Forget what you have heard about Jews being academically gifted at the expense of being athletically stupid.
Jews once dominated boxing and basketball. A few have long excelled at baseball—Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg, Kevin Youkilis and Ryan Braun. They’re great at swimming and not bad at fencing. Card-carrying members of the tribe even include WWE wrestler Goldberg and a powerlifting world-record holder.
But football? Benny Friedman has been dead 26 years, and still no one has stepped up to assume his role. One of UCLA’s kickers is named Jimmy Rotstein, though I’m not sure he’s Jewish, and I thought the Texans’ Sage Rosenfels could be, but what kind of name is Sage ... for anyone? After that, I’m at a loss, which is why I was all the more surprised to learn from Nextbook that Igor Olshansky, a defensive end for my San Diego Chargers, is a huge Jew—literally.
In Knocked Up, Seth Rogen extols Steven Spielberg’s Munich for so demonstratively debunking the myth of the Semitic Wimp. “Every movie with Jews, we’re the ones getting killed,” he says. “Munich flips it on its ear. We’re capping motherf—-ers!” When reminded of the quote, Igor Olshansky, the laconic football player for the San Diego Chargers, grunts out a giggle of approval in his hushed baritone. That’s because this intimidating, Ukraine-born defensive end knows he’s the antithesis of that stereotype. You see, Olshansky is not just Jewish huge; at 6-foot-6 and 309 pounds, he’s homo sapien huge.
“I know Jewish people take pride in me, and I’m comfortable with that. But I don’t consider myself religious…. I play for myself and my teammates and my family. And I’m relentless.” Yet he’s also conscientious about paying visits to kids at synagogues and Jewish schools (they like to ask him how much he benches, which is reportedly as much as 505 pounds), perks up while pondering a visit to Israel, and points out that he found it “important to marry a Jewish woman and Russian-speaking, too.” (He wed Liya Rubinshteyn in 2005.) And if there’s ever a moment when the iron man melts, it’s when he’s talking about his nine-month-old son, Lorence. “He’s going to be another badass mofo like his dad,” he says. “Yeah!”