Last night Maccabi Tel Aviv won this year’s EuroIeague basketball championships. I missed the half-final on Friday, when Maccabi beat the CSKA Moscow by one point, because it was Shabbat. And I missed the final yesterday, when Maccabi beat Real Madrid, because I was on a flight. I arrived in Seoul to see the Israeli news sites flooded with news of the “historic” win. As I write this post, there is a live coverage (!) on the leading Israeli news website of the team landing in Tel Aviv.
I hate to be a party pooper. First, there’s nothing “historic” about this win. Maccabi won this championship several times (though admittedly not in the past decade). Second, and more important, what are Israelis celebrating exactly? Here are the top Maccabi scorers in the game: Tyrese Rice, Devin Smith, Ricky Hickman, Joe Ingles, Alex Tyus. Hmm… not very Israeli-sounding names, are they? So four Americans and one Australian win a championship wearing the yellow uniform of a team that happens to hail from Israel. What’s all the “national” pride about? What’s with the huge Israeli flags? Even the Prime Minister posted a picture of himself watching the game and hurried to call the coach to congratulate him on the win. Yes, the same nationalistically proud Bibi. As one observer put it: a national orgy.
I can already hear the retort: “But this is how the game is played! All teams have foreign players!” Well, not so true. Let’s check the top five scorers for Real Madrid: Rudy Fernandez, Felipe Reyes, Daniel Diez, Nikola Mirotic and Sergio Rodriguez. That’s five Spaniards (one of Serbian origin, but a Spanish citizen nonetheless). Zero foreigners.
So perhaps a little self restraint is in order? Maybe a little less chest thumping and a little more humility? A recognition that ex-NBA players are the ones winning these games for Maccabi? I realize these are all words in the wind. It is useless to try to counter blind nationalistic fever with rational arguments. Oh well…