A quick note on history.
Remember when basketball was stereotypically Jewish?
Probably not, for most of my readership, but for a quite a while, this was very much a thing. Why? Well, when you live in the inner city and don’t have a lot of money for equipment, a sport that requires one ball, two hoops, and very little real estate attracts a lot of attention, and for quite a long period in history, “poor” and “inner-city” accurately described a great deal of the Jewish population in America. (Consider, if you will, the origin of the term ‘ghetto’.)
Then, as now, ethnic minorities who excelled in sports attracted all manner of hilarious explanations of their performance. In the words of Paul Gallico, prominent sports writer of the 1930s:
“…the reason that basketball appeals to Hebrews is that the game places a premium on an alert scheming mind, flashy trickiness, artful dodging and general smart-aleckness.”
On one hand, it’s a pretty clear way to put the various just-so stories we hear today in context. On the other…it’s odd how durable certain narratives are, isn’t it?I mean, we’ve been accused of being greedy, treacherous, liars, schemers, fraudsters, lechers, poisoners, cannibals, job-stealers, interest-chargers, messiahs-killers, conspirators, and tyrants, but in the vast swathe of historical anti-Semitism spanning centuries and continents, I don’t know that anyone’s accused us of being dumb.