Eat My Schwartz: Football, Food, Family & Faith

The story of the first pair of Jewish brothers to play in the NFL in almost 100 years

Photo: Jewish Telegraphic Agency via Times of Israel

If offensive linemen are doing their job right, a casual observer shouldn’t know what their names are, because in that position, the only time a name is called is to announce a penalty. Brothers Geoff and Mitch Schwartz are making their names known, but in a different way. In their book Eat My Schwartz: Our Story of NFL Football, Food, Family and Faith, released on September 6, the free agent and Kansas City Chief, respectively, explain that while they may attempt to blend in on the field, they do anything but off of it.

Photo via Goodreads

The book is (as one might expect, in an appeal to the broadest common denominator) mostly about their football careers, from high school to college to draft night to their current NFL lives. The brothers alternate sections, and each narrates his own trials and tribulations — Geoff seems to be more comfortable as a writer (he wrote a guest column for The MMQB over the summer and co-hosts a podcast, “Block ’Em Up”), and it shows, but Mitch holds his own.

Offensive linemen don’t tend to get much glory, so getting a behind-the-scenes look at the details of the position is interesting for any football fan, but for this writer (note: perhaps this is because I’m Jewish myself) the most compelling parts of the book are the portions where the brothers talk about the ways in which they stay connected to their Jewish faith, and I wish there had been even more of those anecdotes. (If you’re not Jewish, don’t worry; the book assumes that the reader knows little to nothing about Judaism so takes care to explain holiday symbolism, etc. — though if you are Jewish, these explanations may feel a bit elementary.)

Photo via Tablet

To emphasize just how much of a rarity these two are, I’m going to run through some numbers. There are about 1,700 players in the NFL; currently, about nine of them, including the Schwartzes, are Jewish (Julian Edelman is another one). The first and last (until now) set of Jewish brothers to play in the NFL did so in 1923, and they were always on the same team, so when Geoff’s and Mitch’s teams faced each other in 2013, it was the first time Jewish brothers had squared off in the NFL.

Because Judaism is so little-known in football circles, the brothers have gotten some interesting questions over the years — for instance, Geoff recalls being asked if he celebrates Thanksgiving. In order to help their teams understand more about Jewish culture, Geoff and Mitch have turned to another of their passions: food. Their appetite for latkes (fried potato pancakes made on Chanukah) and matzah ball soup is easy to translate, and the Schwartzes’ shared love of cooking may just become a post-NFL career; they’re in the process of pitching a food-centric TV show to various networks. The book even includes a few of the Schwartz brothers’ favorite recipes — to this reviewer, that part felt a bit forced, but if you’d like to eat how they do, here’s your chance.

As a sports memoir, Eat My Schwartz is certainly a respectable one. Could it have been more balanced in the way it juggles its topics? Sure. But nonetheless, if you’re hungry for less-well-known NFL athlete backstories (see what I did there?), this is a recommended read.

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