Schalit turns passion for sports into job

Former IDF captive undertakes sports column for 'Yediot Aharonot,' prepares to fly to NBA finals in Miami.

Schalit watches Maccabi Tel Aviv, Barcelona Regal 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner)
Schalit watches Maccabi Tel Aviv, Barcelona Regal 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner)
It makes perfect sense.
Most of the public appearances that former IDF captive Gilad Schalit has made since his return home from five years in Hamas captivity last October have pertained to sports: participating in a basketball workout with his favorite team Maccabi Tel Aviv, attending the NBA All-Star game in Orlando, Florida, last February.
So, it’s not too surprising that the first job the discharged Schalit is undertaking is connected to sports.
Yediot Aharonot announced Wednesday that Schalit would begin penning a sports column for the newspaper, co-authored with veteran sportswriter Arik Henig.
This weekend, Schalit and Henig will be flying to Miami in time for Sunday’s third game of the NBA finals between the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder in order to file for their new weekly column “Free Game.” Then, they’ll take off to Kiev to attend the finals of the Euro 2012 soccer tournament.
“Listen, a few months ago he was in a Hamas prison, now he’s going to the NBA finals,” said Henig on Wednesday. “I don’t think there’s anybody else in the world who’s going to attend both the NBA finals and the Euro finals. He’ll get to meet the players and I know he’d love to interview [NBA commissioner] David Stern.”
Henig, a colorful staple on the Israel entertainment scene, writes “The Starting Five” column for Yediot, and was pivotal in launching broadcasts of NBA games in Israel on the then-brand new Channel 2 in the early 1990s. Later Henig broke into TV himself, adapting and serving as executive producer for the popular Keshet/Channel 2 reality game show Monit Hakesef (Cash Cab).
Henig said that he met Schalit six months ago and the two immediately developed a rapport based on their mutual love of sports.
“We’ve been spending a lot of time together and we have a special chemistry,” said Henig. “I’m like his mentor. We have a common mania for sports, and I discovered that he’s a genius, he knows everything, like he was never away for five years.
“I suggested that it would be good for him to direct his love of sports toward a job, and we came up with the idea for the column.”
Yediot is introducing the new column on Friday with a special two-way interview in which Henig and Schalit ask each other questions.
Schalit talked about his time in captivity and told Henig that soccer provided the common ground between him and his captors, adding that he was allowed to watch matches on Al Jazeera TV.
“I asked him who his favorite sportsman of all time is, and he said Michael Jordan,” said Henig, adding that he is confident Schalit is going to excel at his new endeavor.
“He’s very smart and he’s already a good writer. He’s going to be great.”