David Davis reviews Jewish Jocks, the new collection of essays on, well, Jewish jocks:
“There’s Abel Kiviat!” he’d exclaim. “Your grandfather knows him. He was the best.”
Kiviat was then in his 80s, a shrunken gnome with bowed legs. In his prime, just before World War I, he was a top-rated distance runner. He held the 1,500-meter world record and took the silver medal at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics.
Family lore has it that Kiviat and my grandfather worked as counselors at the same summer camp. Later, as cogs in the judicial system, they would stop and chat in the marbled hallways of the state and federal courthouses.
The connection transcended the personal: Abel Kiviat was a Jew. This was of supreme importance to our family because so few Jewish athletes succeeded at the elite level. Those who did — the Dodgers’ Sandy Koufax being the prime example — acquired a distinctive aura. Kiviat and Koufax were the real Chosen Ones, SuperJews, able to whip the Goyim on their AstroTurf.