Everyone at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference was Jewish—and by “everyone” I mean that while Jews comprise 2 percent of the American population roughly every third person at the conference was Jewish. I met some kids from the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective, a group of terrifyingly bright 20-year-olds, and quickly learned, to my lack of shock, that most of them were Jews. The business majors and the MBAers were Jews; one conference organizer, a Sloan student with a distinctively Irish name told me how glad he was I was writing this story, because clearly everyone there, himself included, was Jewish. The journalists covering the conference were Jews. And Mark Cuban—his family name was Chopininski—is Jewish, too. This matters.
The AFL’s story is a quintessentially American tale of a group of outmanned, outcast insurgents working on the margins, forced to break with the old way of doing things and in the process creating a brasher, more exciting version of the mainstream—a mainstream that then remade itself in the insurgents’ image. And Sid Gillman, Sonny Werblin, and Al Davis—three Jewish men—were among the AFL’s boldest and most creative innovators, and through the AFL had among the greatest impacts on the shape, success, and direction of the Super Bowl you will watch on Sunday night.