Olympian, sportscaster gets his due in ‘Glickman’

On the surface, a movie about a New York radio sportscaster might seem a niche project of limited appeal. But Marty Glickman was no ordinary play-by-play announcer, and the documentary “Glickman” is much more than a sports biography. Lovingly made by first-time writer-director James L. Freedman, who worked for Glickman as a teenager, the film is a tribute to a genuine Jewish hero.

“If you grew up in the latter half of the 20th century and were any bit of a sports fan, Marty Glickman was part of the soundtrack of your life,” Freedman said in an interview. “He literally brought the games to life — he was television on radio.” But before Glickman took up a microphone, he was a star athlete himself, a runner so fast that he made the U.S. Olympic track team in 1936 — in Nazi-ruled Berlin.

There was talk of a boycott, but Glickman was against it. “He wanted to go and prove a Jew could be just as good as anyone else, if not better,” Freedman said. But while his black teammate, Jesse Owens, won multiple gold medals — to Hitler’s horror — Glickman and Jewish teammate Sam Stoller were pulled from the 4 x 100-meter relay under dubious circumstances. In the interview included in the film, Glickman declares it was an act of anti-Semitism, and blames Olympic official Avery Brundage and coach Dean Cromwell, known Nazi sympathizers.

Understandably devastated, Glickman never got the chance to compete again. Because of the war, the Olympics were canceled in 1940 and again in 1944. “The heart of my film is what happens when an 18-year-old’s dreams are crushed by racism and prejudice. Do they become bitter? Or do they triumph in life? Marty Glickman not only triumphed, he used sports as a means of transcending the divisions created by race, class and religion. And that’s remarkable,” Freedman said. “He never gave up, and he continued on with such style and grace, helping others along the way and making sure that what happened to him would never happen to anyone else.”

Freedman, a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis and Stanford film school, has been a Hollywood writer on films and TV, including “Coach” and “Cybill,” but said he’s proudest of his job as Glickman’s radio show producer. When Freedman’s older brother was called up in the Army Reserves, Glickman tapped the 17-year-old to take over. “Marty Glickman never treated me like some high school kid, and that gave me a professional confidence I have to this very day,” he said.

Determined to honor the memory of his mentor, who died at 81 of complications from heart surgery on Jan. 3, 2001, Freedman spent three years on the film, including sorting through 100 hours of footage, archival material and new testimonials. “It was a massive undertaking,” he said, noting that he had to learn how to interview, edit and promote a film. Fortuitously, “Marty’s name opened doors,” and celebrities and sports figures wanted to be a part of it.

Bob Costas, Bill Bradley, Frank Gifford, Larry King, Jerry Stiller, Jim Brown, and Glickman’s Olympic teammate Lou Zamperini all shared memories of Glickman. So did Nancy Glickman, one of the athlete’s four children, who lent Freedman scrapbooks and home movies of her father.

Freedman got an unexpected but welcome hand when Martin Scorsese came aboard. Scorsese’s agent, Ari Emanuel, requested to see the film, and recommended it to the Oscar-winning director. “After that, I got an e-mail from Martin saying he loved the film and wanted to release it through his company at HBO,” Freedman said. Not coincidentally, Glickman had worked for the pay-cable network in its early days as its first sportscaster, footage of which is included in the documentary.

But despite the wide exposure that the HBO job and other television work brought him, Glickman “never got the national recognition and national stage that a lot of other broadcasters that he mentored did get, and it always bothered him,” Freedman said, suggesting that Glickman was a victim of the more overt anti-Semitism of the time. “It took him half of his career before he had national success. There just weren’t many ethnic voices. There still aren’t today. Howard Cosell was probably the first known Jewish broadcaster nationally.”

Freedman, who grew up in a Conservative home, is “very proud of his Jewish roots” and remains involved with the Jewish community. His family, which includes 14- and 11-year-old sons, belongs to Wilshire Boulevard Temple, where he and his wife were married. But he stresses that he didn’t set out to make a Jewish film. “Marty happened to be Jewish. The story of an 18-year-old having his dreams crushed by racism and prejudice is universal,” he said.

