The whole team went up to this spot in the mountains today as part of a league wide community service event. We got introduced to a crowd of what looked to be a bunch of freshman and sophomores, listened to a speech by our coach, and then played a game against some of the students. It turned out to be pretty fun. When we made our entrance to the gym the place exploded like some teeny boppers at a Bieber concert. My theory is that they were just happy to be anywhere other than the classroom, but they were pretty god damn enthusiastic whatever the case.
They went crazy every time someone dunked. They shrieked when one of their classmates scored. They called out players last names and begged them to run into the stands during the game. I went over one trip downcourt and was taken aback by the fervor with which these kids embraced me. I was hugged and grabbed and slapped and cheered for a solid 30 seconds before I was able to extricate myself and return to the court. It was like doing a mini Israeli lambo leap. Where are these fans in Haifa? More importantly, why do these kids care so much? Maybe this school was far enough off the beaten path that they don’t realize we are the worst team in the league. Or maybe they just think it’s really cool to see a pro basketball team playing at their school. I might just be so desensitized to the idea of being excited to see a basketball team that I can’t comprehend their euphoria. Anyway, it was after the game when things got really wild.
The buzzer sounded and everyone came storming onto the court. It was like their team had just won the ncaa tournament on a buzzer beater crossed with they all spotted a pile of money on the floor and were making a beeline for it. They immediately swarmed everyone asking for autographs, pictures and clothes. I got asked for my jersey like a dozen times, and apparently that held true for everyone. One player even claims he was “roughed up a bit” by a couple over zealous teenagers in search of a tangible memory of the greatest show that had ever rolled through their little school. I find it funny that a 25 year old could potentially get bullied out of the shirt on his back by some 14 year olds, but it was like a mob scene out there so I guess anything is possible.
The craziest part was how aggressive the girls were. They were relentless in asking for autographs and pictures. I must have taken like 30 pictures in a 5 minute span, and I was probably the least in demand player there. Several of my teammates had absolute swarms of people around them, pressing them into the back wall. I was next to one surrounded teammate and overheard a girl scream “fuck all you bitches!” as she tried to push her way to the front. Once she had succeeded in squirming her way to the side of the player she pulled this question out of nowhere: “Do you like Nikki Minaj?” To which my teammate answered jokingly “ya shes my girlfriend.” The girl responded “oh, you fucking her?” Woahhhhhhhh what? Who talks like that? She followed up with “Does she have big boobs?” All my teammate and I could do was laugh and wonder where her parents went wrong. Maybe she was just happy to be able to show off some her superior english around classmates who couldn’t speak nearly as well. In which case bravo, you foul-mouthed tween.
Stories from some other American teammates get even weirder. One said that girls were telling him he was hot, asking to see his six-pack, and proclaiming that they were “so horny.” What the hell is wrong with these girls? I know you are a teenager with crazy hormones but god damn! One girl took a pen and wrote her address on two players arms. Just skipped phone number and went right to the address! That’s ballsy right there. Does she really want two 21 year olds coming to her house un-announced? Probably not, but in the heat of the momentous visit by Maccabi Haifa I guess these young women simply could not control themselves.
On the bus afterward I had an interesting conversation with my teammate Robert. He sat next to me and told me he had to discuss a personal issue that affected all the Israelis in the league. It had to do with how the Israelis might have to strike so that the league meets their demands. Apparently the league wants to get rid of the russian rule which makes it mandatory to have 2 Israelis on the court at all times. This would severely hurt the playing time of the vast majority of Israelis, so they are doing everything they can to fight against it.
Robert told me that it would be in my best interest to join the union, but couldn’t provide any argument as to why other than the cryptic “you don’t want to go against them.” Apparently the players want to strike the last 3 games of the season if their demands are not met. I asked:
“So if I don’t strike and all the other Israelis do I would be guaranteed to play 40 minutes per game, right?”
“So if I can go behind everyone’s back and convince just 2 Israelis per team that they should not strike I will play every minute the rest of the season?”
“Ya, but, you don’t want to go against the union…”
The conversation ended with him shaking his head at my insubordination and sighing “do what you want to do.”
As cool as it would be to sabotage something and get to play all game every game, Robert is probably right. Who knows how ruthless these Israelis can get? I might mess around and find my apartment burned to the ground next time I pull up to my place. Also, the union would cover my salary for the missed games, in which case I am so down to strike! I’ve never been involved in a labor dispute before. And more importantly, I don’t play anyway, so I could give a flying F about the sustainability of this team or this league. I might just have to collaborate with the head of the players union in order to make some other demands while we’re at it. Such as:
-Every team needs to have a half jew from southen california on the court at all times. That’s just a given.
-Every team needs to provide pregame nourishment in the locker rooms that is not just coffee, dates and bananas. The people demand oranges! And some beef gelatin protein powder wouldn’t hurt.
-Every team needs to close every damn door in the building during winter games. Can’t play when you can’t feel your hands.
-Every team needs to make sure the cheerleaders know at least one dance they can do in some sort of unison. And they can get them outfits not from 1997 while we’re at it.
– And most importantly, every team needs to ban those god forsaken high-pitched horns from the arenas. Drums are great, but an hour and a half of listening to those horns has me ready to kill anyone and everyone around me. How the people in the stands not blowing the horns don’t constantly get into fights with those that do is a mystery to me.
Those changes would definitely make the league a better place for all. Can’t wait to see what happens.