Sinai Says: BSL strike sucking life out of Israeli hoops

It is hard to argue with the league’s stance that striking in the middle of the season is simply unacceptable.

Hickman and James of Maccabi Tel Aviv 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Hickman and James of Maccabi Tel Aviv 370
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
It is quite easy to understand the frustration felt by the Israeli basketball players.
With most teams fielding four foreigners and just a single local player for the lion’s share of BSL games, the Israelis feel marginalized and sense that their livelihood is in danger.
On the other hand, it is hard to argue with the league’s stance that striking in the middle of the season while still bound by an agreement that only expires in June is simply unacceptable.
Clearly, both sides make valid arguments.
However, they can be compared to a husband and wife quarreling about an important issue like the quality of their children’s education, but doing so while their house is burning down around them.
The sad truth is that it has been more than two weeks since the last BSL game was played and almost no one cares.
The league and the Israeli players’ union have held countless meetings both among themselves and with each other and there are thousands of season ticket holders from Gilboa to Eilat who feel betrayed.
However, ask the average sports fan about the strike and you are likely to encounter apathy not only towards the postponement of recent games but also towards the cancellation of the entire 2012/13 season.
The interest in the BSL has hit an all-time low in recent seasons, both because of Maccabi Tel Aviv’s dominance as well as the shockingly poor way in which most of the league’s other clubs are run.
The introduction of the Final Four to determine the champion helped break Maccabi’s stranglehold.
But despite Hapoel Holon (2007/08) and Hapoel Gilboa/Galil’s (2009/10) triumphs, supporters rightly recognized the Final Four as an unsporting gimmick to decide the title.
The Israeli players make a good point when they claim that more locals on court will help attract more fans.
However, the owners and many of the coaches, including the likes of Eilat’s Oded Katash, are also right to point out that the local infrastructure has failed to nurture sufficient talent in recent years and that any worthy Israeli player will find his place on court regardless of the number of foreigners permitted.
Nevertheless, the players’ union obviously sees things differently and decided to strike after its requests were turned down by the BSL.
The squabbling sides are essentially fighting over a single roster spot.
The BSL announced what it labeled as a “revolutionary” plan to promote the local player two weeks ago and has stuck by it ever since.
The league offered that every team will be required to play with two Israelis at all times and will only be allowed to register a maximum of five foreigners.
The BSL also said that it will compel all teams to have at least three Israeli players under the age of 22 on their rosters, with the agreement to be enforced over the next five seasons.
The players’ union agrees to the plan with one exception, it is demanding that teams will only be allowed to register four foreigners to a game rather than five.
Representatives from both sides met late into Tuesday night hoping to find a middle ground.
If only a compromise of four-and- a-half foreigners could be reached.
In the meantime, the sport which the players and the owners hold so dear to their heart is dying right in front of their eyes.