NBA Jewish Semiotics #1
I know yesterday would've been a better choice for one of FreeDarko's periodic cabal meetings, but I was too busy waiting on this shit to bother with the livelihood of my people.
Although I hadn't planned on posting until after tonight's game, something's come up that practically demands an official FreeDarko reaction. It came to me on the wings of Matt at Detroit Bad Boys, who deserves some kind of cash prize for compiling a certain weird-ass post on what the Heat expect of their Jewish fans:
Raanan Katz, who partly owns both Maccabi Tel Aviv and the Miami Heat basketball teams, said that the Heat's upcoming duel against the Dallas Mavericks will be very tough."
"God can always help; we need him on our side against Dallas," said Katz. "Every Israeli must support us; they must go the Western Wall and pray for us. Miami Heat is no less Israeli than Maccabi. This is also a group with Israeli ownership in which many Americans play."
Matt shrewdly observes that this was given to an Israeli news service. But much like that time Kobe offered himself up for the cause, it's that leap into overzealous weirdness that's, well, overzealous and weird. Granted, Katz is at least speaking as a member of the gang, making the plunge into Judaica somewhat less improbable. Still, the presumption that he bears the right to annoint the Heat a team for all Jews strikes at least this bar mitzvahed fan as fairly insulting. It's hardly our town anymore, and in the absence of even a token member of the tribe on their roster, I have trouble believing that they are in any way a "Jewish" team.
The key, though, might lie in the use of "Israeli" over "Jewish." While I am unclear what the mention of "many Americans" stands for, Katz is appealing to that most central of Israeli values: nationalism, which trumps even cultural chauvunism. Israelis, or those excessively sympathetic to them, can claim that kind of solidarity-under-fire that overrides all conversation, making Katz's reminder that he's one of them enough to compel their support. Culture demands answers and credentials; embattled nationalism is strictly out for warm bodies. Katz isn't trying to convince Israelis to pull for the Heat—instead, he's pointing out to them just how little choice they have in the matter.
PS: Israel in the seventies is almost as underrated as the Latin seventies.