When I was a kid, I had a project in Hebrew school to write about a famous Jew that was a role model to me. As someone passionate about sports, I chose the one major Jewish athlete at the time, pro wrestler Bill Goldberg.
From then on, I hoped for another great Jewish baseball player. Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg were way before my time and Shawn Green just didn't cut it. That's why it meant a lot to me when Ryan Braun burst into the spotlight in 2007.
Braun isn't entirely Jewish, as he was born to a Catholic mother, but identifies as Jewish and even said that he hopes to be a role model to Jewish youth. He was the first Jew to win Rookie of the Year and was the NL MVP this season. He gave me hope for the Jewish community as a whole.
The news today of Braun's positive drug test has put a black mark on his career and negatively affects the Jewish community. Even if it was due to "highly unusual circumstances" like his spokesman said, Braun's reputation is tarnished and I will be looking for a new Jewish athlete to look up to.
The question now is who will take that title. I'm a baseball fan first, but Kevin Youkilis, Ian Kinsler and Sam Fuld aren't quite good enough. Kyle Kosier is the highest-profile Jew in the NFL, but I don't particularly want to look up to an offensive lineman.
It seems that the only Jewish athlete that is elite in his or her sport other than Braun is Amar'e Stoudemire. As weird as it sounds, the All-Star power forward from the Knicks has a Jewish background and has recently made an effort to be more involved in the Jewish community.
It's disappointing to see someone you look up to fall from grace, but it's a fact of life and I'm ready to move on. I can respect Amar'e for his recent appearance on Shalom Sesame, so I guess he'll have to do as the new role model for young Jews.