Cover image for The pigskin rabbi
The pigskin rabbi
Manus, Willard, 1930-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York City : Breakaway Books, [1999]

Physical Description:
300 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


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In this ribald comic novel, a young rabbi becomes quarterback for the New York Giants and within months all the world (or most of it) seems to be converting to Judaism. Anyone who feels even one shred of affection for the traditions of Judaism, who understands the power of professional sports to mold public opinion-and anyone who loves a good laugh-will be enthralled and delighted by The Pigskin Rabbi.

Ezekiel "Ziggy" Cantor becomes (by a very strange sequence of events) the superstar quarterback of the New York Giants, drilling passes with godlike accuracy, kicking miraculous field goals, playing out of pure love of the game, and catapulting the team toward invincibility. Ziggy's Judaism, formerly a burden in gentile society, now becomes the apparent source of all good. His teammates-convinced of the luck of the Jewish-start eating kosher food during games, prepared by Ziggy's kindly grandmother. They call plays in Yiddish.

Ziggymania hits town. Fans chant lustily in Yiddish. Gucci-made Giants yarmelkehs are all the rage. New York takes Ziggy to its heart-he is a homegrown hero. Even his grandmother becomes a celebrity. Judaism is hip, it's in , and is all-empowering.

An over-the-top farce full of unforgettable characters, an irreverent sports novel with a theological underpinning- The Pigskin Rabbi will have people of all faiths convulsed with laughter.

"A vastly entertaining fable. . . . Anyone who doesn't fall for Manus's spirit and sly jokes has a hard heart indeed."- San Francisco Chronicle

Willard Manus is the author of Mott the Hoople , among other books. His plays have been produced in London, Paris, Vienna, Berlin, Los Angeles, Washington, and New Orleans. He is a member of the American Theater Critics Association, and writes on blues and jazz for several magazines. He lives in Los Angeles.

"How does a rabbi convert the entire U.S. to Judaism? The answer, of course, is by becoming a football hero. A wild tale . . . Hilarious . . . Manus has a wonderful sense of humor."- Publishers Weekly


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Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

How does a rabbi convert the entire U.S. to Judaism? The answer, of course, is by becoming a football hero, in this wild tale by Manus (Mott the Hoople). In the hilarious first chapter, Ziggy Cantor, a rabbinical school graduate and son of a Bronx rabbi, has fled to Holland to study Spinoza, to experiment with secular ideas, and to engage in his chief loveÄfootballÄfar from his father's critical orthodox eye. There he is discovered by a Giants scout, and Ziggy, a natural, becomes the Giants' quarterback who turns his team from a perennial loser to a Super Bowl winner, thereby pervading America with Jewish culture. Ziggy calls plays in Yiddish, the team wears Giants-logo yarmulkes, his grandmother serves chicken soup from the sidelines and his receiver, a cocksure swaggerer, even undergoes ritual circumcision in order to become a Jew. Still, Ziggy is dogged by murderously jealous teammates, by anti-Semites and especially by his own conscience: has he betrayed his tradition? Making love to a shiksa, playing a game on Yom Kippur and his father's death all bring up doubts. But in the end, Ziggy gets it all: the gentile lover, the Super Bowl victory, fortune and fameÄand he still becomes a rabbi at the end. This is a typical sports and sex fantasy, replete with aggressive male bonding and the requisite model and cheerleader dream girls. The writing is not exactly hipÄand the story is predictable, but Manus has a wonderful sense of humor, and for readers who can find comic relief with his underdog's predicament, he makes a field goal. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Fortunately, Manus's (Connubial Bliss, Panjandrum, 1989) grown-up fairy tale about football as it should be played does not have to be plausible. A young rabbi who has lost his conviction has returned to his first love, football. Signed by the New York Giants, Ezekiel "Ziggy" Cantor instantly becomes a star, especially when they hire his old sandlot buddy. A great toss-and-catch combination, they communicate in Yiddish, which confuses their opponents. Their teammates learn not only Yiddish from them but also a spontaneous, joyous way to play the game. Pretty soon the whole team is eating Ziggy's grandmother's chicken soup on the sidelines, and their fans are wearing official Giants yarmulkes. The only ones who don't love Ziggy are anti-Semites, opposing players, and the quarterback he replaced, who want him dead. Nonetheless, he leads his team through a great season while struggling to regain his faith. Funny, touching, and raunchy; recommended for public libraries.ÄMarylaine Block, St. Ambrose Univ. Lib., Davenport, IA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.