for my sport may have dwindled, but passion for maintaining a healthy lifestyle never has and never will. Starbucks realized my dedication to health and wellness and in May of 2008 called on me to participate in the Nike+ 10k Human Race – a race held on August 31, 2008, hosted in 25 cities around the world to benefit three global charities. More specifically, they wanted me to be Chicago’s ambassador to the program, if you will. Starbucks partnered with Nike in promoting the race, and Starbucks assigned me the duty of getting as many people in Chicago to run the race as possible. Through microchipped bracelets and shoe sensors and Nike+ iPods, Chicago racked up the most miles out of the 40 U.S. cities participating in Starbucks’ competition. Because my city won, Starbucks selected me to fly with Nike on their privately chartered Air New Zealand jet to Melbourne, Australia on August 29, 2008, run the race on August 31 at 8:31am, and then immediately jump back on the jet and fly to LA to run the last leg of the worldwide race beginning at 8:31pm. All in one day. Totally awesome one-of-a-kind never to be duplicated again experience? I’d say so.
6) What will life look like after skating?
What will life look like after skating? First can I focus on what life will look like tomorrow? I have no idea what’s in store for me post-speedskating. I’m sure furthering my education is in my future somewhere. And as of now I intend on settling down in Chicago again, one day… one day… But ah… so many many things to do before I can commit to one plan, one career, one city.
7) Has Judaism ever played a role in your sport? Has there ever been a conflict?
The biggest conflict I experience regarding Judaism and my commitment to training happens only on Yom Kippur. I’ve never been shomer shabbos, so racing on a Saturday morning has never been an issue for me. But since I began speedskating Yom Kippur has always been the one holiday where I feel most connected to my religion, probably specifically because while training I am unable to properly acknowledge the Holy Day – the full 24 hours is a constant reminder of what Jewish laws I am not obeying for the sake of pursuing my dreams. Although friends and family would never judge me for the religious decisions I make, especially on Yom Kippur, I can’t help but judge myself. I guess, ironically, Yom Kippur ends up being exactly what it is meant to be – a day of atonement. I constantly question my decisions on Yom Kippur and battle with myself whether to forego training that morning to go to synagogue, or to stay on track and not lose sight of my goal – not even for a mere few hours at synagogue once a year. Training has always won that battle, but at the heavy expense of extreme guilt the days leading up to and the day of Yom Kippur.
8) You are from Chicago, so what are some of you favorite spots to skate, dine, and hang out?
I love this question. ESPN Zone. Niketown. Millenium Park. Whether I’m home for a week or a day, these three Chicago landmarks are essential in my visit home. Ahhhh… thinking about them now makes me feel nostalgic…
If you want to support Netanya for the 2014 Olympics you can email her at email@example.com.
Thanks to Tani. Best of luck.
And Let Us Say…Amen.