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Jewish Sports Hall of Fame selects 'remarkable' Mesler

What does Buffalo native Steve Mesler have in common with Marv Levy, Sandy Koufax, Gary Bettman, Mark Spitz and Howard Cosell?

He's going into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

Mesler, the Olympic gold medal-winning bobsledder from Buffalo's City Honors School, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in Commack, Suffolk County, on March 27.

"What he did was pretty remarkable," hall director Alan Freedman said. "And he happens to be a current athlete, which we really like.

"Once again, it's a Jewish athlete who achieved something in a sport you wouldn't think of. Come on, would you ever think of a nice Jewish boy going down a run like that at 100 miles per hour?"

Being named to the Hall of Fame is another in the long line of tributes for Mesler, all part of the positive fallout from his four-man bobsled team's gold medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Since then, he has flown in an F-16, dropped the puck at a Buffalo Sabres game and met President Obama.

Come this Friday, he's running the Super 60, a 60-meter celebrity race in the prestigious Millrose Games in New York City's Madison Square Garden.

"I thought it was amazing," Mesler said of his selection to the Jewish sports hall. "You don't think about putting yourself in the Hall of Fame when you're competing and training. It's such a surprise to be honored that way. It still humbles me to think that we did something that puts us in that classification."

Mesler, 32, who now lives in Calgary, Alberta, splits his time between giving motivational speeches to companies and business school students and working with his Classroom Champions concept, technologically connecting Olympians and other top athletes to school classrooms.

But he can't go far without fielding another accolade or honor. Tuesday, for example, he did a phone interview from New York City, after having just learned that his 2010 bobsled team had been named the U.S. Olympic Committee's Team of the Year for the second straight year.

Mesler said, "I still don't know how to respond when people say, 'Thank you for what you've done for our country. We're so proud of you.' "

As for all the post-Olympic honors, he said, "It took me 20 years to get here. I'm still having a blast doing this."

The National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, which dates from 1993 and operates under the auspices of the Suffolk Y Jewish Community Center, has more than 125 members.

Among them are baseball players Koufax, Al Rosen, Hank Greenberg and Ron Blomberg; football players and coaches Levy, Jay Fiedler and Sid Gillman; hockey executive Bettman; swimmers Spitz and Dara Torres; basketball players and executives Dolph and Dan Schayes, Red Auerbach and Abe Saperstein; and broadcasters Cosell, Marv Albert, Mel Allen, Linda Cohn and Tony Kornheiser.

Mesler will be inducted with seven other athletes, including football player Harris Barton, the late pro team owner Abe Pollin and football executive Dick Steinberg.

The National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame was launched to show Jewish children that there's no reason that they, too, can't be involved in sports at the highest level.

Freedman, in seeking to dispel some of the myths about Jewish athletes, cited the oft-told joke from the movie "Airplane," when a flight attendant asks whether a passenger wants something to read.

"Do you have anything light?" the passenger asks.

"How about this leaflet, 'Famous Jewish Sports Legends'?" the attendant replies.

Other cynics often include "Jewish athlete" in a list of oxymorons. "We want to show that's not true," Freedman said. "We want to [teach] the public not to stereotype -- that Jews, like any other group, can be great athletes."

He now has more than 125 names, including Mesler's, to prove it.


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