Should I watch the Super Bowl with Israeli political candidate Yair Lapid and a bunch of English-speaking expats in Tel Aviv?
It wouldn’t be my weirdest Super Bowl viewing experience in Israel. I made Aliyah in 2001, after growing up in Massachusetts and attending Brandeis University. In February 2002, I was working as a counselor for the Young Judaea Year Course program, mentoring post-high school Americans in the southern city of Arad.
There weren’t many viable viewing options in the desert and it was a different era in terms of Internet viewing, so a bunch of us rented out a small shawarma restaurant that had a satellite TV to watch the New England Patriots take on the St. Louis Rams in the middle of the night (Israel time). Any heartburn I experienced from excessively eating French fries and falafel at 4:30 a.m. quickly dissipated when Adam Vinatieri of the Patriots kicked a game-winning 48-yard field goal!
Years later, in 2008, I didn’t feel so good after the Patriots undefeated season came to a screeching halt against the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII (do you only know Roman numerals because of Rocky movies and Super Bowls? Yeah, me neither). I stupidly watched that game with a bunch of Giants fans at a friend’s house in Modi’in. Imagine staying up all night long and being exhausted at work the next day, all for the “privilege” of watching the opposing team’s fans celebrate right in front of you after a miraculous catch.
Thankfully, a lot of neutral English-speaking football fans in Israel root for the Patriots, who have unofficially become Israel’s team. My wife, Anat, was fortunate to work with Myra Kraft (may her memory be for a blessing) via the Joint Distribution Committee in Israel. Myra and Robert, who of course owns the Patriots, have done so much for the Jews of Massachusetts and Israel. This includes sponsoring the Kraft Family Stadium in Jerusalem, so that young Israelis and Americans in Israel have a nice place to play football. Robert even brought the Super Bowl trophy to Israel in 2005, the first time it was ever outside of the U.S.
It only seems fair that Israel should root for the Patriots in return (it remains to be seen if any fans here have been turned off by the overblown deflategate “scandal“), even if many native Israelis seem to think that the big game is called the “Super Ball.” My wife’s cousin was very disappointed when I patiently explained to him why the big game is called the “Super Bowl.”
“’Super Ball’ would make more sense,” he sniffed.
To tell the truth, I’m more of a Celtics fan (our family car is the only one I’ve ever seen in Israel with a Celtics bumper sticker) than a Patriots fan and I don’t really watch the NFL, so my children have zero understanding of football and don’t even know that the Patriots are gearing up for the big game. One of the prices of Aliyah, I guess.
Perhaps that’s for the best, as my 7-year-old son, Yoav, sometimes reflexively roots against Boston teams just to spite me. One morning not so long ago, I was watching a DVD of the Celtics 1984 championship against the LA Lakers. My son wanted to watch a cartoon and was mad that I was hogging the TV, so he told me, “I hope the Celtics lose and the Lakers win!” Sacrilege! I was pretty confident when I told him that my childhood hero, Larry Bird, and the Celtics would find a way to prevail.
Hopefully the Patriots will also prevail in this year’s Super Bowl, so Israel’s team can bring yet another trophy over to the Holy Land.
Feel free to make your Super Bowl predictions in the comments section.