Freedman said he hopes the documentary will afford Glickman the belated recognition and appreciation he’s due. “If it does, even a little, it would be a success. This is a man who had such an incredible life and whose story needed to be told, and I’m proud that I’m able to tell it. He was so brilliant at what he did. Marty Glickman represented the joy and the purity of sport.” 

Analysis: Sarah Palin . . . and the Jews

When Sen. John McCain tapped Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to be his running mate today, the Jewish political blogosphere — as loud and fast and opinionated as (for lack of a better word) the Gentile Web — came to a screeching halt.

After all, you can fight about John McCain, and Barack Obama, and Joe Biden . . .but Sarah Palin?

It took an Internet eternity for Jewish Republicans to come out swinging for Sarah, an just as long for Jewish Democrats to hit back.

“Homerun!” Larry Greenfield, the California director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, wrote me via e-mail five hours after McCain’s announcement. “Governor Palin has a very close relationship with the Jewish community of Alaska, with Chabad (Rabbi Greenberg) and with AIPAC. She is close to the Frozen Chosen!”

Seconds later came a blast from Congressman Robert Wexler (D-FL) claiming Palin endorsed Pat Buchanan’s presidential run in 2000: “John McCain’s decision to select a vice presidential running mate that endorsed Pat Buchanan for President in 2000 is a direct affront to all Jewish Americans.”

Oh, now it’s getting good.

When Sen. Barack Obama picked Sen. Joe Biden last week, the Democrats had nothing but praise for the long term senator, citing positive comments from AIPAC and decades of foreign policy experience. And Jewish e-mail boxes filled with Biden’s now familiar quote: “You don’t have to be Jewish to be a Zionist, and I’m a Zionist.”

Then Republican Jews struck.

An e-mail quickly circulated linking to an article on a right-leaning web site claiming Biden was in the pocket of the Iranian mullahs. As for AIPAC’s kind words about Biden? “AIPAC has to say nice things,” a Republican activist told me. “They have to be bi-partisan.” And that pro-Zionist quote? Pretty words, just like his boss, Obama.

The Dems responded with a further defense of Biden’s record. If you could call Biden’s support for Israel into question, said the Executive Director of the National Jewish Democratic Council Ira Forman, then you could call Golda Meir’s loyalty to Israel in question.

The Veep debate among Jews is important because there are many Jewish voters who are still a bit leery about Obama. Jews traditionally vote Democratic (upwards of 75 percent voted for John Kerry in 2004 — and we didn’t even really like him). A growing number of Jews have found a home in the Republican party, and are fairly candidate-proof — they vote red no matter what.

A significant number of Jewish voters, however, will change their vote depending on which candidate they perceive as “better for Israel.” These voters believe that Israel is facing immediate existential threats from Palestinian terror, from a near-nuclear Iran, and from over-eager politicians forcing it to make dangerous territorial concessions for the sake of elusive peace. These voters — call them “Israel Firsters” — see their one vote as crucial to preventing another Holocaust, and theirs are the votes that Jewish Dems and Jewish Republicans are fighting over.

Obama and Israel is the battleground issue for Jewish voters in the 2008 election — these are the Jewish votes up for grabs in this race. If Republicans can paint Obama as a Muslim or Muslim sympathizer, as an appeaser to Iran, as inexperienced on foreign policy, as insufficiently caring about Israel in his kishkes — the Yiddish word for guts — then they can peel off Jewish votes.

This strategy won’t matter in heavily pro-Democratic states like California and New York, but it can matter in swing states like Ohio and Florida. And it matters elsewhere in the race: Jews give money, Jews get involved, Jews shape opinion far out of proportion to their numbers. (Yes, there are only six of us in the entire country. Amazing what controlling the media will get you!)

Enter Sarah.

