The Last Word: No more late nights - the privilege of playing in Israel

This has been one of the most problem-filled seasons Maccabi TA basketball club has experienced.

jeremy last 88 (photo credit: )
jeremy last 88
(photo credit: )
This has undoubtedly been one of the most problem-filled seasons Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball club has experienced for many years; and even if the perennial local league champion manages to win the BSL for the 38th time in 40 years, questions have to be asked about the future before it descends into mediocrity. The difficulties over the last seven months have arisen far more on the European scene, where Maccabi failed to make the quarterfinals of the Euroleague for the first time since 2003, than at home where it lost last weekend for the first time this calendar year. However, the major contributing factor for the failure abroad is an issue which goes deep within the club - the choice of foreign players and its effect on the stability of the club. As a high profile European side which only last season came second in the Euroleague, Maccabi is generally in a tough situation. It wants to be the best but does not have a budget anywhere near as big as some of its European opponents, especially those from the Greek league from which two of this year's Euroleague Final Four semifinalists come. Even so, the fact that Maccabi has managed to welcome 12 different foreign players through its ever-revolving turnstiles is a massive cause for concern. The recent incidents involving first D'or Fischer last month, and then this week Charles Gaines and Aaron McGhee, highlight an apparent lack of care in recruiting foreigners to Tel Aviv. You might assume that after Fischer, one of the few bright sparks for Maccabi this season, was smashed in the face with a bottle during a nightclub brawl on March 1st and had to undergo surgery, his teammates would reconsider their evening plans for the rest of the season. This is without taking into account that on joining the club each Maccabi Tel Aviv player signed an agreement saying they will act as professional sportsmen both on and off the court, not drinking too much and not going out late on a night before a game or an early training session. So it was with another groan that Maccabi fans woke up on Monday to hear that McGhee and Gaines had been dancing the night away at a Tel Aviv club in the early hours following Sunday's BSL defeat at Maccabi Haifa. It would be wrong to say sportsmen should not be allowed to enjoy themselves, but they knew they had a training session to attend at 11 the next morning and the pair are now awaiting punishment. McGhee, who only joined the club from Ironi Nahariya after Fischer was injured, is expected to be fined. The situation is, however, more serious for Gaines, who was also involved in the Fischer affair and is likely to be thrown out of Maccabi just three months after he signed. The two incidents came just over a year after then-Maccabi and current Detroit Pistons player Will Bynum was arrested following an altercation outside a nightclub last January when he was accused of intentionally driving over an Israeli. Together, they highlight a worrying trend among athletes who are clearly not taking their positions seriously enough and within the Maccabi management who are not instilling the significance of being a Maccabi player in the foreigners they employ. These players need to internalize what it means to play professional sports. Their responsibilities extend further than the court itself - to any time they show their face in public. Maccabi is far more prominent than any sporting institution in Israel and the players' every action is taken seriously by the entire country.Playing for the yellow and blue is a privilege which should not be taken lightly. This week there have been a glut of rumors doing the rounds about the various players Maccabi Tel Aviv is considering bringing into the club next season, including LA Lakers' Shannon Brown and Spartak St Petersburg's Andrew Wisniewski. Whoever is chosen, if the team is to have any kind of significant success in the coming year, the Maccabi management would do well to look into his social background and explain just how important it is to act as a Maccabi Tel Aviv player in all realms of his life.