Big, Not So Bad, Bill Goldberg
The man who made his name as a Jewish pro wrestler talks about his recent religious awakening
BY: John D. Spalding
funny. Still, it shows that I’ve reached a level where people do listen to me. Once you achieve the upper echelon of what you do, as I have, then you become a role model. And with that comes responsibility, and I welcome that responsibility with open arms.
So do you see yourself as a Jewish role model in the tradition of Sandy Koufax, Hank Greenberg, and Mark Spitz?
There’s nothing about wrestling that is traditional, so I don’t think I belong in that category. But if my status makes me a role model for Jewish kids, then I’m very happy about that and I hope I’m a good role model for them.
Did you have Jewish sports heroes as a kid?
I did--my older brothers. I come from a very athletic family. But I didn’t have the typical Jewish sports heroes. I mean, like lots of Jewish kids I admired Sandy Koufax. But I didn’t look up to him as the one person who gave me the desire to push on and succeed. My brothers did that for me.
When you were a defensive tackle at the University of Georgia, a rabbi in Jacksonville criticized you and another lineman for playing in the Georgia-Florida game on Yom Kippur.
[Laughs] That rabbi obviously didn’t go to the University of Georgia or the University of Florida! What can I say? I can only take so much. Unlike wrestling, football is a team sport. There’s not much room for individual choice. So if I’ve played sports on one or two Jewish holidays, then I am very sorry. But hey, I think I’m a pretty good person, and I think I’ve done more good than harm. For the record, though, I do prefer not to wrestle on Yom Kippur.
At one point you considered wearing--or at least it was suggested that you wear--the Star of David on your trunks.
Well, I figured the name Goldberg said it all. Hell, if I walk out there as Goldberg and you can’t figure out I’m Jewish for yourself, well, then, I’m sorry. But professional wrestling wasn’t a religious decision for me, not that there’s anything wrong with that. It just wasn’t me. Now if I went in there calling myself “Mossad” [Israel’s secret service], that’d be a whole different story.