Izenberg, Jerry

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IZENBERG, JERRY (1930– ), U.S. sportswriter. Izenberg, whose father was born on the Polish-Russian border in a village with no name called "the Jew village," grew up in Newark, n.j., where his father worked dyeing furs seven days a week. Izenberg attended college at Newark-Rutgers, where he was a sports reporter and later editor-in-chief of the Observer, the student newspaper. After graduating in 1952, Izenberg worked at the Newark Star-Ledger for a summer, and then enlisted and served in Japan and Korea for two years. After being discharged, Izenberg worked first at weekly newspapers in New Jersey, and then at the Paterson News, the Newark Star-Ledger, and the New York Herald Tribune. In August 1962, the Newark Star-Ledger offered Izenberg a job as a columnist, and he remained there ever since, writing 10,000 nationally syndicated columns in the ensuing four decades.

Izenberg was a weekly sports commentator on New York's Channel 5 in the 1970s, spent two years as host of the nbc Radio Network's Sports at Large with Jerry Izenberg, and taught journalism at both Rutgers University and the New School for Social Research. Izenberg was also producer, director, writer, and narrator for more than 30 television specials, winning an Emmy Award for writing and directing A Man Named Lombardi, and he is one of only five sportswriters who has attended every Super Bowl since its inception in 1967. He is a five-time winner of the n.j. Sportswriter of the Year Award, has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize numerous times, and is a member of the n.j. Literary Hall of Fame, in which he is the only sportswriter; the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame; the n.j. State Athletic Hall of Fame; the Rutgers University's Hall of Distinguished Alumni; and winner of the Red Smith Award from the Associated Press Sports Editors, which Izenberg considers his proudest accomplishment. Smith once called him "one of the best-informed conscientious writers in sports," and his politically active stance sometimes drew the wrath of readers, as when he defended Muhammad Ali's refusal to fight in Vietnam in the 1970s.

"We got well over a thousand letters, and only two agreed with me," Izenberg said. "One of the letters was written in crayon. But all the mail had a common thread: 'Dear Communist Jew Bastard,' or 'Dear Facist Jew Bastard.'"

Izenberg is the author of nine books, including At Large, With Jerry Izenberg (1968), The Rivals (1968), How Many Miles To Camelot?: The All-American Sport Myth (1972), Great Latin Sports Figures: The Proud People (1976), The Greatest Game Ever Played (1987), and No Medals for Trying: A Week in the Life of a Pro Football Team (1990).

[Elli Wohlgelernter (2nd ed.)]