The 19th Maccabiah games stink and I don’t mean the level of competition, the organization or the participants. I mean it quite literally. They stink. My nostrils have been raped in an olfactory assault so heinous it should be criminal.
It all started the other day in Metula at the Canada Center where I was on assignment covering the ice hockey match between the US and Israeli junior squads. The minute I stepped into that splendid rink I was struck by a stagnant odor that can best be described as sweaty gym socks that had been forgotten at the bottom of the laundry bin, reused several times by Shrek, forgotten some more at the bottom of the laundry bin and then kept in a closed, unventilated closet for about a week. Forget waterboarding, this is a much more effective means of torture. This odoriferous scent was compounded when I went into the locker room to listen in to the coach’s sermon between periods and nearly blew chunks into the goalie’s mask. Sadly the Israeli team’s performance stank even worse than those crusty gym socks as they were trailing eight zero at the end of the first period.
My sojourn into the malodorous land that deodorant forgot continued at the new Olympic pool at Wingate. Hundreds of spectators and amazingly ripped Jewish swimmers all crammed into that air conditionless building in the blazing hot dog days of summer. The awful scent of chlorine mixed with sweat and BO seemed to have little impact on US swimmers Andrea Murez, Marcus Shlezinger and Olympic gold medal winner Garrett Weber Gale. They swam to easy victories and medals.
Tuesday morning found me parking the production car in the underground lot of the Dan Panorama in Jerusalem. After quelling a mutiny by my soundman who cited a “no climbing of more than four consecutive stairs” clause in his contract we made our way up the foul smelling urine soaked spiraling stairs and into one of the strangest hotels I have ever been to. Up is down and down is up. Literally. We get into the elevator and head down to the fourth floor from the sixth floor (aka the ground floor) and make our way into what I consider the strangest category in the Maccabiah games. Chess. There were dozens of tables in that small, dark and stuffy room. The only thing I could smell in there was my own sense of failure. It was putrid too. Why? I’ll tell you why. It was then that I realized that I was too fat, nerdy and physically unfit to participate in any of the real athletic sports and way too stupid and unsophisticated to take part in that cerebral game. I looked at my soundman as he clumsily knocked over one of the clocks with his boom pole and felt relieved that everything in life is relative.
In Buchman hall in Modiin where the badminton competition is being held an elderly Arab woman was mopping the floors with lemony bleach that was so foul it had me in tears. While there was no memorable odor from the US Women’s Basketball game in Ramot or the US Women’s soccer game I covered in Givat Zeev, the choice of venue (an obvious political statement by Maccabiah organizers) had something very, very fishy about it. I smell a rat. A right wing ultra religious rat.
The golfers in Ceaseria, or at least the ones participating in the master’s category reeked of cigars and capitalism gone awry. The master’s tennis participants at Ramat Hasharon all smelled like Ben Gay. I haven’t been to the Equestrian competition in Yagur yet but I’ll bet the whole Kibbutz smells like manure.
I get to wear a press badge as I cover the games. It has my picture on it and the words “General Press”. When a religious man in Ramot mall (originally from Boston) courteously asked me what sport I was participating in during the games, I told him I was “pressing”. I got a big kick out my witty response but as I looked out of the corner of my eye I could see that a young religious girl who was passing by made a screwed up face as though she had smelled something awful. I stopped to think about it for a second (and proceeded to smell my armpits) and realized I was as rank as a hard boiled egg that had been left out in the sun. I had been running around from Jerusalem to Metula to Wingate and Raanana, chasing the athletes for an interview in the searing midday heat, sweating profusely and then cooling off in the air conditioner of the production car, café, mall or a hotel. I had been smoking cigarettes, eating shawarma and drinking coffee almost non stop. I hadn’t slept much in days nor had I showered or changed clothes. I was pungent smelling, dank and stale and I couldn’t have been more proud. It was a rotten badge of honor, a uniform of nastiness that I had acquired through hard work and dedication and though I probably won’t be awarded any medal or hear any national anthem, I couldn’t be more satisfied.