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Eat My Schwartz: Our Story of NFL Football, Food, Family, and Faith Hardcover – September 6, 2016
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About the Author
Detroit Lions offensive guard GEOFF SCHWARTZ was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in 2008 after anchoring the line at right tackle for three years with the Oregon Ducks. An eight-year NFL veteran, he signed with the Lions in 2016.
Kansas City Chiefs offensive tackle MITCH SCHWARTZ earned All-Pac 12 Conference and Academic All-Conference honors at Cal-Berkeley. He was drafted by the Browns in 2012 and played every single offensive down while on the team. He joined the Chiefs in 2016.
SETH KAUFMAN is the author of the acclaimed novels The King of Pain and Nuns with Guns. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, NewYorker.com and other publications.
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The life story of brothers Geoff and Mitch Schwartz… details a wonderful loving Jewish family that winds up creating the first two Jewish brothers to play in the NFL since 1923. The prior Jewish siblings played on the same team… whereas… Geoff and Mitch played on different teams… and thus… in Kansas City… on October 27, 2013… when the Cleveland Browns played the Kansas City Chiefs in Kansas City… the first ever NFL game pitting Jewish brothers against each other commenced. It will forever be known as “THE SCHWARTZ BOWL”! I can only imagine the pride… the love… the tears… by all members of the Schwartz family. After the game… with the family on the field to take pictures for posterity… the blessed parents are thinking… “THESE ARE OUR SONS!”
And in one of the most poignant statements in the book… Mitch writes…. “I’M A GROWN MAN, BUT I’M ALSO STILL A SON. YOU KNOW WHAT NEVER GETS OLD? HEARING THAT YOUR PARENTS ARE PROUD OF YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS.” Amen Brother! As a son… a Father… and a Grandfather… let alone a Jewish one… I kept feeling older with each page. Why you might ask? Because I loved how close their family is… I absolutely love the tremendous bond of love and brotherhood between the brothers… so I found myself emotionally adopting them… as I read I started thinking to myself… these guys are really some “good boys”… some great “kids”… and I would actually by myself stop and laugh… that here I am literally by myself describing two NFL players who are 6’6” tall… 340 pounds… size 18 shoes… and one who is… 6’5”… 320 pounds… size 18 shoes… as good “boys”. I all of sudden felt like I was one-hundred-years old. That’s how refreshing in today’s life and times it is to read about two young men… from a wonderful family… who (as finely detailed) work ever so hard on their physical AND mental capabilities to achieve and to continue to achieve lifetime dreams.
From their first immersion in football… that was not till high school… since attempting to add football to their schedule earlier… would be too much… what with their Hebrew and Bar Mitzvah education. What is also endearing is that neither brother ever stoops to any wanton bragging about their athletic abilities along their path to the pros. They openly discuss their weaknesses and shortcomings along the way… and just as importantly (as mentioned earlier) lay out in detail the back breaking work they both put in to make negatives into positives.
In addition to their commitment to football… family… and Chanukah… is their love and commitment to eating and cooking. In hindsight… October 27, 2013… might have been the first NFL “Schwartz-Bowl” game… but there have been over twenty years of “Schwartz-Food-Bowl” games… since the time they were very young. (Note: you’ll notice I didn’t say from the time they were small!)
Now… I want to get back to my issue with a statement by Geoff. It was regarding Yom Kippur… The Day Of Atonement… the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. A Jewish person is not supposed to work or eat… from sundown to sundown…. It’s a day to atone for your sins…
As a born and raised Brooklyn Dodger fan… whose family actually moved from New York to Los Angeles the same year as the Dodgers… and being Jewish… Sandy Koufax was one of my idols. He not only became the greatest pitcher in all of baseball during my lifetime… but he was an unmatched Jewish role model. When Sandy wouldn’t pitch in the biggest games of the year if they fell on the High Holidays (Rosh Hashanah as well as Yom Kippur)… it was a lesson to all Jewish youth. As I was a pitcher myself with good success in Little League… Babe Ruth League… American Legion… as a young teenager… one of my big games fell on the High Holidays. Being young… and unworldly… I started to say I should be allowed to pitch… but my tough little 5’ 2” Brooklyn Mother… (I am 6’2”)… snarled at me… and said: “IF IT’S GOOD ENOUGH FOR KOUFAX… IT’S GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU!!! YOU AIN’T PITCHING!” To this day… fifty years later… I’m glad my Mom said what she said. (Note: Full disclosure: There was one more word in my Mother’s declaration… that I’m leaving out to make sure that my review makes it past the censors!) Geoff… with his Father’s backing makes (in my opinion… which is basically my belief… and he has every right to his belief.) tries to make a justification for not sitting out an NFL game if it falls on the sacred day of Yom Kippur. He says: “Within the culture of football, it’s hard to miss a game for religion—it doesn’t make it any easier when people don’t understand the religion. But even if they do, it wouldn’t make much difference. There is definitely pressure to play come game day in the NFL no matter what the issue. People play when they are hurt, they play when they are sick, they play when their kids are getting born, and when their parents are dying. It is a competitive game. And unless you are a star, like Sandy Koufax, everyone can be replaced. So I play, because I love it, because I want to contribute, and because it’s my job.”
I don’t buy it… I believe deep inside… he’s just trying to find some justification in his soul… and I think it would make just as big an impact in a different way… if a journeyman… not an all-time great like Koufax… sat out for his religious beliefs… because without his leverage… it would show an even greater belief. And remember… we’re all supposed to be equal… in the eyes of the Lord! And his additional argument that because there are possibly seven games in the World Series… that it isn’t as important as missing a regular season NFL game… are you kidding? You sitting out a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars… doesn’t quite match up to sitting out a Dodger game in the World Series. Additionally… the difference in religious and racial understanding today as compared to fifty years ago is like the difference between an iPhone and the original telephone. There is no excuse and it makes what Sandy Koufax did even greater in comparison.
As I said earlier… this will not effect my overall rating. This is a wonderful five star story… but because of this one area I would probably have to think long and hard as to whether I would give it to my Grandchildren who are at the age where a lot of our time and love is being spent teaching them the Pride… Joy… and… Responsibility… of being Jewish. (Never-Again)
The boys write in a fun, easy to read style that is always interesting. The technical parts of playing offensive line in the NFL took me back to "Instant Replay," Jerry Kramer's epic chronicle of the Green Bay Packer 1967 championship season - & that's high praise indeed.
A couple of interesting things I learned: Geoff & Mitch are the first Jewish brothers to play in the NFL since 1923 (since Ralph & Arnold Horween) and although they played against each other in 2014 (Chiefs vs. Browns) that is the only time during overlapping NFL careers that they were ever able to see each other during the regular season (so far).
I think this would be an excellent book to give as a gift to a young man interested in playing football, and also for one who may need encouragement in over coming a speech impediment, as Geoff relates. This is not a literary memoir but rather told in a manner reminiscent of a detailed television interview or a long conversation on a road trip. Nothing that would intimidate a reluctant reader but would give inspiration through the lives of genuine and success young men.