19 October 2009

The Scarf and the T-Shirt

Minna wore the Macabi Tel Aviv scarf.
Lois wore the Macabi Tel Aviv shirt.
Each were gifts to them I bought at the terminal store in Ben Gurion Airport back in 2002 when I led a birthright trip.

They looked great.

The game itself, yesterday's scrum between the unremarkable New York Knicks and the significantly non-Israeli Macabi Tel Aviv team, to benefit the Israeli charity Migdal Ohr, was sloppy but fun.

The flying Israeli flags were a hoot; so was opening with Hativkah before Nachum Segal, of JM in the AM fame on WFMU, sang the National Anthem. We listen to Nachum most mornings and seeing his face light up the MSG scoreboard was a special satisfaction.

So why was the day at the Garden so, well, dissatisfying?

Three things:

One, the strange announcement midway through the second quarter that "former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert" was present. I admit it, I booed. And proceeded to explain to the kids that he was a "former" Prime Minister because he was chased from office for taking bribes. I quickly scanned the crowd, looking for his benefactor Morris Talansky. I was trying to work up a joke about boosting his courtside side by sitting on a pile of cash but he was gone and forgotten soon and the kids and I went to get something to drink.

Two, there was the small matter of Macabi coach Pini Gershon's refusal to leave the court after being ejected by the non-union refs for two technical fouls. He had to be convinced to be a good sport and head to the locker-room by a rabbi, Yitchak Dovid Grossman, who had the quote of the day:

"I explained that this is not a regular game and the kids are watching and [it's] important that there will be peace and forgive him," Rabbi Yitchak Dovid Grossman said of his discussions with the officials. "If you forgive him, I can speak to the children and say, 'You also forgive. If you have a fight, you forgive.' But he says this is the law, that you must obey."

By that time, the kids and I were back at the bathrooms (the sodas are so large at sporting events, people don't realize, they necessitate several trips to the bathroom for most normal kids' bladders.) Lois caught some of the argument on the closed circuit tv behind the popcorn machine, rolling her eyes at the sight of a guy from Tel Aviv stubbornly arguing a call. It fit the bill but diminished the moment. It almost made it all seem cheap.

Three, this latter question didn't hit me til today, when a friend wrote asking why I crossed a picket line with my kids to attend the game. I have to admit, I am ordinarily sensitive to this issue but didn't apply to the game, in part because I feel so jaded about the NBA in general that I simply failed to distinguish between the union refs, who are on strike against the league, and their replacements. For my own relationship to the issue and my kids, I say here an "al het" (recitation of sin) for neglecting another potential moment to teach.

I wonder, upon further reflection, if Rabbi Grossman, who adjudicated the rift between Gershon and the refs, had stopped action completely and engaged the mostly Jewish crowd in a text study about workers' rights, what would have happened.

I jest--and having been on the rabbinic side of a text, taught when people just want to do what they got together for, isn't always the most well received.

But with a team from Tel Aviv coming to town to raise money for a Jewish charity with Israeli flags flying in the stands and a frum guy with a radio show singing the National Anthem and names of countless Jewish organizations and synagogues and day schools and camps flashing on the MSG scoreboard--what exactly were we there for?

A shamed former prime minister?
An angry, ejected coach?
Crossing a picket line?

I'd like to press re-start on yesterday's experience.

Of course keeping the scarf and the t-shirt.

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