Odd Ball: Weird NYC Sports
by Jonathan Zeller, 01/02/2013
Courtesy, Major League Dreidel
Major League Dreidel (MLD)
What is it? It might be surprising to see the words "major league" modify a seemingly noncompetitive staple of Jewish childhood, but the version of dreidel that "major leaguers" play doesn't have much to do with the traditional game; instead of having the tops' Hebrew letters randomly determine who wins gelt (gold-foil-wrapped chocolate coins), players in December 2012 competed at something called "target tops," billed as "dreidel meets cornhole and shuffleboard." In past years, they vied to see who could keep their top spinning the longest in a so-called Spinagogue (a miniature "stadium" for spinning). For more info, watch this commercial from the event's creators, which features brash anthropomorphized dreidels.
Why should you go? Major League Dreidel Knishioner Eric Pavony, who probably deserves a Nobel Prize for his job title alone, doesn't mince words when discussing the state of dreidel before MLD came along. Traditional dreidel, in his opinion, is "a children's gambling game, and it's pretty boring." Not content with a contest that relies solely on luck, Pavony and his cohorts came up with new versions of the ancient pastime. Add a crowded bar and some adult-beverage consumption (not limited to Manischewitz), and the atmosphere can become charged pretty quickly: "When somebody spins the dreidel the length of the table and it magically spins its way into this little cup at the end, the place goes crazy," Pavony says. Adults going bonkers for dreidel in the middle of hipster Williamsburg? In the grand tradition of Hanukkah, one could say a great miracle happened there.