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TABC’s Coach K

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Sports have become big business. In particular, basketball — The game that gave us Air Jordan sneakers, bad-boy Dennis Rodman's autobiography, and "The LeBrons" commercials — is half Park Avenue and half parquet.

And on March '5, Torah Academy of Bergen County in Teaneck will honor the man who has literally come to embody the business end of basketball at its school, its varsity and junior varsity basketball coach, "Bobby" Kaplan, who also happens to teach a senior-year elective business class.

"Coming to Torah Academy has allowed me to continue coaching," said Bobby, who coached at The Adolph Schreiber Hebrew Academy of Rockland (ASHAR) and at The Frisch School in Paramus before coming to Torah Academy.

"But," he continued, "I also got to teach, which was new to me."

In 35 years, Bobby has coached in more than 1,000 games, has won eight championships, and has compiled a .700 career winning percentage. And his business class is also a big success, as it remains one of the most popular choices with Torah Academy's upperclassmen.

But Bobby's work at the school does not portray just how busy his schedule is.

At the same time that he came to Torah Academy, Bobby founded the IBA IHA, a summer camp for Orthodox Jewish kids ages 9-17 that specializes in basketball and hockey. He works for the camp year-round, and his summers are hectic.

Bobby also coaches the Frisch girls' varsity basketball team, where he's won three championships. Though his day-planner is brimming with appointments, Bobby takes delight in his work.

Plus, he said, "Coaches are nuts, anyway."

So maybe it's not all that strange that Bobby's dogs have become synonymous with Torah Academy's team. His first dog, "Storm," was the inspiration for the name, and even the slouch-faced logo, of Torah Academy athletics. The Storm (the team, not the dog) was devastated when, a few years ago, Storm (the dog not the team) passed away.

Bobby's solution? He brought Samson — a younger, fleet-footed version of Storm — into the fold, and the puppy continued The Storm legacy. As for Bobby:

"I'll retire when I no longer get 'butterflies' before each and every game," said Bobby.-"Thank God the butterflies continue to flap their wings, and basketball still remains the love of my life."

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Orthodox vendors going the way of Cubs’ hopes at Wrigley

Longtime fans of the Chicago Cubs know there are a few mainstays they can expect when they visit Wrigley Field: ivy on the outfield walls, a strict no-wave policy rigorously enforced by fans, and on most days, disappointing play by the hometown team.

But there’s one little-known quirk at Wrigley that appears to be fading away. The ballpark, which celebrated its 100th anniversary last week, enters its second century, but the many Orthodox Jewish vendors who sell food and drinks in the stands seem to be vanishing.

A few subtle signs could give the vendors away: a stray tzitzit strand flapping out of a jersey, a name tag reading Simcha, the Mincha prayer minyan that used to take place in the outfield stands before or after games.


Braun’s back, Kinsler’s in Detroit and more Jewish baseball news

BALTIMORE — In the biblical tradition of lingering in the desert en route to the Promised Land, major league baseball teams are packing up and embarking on their exodus from Arizona (and Florida) spring training sites to begin the new season.

Rosters won’t be finalized until this weekend, but 10 Jewish players are likely to make the journey, led by Moses and Aaron — er, Ian Kinsler and Ryan Braun. A Jewish perennial, Kevin Youkilis, late of the New York Yankees, signed with Japan’s Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles for this season.

Filling out the Jewish roster are mostly middle-of-the-road role players without any up-and-comers at the major league level. The World Series champion Boston Red Sox and the expected also-ran New York Mets each feature two Jewish players, and the Detroit Tigers have one player (and maybe a second later in the season) along with new manager Brad Ausmus, who guided the Israeli team’s World Baseball Classic entry in 2012.


American football goes to Israel

On visit to Bergen County, head of Israeli league talks tachlis, tackles

Are you still suffering from post-Super Bowl football withdrawal, even though it’s halfway into baseball’s spring training schedule?

Maybe you should move to Israel, where the Israeli Football League’s regular season doesn’t end until next Saturday night, with the playoffs and championship scheduled for April.

And yes, that’s American football, with touchdowns and tackles and wide receivers, not the “football” known in Israel as kadur regel and in America as “soccer.”

Here’s another advantage of the Israeli Football League over its American counterpart: The league is strictly amateur, so if you make aliyah this summer, you could be on your way to playing for the Judean Rebels or Haifa Underdogs next fall.

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