13 January 2008

“What would Robin do?”

While Jules Feiffer (born in 1929) was growing up in the Bronx and hating Robin, the Boy Wonder, a boy born in 1930 was growing up on the opposite side of the country and coming to the opposite stance. This weekly Robin quotes a reminiscence from Jim Jacobs of Los Angeles:

I always pretended that I was Robin, the Boy Wonder. Superman I admired, but Batman and Robin were human; and everything athletic that Robin did, I tried to do.

He threw a boomerang. I learned how to throw a boomerang. Robin was an excellent tumbler, and so I would run off diving boards to practice double flips. Robin swam underwater for two minutes...[so] I learned how to hold my breath underwater. Before long I could swim underwater for two minutes. I didn’t want to admit that Robin could do something I couldn’t do.

Being Robin, the Boy Wonder, was a tremendous help to me in sports. All of us are susceptible to our emotions when under stress, and when I was younger I would think: What would Robin do? Instead of succumbing to nervous apprehension, I would transform myself into this other character who was emotionally unaffected.
Jacobs was a jock, not a scholar nor (like Feiffer) an artist. He made himself a champion in the sport of handball. In 1966 Sports Illustrated suggested he was the top American athlete then competing; he certainly dominated his sport like no one else.

Jacobs is in the Handball Hall of Fame and the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, source of the image above. He’s also in the International Boxing Hall of Fame, having co-managed the successful part of Mike Tyson’s boxing career and those of three other champions. (The quote above comes from Peter Heller's Bad Intentions, about Tyson’s rise and fall.)

Robert Slater’s Great Jews in Sports (368 pages, in case you wonder) adds, “Over the years, Jacobs amassed half a million comic books, said to be the largest collection in the world.” When he died of a form of leukemia in 1988, the New York Times reported that Jacobs owned “more than 800,000 comic books.”

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