From the booth to the court to Israel

Shulman wanted to come back for this year’s Maccabiah Games, having been told by his teammates that “you haven’t done Maccabi until you’ve done it in Israel.”

DAN SHULMAN (photo credit: (Maccabi Canada/Courtesy))
(photo credit: (Maccabi Canada/Courtesy))
As his teammates take warm-up about an hour before their game against Russia on Wednesday evening, Dan Shulman sits on the sidelines in support, proudly sporting his Maccabi Canada T-shirt and hat.
A teammate walks over and rubs the top of Shulman’s head before proceeding onto the court to join in the warmup.
“I’m a good luck charm for him,” Shulman quipped.
Shulman, the play-by-play voice of ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball and NCAA men’s college basketball coverage, is a well-known name in the North American sports world, even winning the US National Sportscaster of the Year in 2011. But during his stay in Israel for just under two weeks as a member of Canada’s masters(+35) male Maccabiah basketball team, he insists he is just another member of the squad.
The 46-year-old native of Thornhill, a suburb just north of Toronto, became involved with Maccabi Canada after playing on a basketball team he organized for a local JNF charity tournament a few years ago.
One of the teams they faced in the tournament included some members of Maccabi Canada, who liked what they saw in Shulman.
From there, Alex Brainis, chair of Maccabi Canada’s national athletic committee and a member of this year’s masters basketball team, asked Shulman to come on board.
“I guess he thought I could help and I didn’t get it,” Shulman says. “I tried to talk him out of it, but he persisted.”
This led Shulman to his first Maccabiah experience in 2011, when he competed as a member of Canada’s delegation to the Pan American Maccabi Games in Brazil.
“For me, what I did in Brazil is the highest-level sports I’ve ever been part of in any sport in my life,” Shulman said, noting his basketball resumé includes two years back in high school without ever starting a game, a B’nai Brith league in Canada, and various men’s league games.
“In Brazil I played against one guy who had been in the Olympics, I played against a few who played professionally.
That’s a whole different experience for me,” he said. “To get a chance to get on the court with people who are at that level is fun. It makes you push yourself as hard as you can.”
Shulman said he mostly plays power forward for the team, but has also spent a little time at center. When asked if he models his game after any big-name stars in particular, Shulman laughingly played down the idea.
“I just try not to do anything silly in the court,” he says.
Shulman wanted to come back for this year’s Maccabiah Games, having been told by his teammates that “you haven’t done Maccabi until you’ve done it in Israel.”
Unfortunately, Shulman’s experience at the 19th Maccabiah was shortlived, having torn a ligament in his foot just seconds after coming off the bench in Canada’s opening game against the United States on July 19.
While the injury will keep him out a minimum of six weeks, thus ending his tournament, Shulman said his first, yet brief moment on the court playing in the Maccabiah Games was memorable.
“I’ve been working a year and a half to get here so within five seconds I had my high point and my low point,” Shulman noted. “I was just so pumped up to get in the game. It’s silly, I’m a 46-year-old man but I haven’t had the experiences some of these guys have had. For me this is enormous.”
His third time in Israel, Shulman said he has enjoyed trips around the Old City in Jerusalem and visiting the Western Wall with the rest of the 11- member team and its coach, ESPN analyst and former NCAA coach Digger Phelps.
But a main highlight for him has simply been the opportunity to encounter fellow Jews from all over the world.
“Until I went to Brazil two years ago for the Pan Am games, I didn’t realize there were so many Jewish people in Chile, Venezuela, Germany, Australia, and all over the world,” Shulman explained. “Just getting to meet other Jewish people…and share stories and experiences has been a big part of it for me.”
As for whether or not the Maccabiah will remain in Shulman’s future, he said he would love to compete again if healthy, and has even pondered getting into swimming in some capacity.
He noted that all else being well, he will also be coaching his son’s 14U baseball team next summer at the JCC Maccabi Youth Games in Detroit.
But for now, Shulman plans to enjoy the rest of this year’s Maccabiah, before heading home on Tuesday and returning to ESPN.
Whether it’s offering support to his teammates from the bench or letting them rub his head for good luck, he will try to do whatever he can to help out as Canada closes out its tournament with this weekend’s semi-final and possible final round matches.
“I’m representing my country, representing my religion, [and] my culture.
I love it,” Shulman exclaimed. “I do work in the US but…I’m Canadian. I love wearing the red and white.”