"I wanna be like... Moshe" - Sports in the Jewish State
Don't get me wrong, I am as big of a sports fan as the next guy. Part of my daily routine consists of reading the sports section of the NY Daily News and NY Post and checking into ESPN.com a few times a day, all in an effort to follow the ups and downs of my NY Giants, Mets and Rangers.
And that's precisely the problem.
I still feel more of a loyalty, after 3 years in Israel, to NY sports teams than I do to their equivalents in Israel.
It's not due to a lack of effort on my part. True, I have never been a big fan of basketball, and soccer is not exactly a huge sport in the US, but even with that being the case, I have come to enjoy other "Israeli" staples such as hummus and Bamba, things which I didn't exactly grow up with in the US.
So, why won't I root for the sports teams in Israel?
The answer can be found by taking a closer look at Maccabi Tel Aviv.
No one can discount the fact that they are a very talented franchise - Israel's equivalent of the New York Yankees. They've won 45 National Titles, 35 National Cups, 5 Euroleague Championships, and have been to the Euroleague finals 12 times.
So, what is the secret of their success?
Paying top dollar for NBA washouts or wanna be's.
7 of the 13 players currently on the Maccabi Tel Aviv roster are either not Jewish, or are not citizens of the State of Israel. Basically, Maccabi Tel Aviv, along with most other sports teams in Israel (basketball & soccer) consist of a bunch of ringers; players who will play anywhere in the world for enough money.
That being the case, why should I settle for watching the 2nd rate talent found in the Israeli leagues - players who couldn’t make it in the big leagues elsewhere - when I can just keep following the real deal - even if the games are being played 6,000 miles away.
All that being said, I would be prepared to abandon my lifelong loyalties to my NY sports teams, provided that the sports teams in the State of Israel would begin to truly represent the Jewish State.
Imagine for a moment, that the rosters of all of the major league teams in Israel were full of the best Jewish talent that Israel and the Jewish world had to offer (and where no games would be played on Shabbat).
Imagine for a moment, that when the Israeli national team would compete in an international competition, that it would be truly representing the Jewish People and State.
Imagine for a moment the overwhelming sense of Jewish pride that this would create, not just within Israel, but around the Jewish world. No longer would a Jewish kid growing up in LA dream about being like Kobe Bryant; a kid in Chicago wanting to "be like Mike"; or a boy in NY wanting to be the next Derek Jeter.
They would now have a new group of sports starts to emulate and admire, and they would all be Jewish, and they would all be playing in (and for) the Jewish State and People. It would become the dream of young Jewish boys and girls all over the world to one day be good enough to play ball for the Jewish State.
This would, I believe, increase Aliyah to the Jewish State from all over the world. Special sports scholarships could be created to encourage young Jewish athletes to compete and study in the Jewish State, along with special benefits to enable their families to join them in Israel.
Not to mention, this would do wonders toward allowing Jews around the world to foster a positive connection to the Jewish State (and to the Jewish People), and not one based on charity, guilt or sympathy.
Now, that's a team that I could root for.