If McCain had picked Mitt Romney or Tom Ridge or — cue the bar mitzvah band — Joe Lieberman, he would have unquestionably swept up the Israel Firsters. These men have track records and gravitas when it comes to Israel and foreign policy. (This debate among Jews and Israel reflects the larger foreign policy concerns about Obama that Republicans are making the centerpiece of their opposition. Many conflicts in Jewish life mirror conflicts in the larger culture — that’s Anthropology 101).

But he chose Sarah Palin: former mayor of a small Alaska town, governor of Alaska, devout Christian.

For Jews who are not necessarily Israel Firsters, she carries some positives and negatives. Positives: she is a crusader for good government and a fiscal conservative. She is smart and successful and patriotic. Jews like all these things.

“As governor of Alaska, Palin has enjoyed a strong working relationship with Alaska’s Jewish community. She has demonstrated sensitivity to the concerns of the community and has been accessible and responsive,” said Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matt Brooks.

Negatives: She is anti-abortion.

Jews are among the largest pro-choice constituency in the country. She has, according to one web site, supported the idea of teaching Creationism and evolution in public schools. “‘Teach both,” she was quoted as saying on a local TV station. “You know, don’t be afraid of information. Healthy debate is so important, and it’s so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both.'”

Dependence on foreign oil is a major issue for American Jews, since a lot of that oil comes from regimes that hate Israel and support terror.

Republican Jews are emphasizing Palin’s desire to drill Alaskan oil and develop domestic oil resources as away to decrease our dependence.

“Palin has been a leader on the critical issue of energy independence and lessening our need to buy oil from nations not sharing American and Israel’s foreign policy,” Brooks said in his statement.

But Jews are also pro-environment, and have jumped on the alternative energy (hybrid) bandwagon in a big way. Obama’s convention speech calling for a 10 year campaign to switch to alternative sources of energy may carry deeper resonance.

For the Israel Firsters, Palin may be a problem. Palin has no foreign policy experience. No Israel experience. Her AIPAC rating? When you enter her name on the AIPAC home page, you get this:

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The RJC’s Greenfield says her AIPAC relationships are great, but confined to Alaska. And Republicans are now marshalling a great comeback to the charge that Palin once supported Pat Buchanan.

Buchanan is anathema to the Jews. He is someone who has blamed Israel and American Jews for directing American foreign policy against American interests. He has spoken kindly of Adolph Hitler — who is not popular with Jews — and, well, this is going to be interesting.

Sarah Palin might cause the Israel Firsters, who seemed to be pretty much done with Obama, to take a second look.

Rob Eshman is Editor-in-Chief of The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles and JewishJournal.com.

Sarah Heath (Palin), sportscaster

Eulogies:Irv Kaze

Irv Kaze, a KRLA Sportscaster and longtime sports executive, died suddenly from a heart attack Saturday, June 29, at the age of 75. That morning, Kaze had attended services at the Congregation Ohev Shalom, where he was a longtime active member.

Kaze was an inductee and board member of the Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, and a supporter of the Jewish Home for the Aging and B’nai Brith.

After his father died when Kaze was 9, he was raised by his mother and grandfather, an Orthodox mohel and shochet (ritual slaughterer) in Jersey City. Kaze, who through his career worked for the Angels, George Steinbrenner’s champion Yankees, and the Super Bowl-winning Raiders, sought out shuls on all his travels. He was remembered by the sports community and the Jewish community as a gentlemanly and cheerful friend, capable of bringing people together.

He is survived by his wife, Barbara; son, Benjie; stepsons, Stuart and Stephen Grossman; two grandchildren; and five stepgrandchildren.

Donations in memory of Irv Kaze may be sent to the Irv Kaze Memorial Sanctuary Fund, Ohev Shalom Congregation, 525 S. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90036 or to the Jewish Home for the Aging, 7150 Tampa Ave., Reseda, CA 91335. — Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Religion Editor

Inside Dating

When “Inside Schwartz” creator Stephen Engel was in college, dating was relatively easy. He’d meet a girl in class, hang out — and presto! — he had a girlfriend.

