What about the NBA?

The loss of the NBA season would mean a loss for America.

Kobe Bryant guards Lebron James NBA 311 (R) (photo credit: Andrew Innerarity / Reuters)
Kobe Bryant guards Lebron James NBA 311 (R)
(photo credit: Andrew Innerarity / Reuters)
Every so often, and especially at this time of year, I think about the NBA.
The scenes run through my brain, in front of my eyes.
Kevin Garnett jumping for the ball, a young Larry Bird making the net from the corner. Kevin McHale’s picture hung in our hallway, and our children would measure their height against his. Kareem Abdul Jabar’s fearful hook shot. Or the sight of Earvin “Magic” Johnson tearing the heart out of the Celtics in the Garden on that fateful night in June 1985.
I think about the NBA when I pass by my children’s room.
They’re grown now and don’t live at home anymore, but when I see that picture of Michael Jordan pasted across the wall of their bedroom, I remember that I always told them, Remember, you are part of a special generation. In your generation, God made a single, one-time visit to the basketball courts of America and posed serious questions to us humans about gravity. How could Isaac Newton have been right, if Jordan’s moves defy his theories? (Actually, we’re experiencing something like that now, too, with this current discovery about particles that move faster than the speed of light, which is making scientists think about digging Einstein up from his grave, too.) We got to see it all.
But every so often, and especially when I can’t fall asleep and there are no NBA games to watch on TV , I come across one of those American Armageddon movies – the White House explodes; the raging sea floods New York; volcanoes erupt in America’s heartland. I watch, glued to the screen, waiting to be reassured that life will begin anew, that the Ice Age will come to an end by the time the movie ends and that it’s safe to go outside again.
Sometimes I wonder why the end of the world always takes place in America, somewhere between Washington, DC , and Seattle, Washington. Then I remind myself that this comes from Hollywood, where they don’t know much about other markets in the world. Viewers in Chicago or Miami won’t buy a ticket to see the end of the world if the end begins in India. As far as Hollywood is concerned, the entire world could disappear at any minute, so long as, by the end of the movie, the Stars and Stripes waves again and Bruce Willis saves the future with his heroic suicide (which both saves America and wipes out Willis, leaving the viewers doubly relieved).
When I really think deeply about this, I try to think what would really happen if the US were to no longer exist. And then I realize that the first signs of that are already appearing, the rot has spread to the foundations, we can already hear the iron pillars groaning under their own weight.
And what is the most telling sign of the impending doom? That there is no more NBA. At least for now – until a possible resumption of the league in time for Christmas.
Life seems to go on, the sun shines, the autumn leaves have fallen, the first snow has dusted the mountaintops. But our hearts know the truth – the NBA has shut down. It’s over. It’s gone. This is what the end looks like, the emptiness that no instant replay or macho football game can even begin to fill.
No, I’m not talking Wall Street. And not about the corruption in the banks and investment companies. Not even about those farcical Republican debates that make those of us who do not live in America realize that America’s end, and the end of the world, is near.
We’ve gotten used to all of those kinds of things – but we can’t get used to the end of the NBA. Have you no sense of responsibility? Don’t you understand that you are losing your friends and supporters forever? Do you really not get it – people have bound themselves to you with chains of love, because you, only seven or eight time zones removed, have given them those moments of joy. So now we feel that the world has ended.
You can’t do this to us.
Every so often, you must be thinking – what is happening to those Israelis? Have they gone mad? Aren’t they paying much too much attention to the unimportant external façade, to the superficial symbols of Americana, and neglecting to really consider the depth of the friendship between our two nations? Between our two flourishing, vibrant democracies that are, together, facing down the entire evil, cruel world? You must be thinking: What’s with this guy who’s writing his column in this distinguished magazine from Jerusalem? Is he really trying to tell us that he is not worried about Iran, that he is not bothered by Wall Street, and that he isn’t even thinking about whether President Barack Obama will have a second term or not? Is the NBA really all that he’s concerned about? What is going on? Does the future really look bleaker than ever before? Yes, it’s true. I am one of those people who grasp their symbols, hold on to the little things, treasure the nuances of life that turndemocracy into Kevin Garnett’s competitiveness, reminding us all of the opportunity that people have to change their lives and to taste victory, night after night, by just doing what they love to do.
You should know. In this age of disappearing symbols, please pay attention to that throwaway line that I wrote above about the two flourishing, vibrant democracies. You don’t really think that I’m concerned only about the NBA. And the answer to that is that I actually am worried about the NBA and the catastrophe surrounding it, and that it does cause me serious end-of-an-era angst. The pain comes from recognizing that the old arrangements are gone, and it’s not clear what will take their place.
But you’re right, I’m also thinking about those two democracies, and I am very, very worried. What I see here in Israel, when I’m not thinking about the NBA, is a deliberate and determined campaign to change Israeli democracy, or, to be more precise, I watch as the old system of checks and balances collapses and we don’t have anything to take its place, and it is unclear how society will operate until we do. I know – it’s not Bob Couzy passing the ball to Bill Russell, or Wilt Chamberlain dunking or the future of several hundred tall men who are causing all this trouble every evening all over the world.
This trouble is being caused by something more abstract, more indescribable. It’s being caused by the disruption of something very mundane, that we take for granted, as if the air that we breathe suddenly takes on a different hue and starts to stink.
And of course all of this should concern us at least as much as the NBA. But these are the long-term changes that our country is going through. And these changes will lead to a muzzling of the free press; citizens will lose their ability to fight against the tyranny of the state, and, if you ask me, the state itself will have fewer chances to survive.
In a mood like this, you might ask, who wants to see the NBA, anyway? I do.
I write about these terrible processes all the time. So this time, I am writing directly to you, my friends and colleagues living in the US. You must understand the effect that you have on the lives of hundreds of millions of people throughout the world. Elect anyone you want for president and, anyway, Wall Street will spring back in the end (until the next craze or the next mega-corruption scandal that will take you down for another few years. That’s how it usually goes.) But without the NBA, America loses its color, it loses that vitality that enthralls us every evening, the sense of continuity in the world, the glory passes on from generation to generation, and the memory that unites these generations. And it is these things that help us form the foundations of life; they help us put everything else in proportion.
So you have to pull yourselves together, get back on the courts, turn on the lights and start to play. Because Americana has a much greater effect on democracies at war, like ours, than you can imagine.
So, please – show some responsibility for the world.
Thank you.

The writer is a Jerusalem author. He can be reached at eliezeryaari1@yahoo.com