DVR is magical. For those of you who have been reading my blog for a while you’ll recall that I was able to watch the Hapoel Tel Aviv UEFA Champions League qualification run on Fox Soccer thanks to DVR and also have been able to catch philo-Semitic Tottenham Hotspur’s ongoing campaign in the knockout round of the competition with the click of my FiOs remote. While my wife tends to fill up the recorder with NCIS and Criminal Minds, I’m usually playing catch-up with the soccer games I’ve been taping.
But this weekend brought an entirely new DVR opportunity… Inside Israeli Basketball on CSNNE (Comcast Sports Net New England).
Ever since Maccabi Haifa (the basketball team, not the soccer team) was bought by a wealthy American owner from Miami, they have been dramatically expanding their presence in the sports universe. They simulcast their games online, archive old game footage, and last season traveled Stateside to play an exhibition game against the New Jersey Nets, copycatting the big boys of Israeli basketball, Maccabi Tel Aviv, who did the same with the New York Knicks… it’s a good thing this absurdity didn’t happen to their coach during the game like it did to Tel Aviv’s Pini Gershon in 2009.
But the newest tool in Maccabi Haifa’s arsenal is their show called “Inside Israeli Basketball,” which has a heavy focus on Maccabi Haifa but brings in interesting stories from around the league.
Before seeing the show on CSNNE on Sunday, I had watched a few of the shows online, but having them on regular cable was one of those great Jewish identity-reinforcing moments that Ahad Ha’am would have found so precious. It’s kind of like stumbling across Shalom TV in your on demand menu. (Really? Wow! On a major network? That’s cool.)
Unlike Israeli soccer, which is entertaining but clearly not up to par with the elite leagues in Europe, basketball in Israel, at least at the highest levels, is every bit as good as the game on the continent. Maccabi Tel Aviv has brought home five European championships, most recently in 2005, and each year you can spot a handful of second-tier former US college players trying to impress international scouts by signing on for stints in Ligat Lotto. It’s not quite March Madness, but it’s an up-tempo game and there aren’t any commercials, so watching the games is very enjoyable, and the new show is engaging and getting better as the season progresses.
So make sure to set your DVRs to “record series” to stay on top of the goings-on in Romema Arena (the home of Maccabi Haifa) and in the rest of the league. If nothing else, you’ll gain some competency in the basics of the Israeli and international game and catch some of the passion that characterizes Israeli basketball fans.