But when Engel’s college flame dumped him when he was 25, the Jewish writer entered alien territory: the singles scene. “I didn’t have a lot of experience formally calling women and asking them out,” he says. “I’d never been ‘fixed up.’ I’d never been on a blind date. I had some horrific experiences.”

At the time, Engel, a self-professed “sports nut,” wished he could bring in sports analysts for advice. “I wished we could do instant replays to examine the body language,” he says. “It would be like, ‘She’s sitting on the couch, her arms are crossed, so does she or doesn’t she want me to make a pass?'”

The now happily married Engel, has turned his past wishful thinking into an NBC sitcom, “Inside Schwartz,” about a recently dumped sports nut with a parrot named Larry Bird and lots of bad dates. Like Engel at 25, Adam Schwartz (played by Breckin Meyer of “Rat Race” and “Road Trip”) imagines sports figures analyzing his love life. When a blind date announces she has four kids, an umpire blows a whistle and shouts, “Too many players on the field!” When Schwartz pines for his ex, Hall of Famer Dick Butkus pops up and advises, “Trust me, Adam, it’s over.” When Schwartz’s Jewish best friend, Julie Hermann (played by Jewish actress Miriam Shor) gazes into his eyes, Butkus razzes him to kiss her (he doesn’t listen).

While the 20-something Engel was a lawyer and wannabe writer, Schwartz is a wannabe sportscaster stuck working for his dad. He doesn’t get much help from his agent, William Morris (Dondre Whitfield), an African American who uses Yiddishisms like bubbaleh, “because that’s how he thinks agents talk,” Engel says.

Engel is not the first Jewish writer to make a gag of his life; but unlike “Seinfeld” and “Mad About You” characters, who were Jewish by innuendo, Schwartz makes his heritage clear in the first couple of minutes of the pilot. And while most TV shows pair Jewish characters with gentile love interests — ostensibly for dramatic conflict — “Schwartz” may be the first sitcom in which two appealing young Jews generate romantic tension.

For Engel, the reason is simple. “I’m Jewish, and the character is basically an exaggerated version of me,” he says.

Growing up Reform in New Rochelle, N.Y., the now 40-year-old Engel was as sports-obsessed as Schwartz. He shot hoops daily, fantasizing that he was a Knicks star and that sports announcer Marv Albert broadcast his every move. Every time a car drove past the hoop in his driveway, he assumed it was a Knicks scout. “If I missed the basket, I was, like, devastated,” says Engel, who at 5′ 9″ was too short to play on his high school team.

At Tufts, the budding comedy writer made the Hillel team and taught a comedy writing course, but decided to attend NYU law school to please his parents. “I spent most of my 20s trying to convince my dad that I didn’t want to be an attorney,” says Engel, who wrote screenplays on weekends and got his first break penning a comedy for producer Joel Silver.

By 1991, he’d snagged a full-time writing job on HBO’s “Dream On,” though he was too terrified to imagine Albert announcing his ditching of law with a trademark “Yessssss!”

Nevertheless, Engel went on to co-executive produce “Dream On,” serve as a consultant for “Mad About You” and create the short-lived CBS series “Work With Me,” about married attorneys who are forced into the same practice.

“Inside Schwartz” came about when Engel decided to experiment with the sitcom format and thought it would be funny to merge the grandiose field of sports with a person’s private life. “Sports coverage is so pompous,” he says, with a laugh. “It’s like they’re talking about gladiators going into battle.”

“Schwartz” also allows Engel to poke fun at his dates from hell — and the talent agency that refused to sign him. Schwartz’s hack agent, named after the William Morris agency, “carries himself like Mark Ovitz but has the client list of Broadway Danny Rose,” Engel says.

To satisfy NBC attorneys, the character must always introduce himself as “William Morris, not affiliated with the William Morris Agency, the largest talent agency in the world.”

Engel’s talent agency is Creative Artists Agency. “I could have named the character that, but it wouldn’t have been as funny,” he says.

“Inside Schwartz” debuts Thursday, Sept. 20 at 8:30 p.m. on NBC.