The party ordered 1,600 chicken wings from Wings - the popular new kosher restaurant in Tel Aviv - to sell to the hopefully hungry football fans who gathered as the political party's guests to watch the Seahawks battle controversy- saddled Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, that American cultural watershed of excess.
Their viewing spot at the fashionably late kickoff hour of 1:30 a.m. was the equally chic nightspot Dream Exhibition, a box-shaped sleek room replete with a black motif of comfortable couches, a booming sound system that generally blasts out dance music, and a stunning 360-degree array of LED screens all showing the live feed of the annual matchup of American football’s two best teams.
The usual crowd of upscale Tel Aviv singles on the prowl had been replaced by a mix of predominately male football fans and supporters of Yesh Atid, the hosts of the free-entrance event. In attendance were party leader and football fan Yair Lapid and MKs Ofer Shelah and evening mastermind MK Dov Lipman.
“I was resting on a Shabbat afternoon and thinking about how I know Yair as a regular guy – and a great guy – and most people don’t. What can we do in the Anglo community so people can see that, and I thought to myself – Super Bowl,” said Lipman, greeting arrivals at the club entrance in a casual game-time pullover sweater.
“On motzei Shabbat I said to him, ‘Yair, I know this will seem crazy to you, but there’s this thing called the Super Bowl and people have parties.
Would you come for a half hour if we hold one?’ He said, ‘Dov, I’ve watched the Super Bowl for the last 10 years. I’m there.’” True to his word, a leather-jacketed Lapid along with his wife, Lihi, entered the club a few minutes before kickoff to a smattering of applause. According to Lipman, this wasn’t a campaign event, this was Super Sunday, and no speeches were given.
Matan, a volunteer in a Yesh Atid T-shirt who said he is more of a baseball and hockey fan, was making the rounds with a clipboard asking for viewers to sign their names and email addresses to be notified of future Yesh Atid events. Most complied or were already signed up members.
Tom, a former lone soldier from Minnesota, was sitting with his friend, Asaf, a native-born Israeli.
“I’m going to explain to him what’s going on play-by-play,” said Tom, adding that he was there because he was both a football fan and a Yesh Atid supporter.
And while Lapid diplomatically glad-handed well-wishers and posed for dozens of photos and selfies, by midway into the first quarter, he was ensconced in one of the black couches nursing a plastic NIS 32 cup of beer and eating a NIS 40 plate of 10 wings and onion rings while intently watching the game.
“I’m rooting for the Seahawks, because Ofer (Shelah) is a Patriots fan,” Lapid told The Jerusalem Post before game time, describing how the two friends had been watching the big game together every year.
“I think you even came on as a guest commentator once in 1991 when I was calling the game on TV,” said Shelah, a former journalist and TV host. “That was the one with Whitney Houston singing the ‘Star Spangled Banner,’ remember?” “That’s what you remember about the game?” asked Lapid with an incredulous look.
“It was an amazing rendition,” responded Shelah.
Most of the mixed American-born/Israeli-born crowd stood up when Idina Menzel sang this year’s version, and then sat down to choose one of the dozen or so mega-screens from which to watch the METV feed.
That’s when football took over for the football fans, with those who arrived for a different reason falling by the wayside and exiting before the first half was over. The attendees were evenly split among Patriots and Seahawks fans, with many not seeming to care who was winning in the see-saw battle.
The two bars in the middle of the room, administered by tank-topped young women, had done a semi-brisk pregame business despite the hefty beer prices, but fell fallow during the game. About half of the aluminum trays of chicken wings remained uneaten, and at half time it was announced that they would be going for half price.
“I think they were counting on everyone wanting to eat them when they saw and smelled them,” said Batya, who said she was a friend of the restaurant and helping out for the night. “But let’s face it, it’s late. People don’t want to eat deep-fried food at 3 a.m."
Still, some more wings flew off at half price as the patrons hunkered down for the second half. Lapid and Shelah, with heavy days scheduled for Monday, left before the third quarter began along with about a third of the crowd. But Lipman, with one of his sons in tow, had no intentions of exiting early.
“The game is great, I think it’s going to go down to the wire,” he said at halftime. “The screens are incredible, you think that you’re right there. And I love that we have both Seahawks and Patriots fans here. And it was great seeing Yair and Ofer here, meeting with people. That was my goal.”
Lipman and the rest of the stalwarts who remained for the second half were treated to one of the wildest, most exciting finishes in Super Bowl history, which can be read about ad infinitum on the sports pages.
The high hopes of the Seahawks had been doused, just like the trays of cold leftover chicken wings, two more victims of unrealized expectations. For Lipman however, who at the 17th slot on the Yesh Atid list is not going to return to the next Knesset according to the polls, the unpredictable Super Bowl provides a different lesson.
“There’s certainly analogies regarding momentum in football and politics,” he said. “We’re entering the second half now. Yesh Atid is in a great place and in the last month-and-a-half we’re going to take off.”
That may be so, but at 5 a.m. on Monday morning, he and the other football fans straggling bleary-eyed out of the Dream Exhibition were only thinking of upcoming sweet dreams.