Its 2:30 AM. The rains are trickling down from heaven. Strong, loud gusts of wind fill the Jerusalem air. Fallen leaves rustle about the limestone and pavement. And then there’s me – I’m walking westward on Jaffa Street.
I’m wrapped tightly in my hooded Taglit-Birthright Israel sweatshirt, rain and wind greeting my face with a blunt hello. I’m dodging puddles while peering ahead briefly to avoid the lampposts and puddles along the light rails’ tracks.
Yup, that’s me. That’s how I roll.
Why? Simply, because I’m an American sports fan living in Jerusalem. The Washington Redskins playoff game just ended and I was not going to miss it. I’m on my way home from Mike’s Place Sports Bar, my favorite place to watch the games.
The challenge of being an American sports fan in Israel is not something new. Thousands of Yeshiva students, recent Olim and more struggle with the time-difference and late night games in their favorite sport. For me, the problem is worse; I don’t have a favorite sport. They are all my favorite.
I have been here on and off since August. That includes the tail-end of the Major League Baseball season, The entirety of the NFL season and what’s already been played in the NBA. But there’s more to the problem; collegiate sports!
Sometimes I think it would be easier to be a Royals fan rather than a Yankees fan. Royals’ fans haven’t watched a game since the 1800’s. For Yankees’ fans, that’s not an option. Every game is a spectacle worth watching.
I cannot say I watched every game but I did watch every playoff game possible (I guess, in an odd way, my body and sleep clock were happy the Yankees were eliminated early…). These games can often be after 2:00AM. And to add to the problem, the New York Knicks, whom I assumed would have a shabby season to follow up their 2011-12 campaign, have been playing top-notch basketball.
Winning is fun. Winning makes me want to watch. It has happened several times that I find myself after 6:00AM (!) still watching the Knicks upset the Heat or handle the Lakers commandingly.
With several other crazies that can’t get enough sports fix, Mikes Place has become a routine late night venue for me. Not for the beer or the kosher wings (though that’s not a bad thing!) but more for the opportunity to watch nearly every American sports game I wish.
And that’s exactly the problem! The problem is not that I want to watch the 3:30 AM Thursday night football game – the issue is that Mike’s Place is there to make it happen! If the option wasn’t there, I’d handle it. After all, I’ve come this far and have never watched a game on Shabbat or a holiday.
Of course, as with everything, there is always a plus – figure this, the Ravens and Broncos square off on Saturday at 4:30 PM Eastern time at “Sports Authority Field at Mile High” in Denver. For a Shabbat observant football fan in NYC, that’s still an hour until Shabbat is over! In host city Denver, the game will end before Shabbat. In Jerusalem, Shabbat has been over for hours, and the game is on the big screen!
You know what’s even better? Being the only religious Jews in the world that can watch a game. This happened on Sukkot. Monday Night Football on October 1st, Cowboys vs. Bears. With one day of Sukkot, rather than two as in the rest of the world, Jews in Israel had the option of watching that no other Shomer Shabbat person had. Even Australia, several hours ahead of Israel was still celebrating day two of the chag!
So, call it a late night challenge or a midnight bonus. Call it inconvenient or absolutely crazy. Call it what you want. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter because NHL hockey is back and that gives me another reason to watch sports in the middle of the night. That excites me.
And I also love watching President Obama address the nation at half past three in the morning.