YALLA!

The last time I checked in, I was guilty breaking traffic laws with Jean Carlo speeding down an Italian highway. I took a short vacation from blogging while trying to learn how to grocery shop and get settled here in Tel Aviv. No disrespect. It’s been a wild two and half months. Wow, really two and a half? I know,I’m long overdue for an update.

Really, I’ve spent the last couple of months first and foremost getting settled on the business end—basketball. This has and, so long as basketball is my career, will be my priority. There’s a lot that comes with a new country, new organization, new team, and new season. That said, I’ve taken some time to step back, slow down, and get organized for this adventure. I always strive to put my best foot forward, and that’s done through preparation.

While I have one million and one stories about adjusting to life overseas, I’ll save those for later. What you do need to know is that I’ve developed, diagnosed, denied, and started treating unhealthy addictions to pesto hummus and Nutella. I finally got the (iPad) pages turning on my single member book club; an initiative to read a new book every 1-2 weeks. We meet over hummus and chips every night. I’ve also logged back into my Code Academy account and began rebooting/debugging my brain on HTML, CSS, Javascript and whatever other free knowledge they offer. I’m finally going to take on the task of building my personal website and overhauling this blog. Oh yeah, and as much as I hate to admit, a few teammates’ incessant locker room chatter about some meth-kingpin-science-teacher ended up costing me three weeks in a controlled Breaking Bad binge.

On the basketball front, last night was derby. I guess this is the real catalyst for breaking me out of my blogcation. It’s tough to keep mum on a game of this magnitude. This match is the one thing fans, friends, and strangers at the deli have preached about since my first morning in the city.

“Lose every game of the season. We don’t care! Just beat Maccabi!”

I can’t make this stuff up.

Now, I’ve had the pleasure of being a part of some pretty historic rivalries. Exeter-andover is the oldest high school rivalry in the United States (#GoBigRed) and Stanford-Kal is quite an epic battle of the bay (#GoStanford), but I’ve never participated in anything like the Hapoel Tel Aviv vs Maccabi Tel Aviv derby.

I’d seen video of past derbies. I’d heard the stories from teammates. I’d heard the insults exchanged between the fans. We even received an emphatic and passionate speech covering the century long history of the clubs and their embattled past. I thought I was beginning to understand. Silly me.

Words do no justice to being on the court to experience the tip-off—the jarring human raucous bouncing in the stands, crescendoing to a synchronized detonation of flags, hands, and confetti raining to the floor. One second into the game, play was stopped for ten minutes just to clean up the enthusiasm.

(Photo by Hapoel TA BC)

The energy in that tiny gym was unreal.

And oh yeah, it happened again to start the second quarter. This time with beach balls.

(Photo by Hapoel TA BC)

I won’t bore you with game details. I could go on forever. As expected it was a physically and mentally challenging game. We were fortunate enough to win. Here are the highlights:

Coming off of two losses, any win feels good. But I must say this one will stick with me forever. Looking up into the stands during the finally seconds, catching eyes with fans, friends and team management, I finally understood that it’s much more than a game. I’m thankful for the support and happy to call this team family and this city home. Yalla!

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