In October, thoughts turn to baseball – even in Israel.Americans may think that Israelis are busy in October with the onslaught of Jewish holidays, building their Succa, commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Yom Kippur war, or just plain contemplating the ongoing security and economic doldrums.
But for a not insubstantial number of American-born Israelis, October is when one’s fancy turns to… baseball!
Just because we decided to live in Israel doesn’t mean that we’ve decided to give up the addictive habits acquired in our youth. Playoff time is playoff time, even when that time is 2am. That’s when most games in the matchups between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, and the Chicago Cubs and the Florida Marlins took place Israel time.
There were a number of options for those baseball fanatics who insisted on watching these classic series. One was turning your life upside down and actually watching the game live on one of the cable sports networks many Israelis subscribe to – ESPN and Fox Sports. Forget about work, helping with the kids, or building that succa. When the sun came up, that’s when it was time to go to sleep.
Alarm clocks would go off, bleary-eyed fathers would wake up their pleasantly dreaming children and march them off to the living room, where all their favorite team’s artifacts were carefully placed like a museum shrine. Then these long ago children who 30 and 40 years ago were introduced to the world’s greatest game by their American Jewish parents would have the chance to return the favor on their unsuspecting Israeli-born and bred children. A full circle in introducing another generation to the dominance of the Yankees and the tragedy of the Bosox and the Cubs.
A more rational approach was to tape the games and watch them in the morning. Of course this meant a total radio and telephone blackout had to be imposed, lest a well-meaning friend call up to commiserate about that loss and blurt out the score, or the English language news running a report on the game (Luckily the Hebrew-language radio ignores baseball during the regular season and in the playoffs.)
Scoot everybody out of the house, fast forward through the commercials and the pitching changes, and watch the game at your leisure with an all-American breakfast of bagels and cream cheese.
With either option, the games were enhanced by constant telephoning between friends in various parts of the country, dissecting the plays, assessing performance and cursing out Grady Little at every opportunity. Sometimes the calls would traverse continents, as siblings in the U.S. would receive regular commentary from their brother in Israel who was watching and experiencing the same play at the same time.
Then there’s the third option which was adopted by this beleaguered Red Sox fan. Already committed to a family vacation in a Bedouin encampment in the middle of the Ramon Crater in the Negev – a good half hour away from any means to view the game – I learned the results of games 6 and 7 of the Yankees-Red Sox series via quick morning telephone calls back to my friends (despite being Yankee fans) in Jerusalem. No drawn out heartache, and raised hopes. Just cut to the chase, tell me the score and how it got that way.
A pang of remorse briefly engulfed me after hearing about the 9-6 come from behind Red Sox victory in Game 6, but it quickly passed as I shuddered to think about the 7th decisive game.
Following a day of hiking and beer-enhanced campfire sing along, I slept like a baby on Thursday night while the Red Sox were succumbing to the Curse of the Bambino. The breathtaking morning sun rose up over the red rocks of the crater just as, unbeknownst to me, Aaron Boone was putting the Yankees into the World Series and sending the Red Sox back to their eternal purgatory.
A couple of hours later, I made my ritual morning call to Jerusalem and was told the inevitable outcome. I passed on the word to the families camping with us and we shared a moment of silence. Then we started off with all the kids to gather colored sand to bring home with us.
It’s reassuring to know that baseball will always be there, and games are as accessible in Israel as they are in New York. But it’s also comforting to realize that enjoying the natural beauty of a crater is a fine substitute for watching the action on a diamond.