Personal Foul

It was a great story idea. Or so I thought …

Back in March, the Milford Mill Academy’s boys basketball team captured the Class 3A state championship. The title run was led by first-year head coach Michael Silverman.

Reaching out to Silverman for a profile piece seemed like a slam dunk. A local Jewish head coach propelling his team to greatness. As a sports guy, what more could I ask for?

So I contacted Silverman and let him know the Baltimore Jewish Times was interested in doing a feature on him. We set up a time to meet just before the school closed for its spring break in late March.

The interview was going great. For 45 minutes we sat in his office and talked about why he got into coaching, what he loved about his team and what spurred his competitive juices. He spoke about how he would get to the school at 6 a.m. to open up the gym for his team well before classes started. Not only did it give his players more time to hone their game, he said, it also improved their overall attendance records.

“Such a compelling guy,” I thought to myself. I couldn’t wait to get back to the office to write the article.

Then, toward the end, I asked him something along the lines of: “Given that you’re a Jewish guy coaching a predominately black team, do you ever talk religion with your players?”

His answer (again paraphrasing): “Yeah, I meant to tell you this: I’m not Jewish. I’m actually Methodist.”

Now, I pride myself on having a good poker face, but I would pay good money to see a photo of my expression when he uttered those words. I never saw it coming. His response hit me like a ton of bibles. (The New Testament, not the Old.)

I assumed he was Jewish. Two of my colleagues assumed he was Jewish. And, as it turns out, he was baptized — not bar mitzvahed.

Needless to say, the interview concluded shortly thereafter. I asked a few more questions to save face, but I pretty much explained to him that because he wasn’t Jewish, this was not a story for us anymore. I apologized for taking up his time.

Walking out of the school, I feverishly shook my head in disbelief.

“How could this guy not let me know beforehand that he wasn’t Jewish?” I asked myself. I mean, after all, we’re the JT. Although I had apologized, I was truly ticked off, feeling that he had wasted my time.

I vented, to myself, pretty much the entire ride back to the office.

Then as I sat at my desk and ref-lected on my frustration for a few minutes, I came to a realization. “Wait, am I not the journalist here? Isn’t it my job to ask the vital questions?” Of course!

Instead, I made the classic mistake of judging a book by its cover, and I had no right to be upset with that book just because the content inside didn’t jell with what I had been anticipating.

And, hey, in the end, Coach Silverman made it into the JT anyway, and I got a column out of it.

Lesson learned.

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