Tel Aviv on Moni Time

Over the weekend the media made its opinion clear: Maccabi Tel Aviv will never be the same again. It is no longer the "team of the state." I disagree. Now, of all times, Maccabi represents us more faithfully than ever before. How can we complain about a team that mirrors Israel's image?

Maccabi is first and foremost the national obsession to win no matter what, no matter who. It doesn't really matter who we beat and how, as long as we taste victory again, after so long. The end - to overcome bad goyim - justifies the good goyim. Thus the team opens its new season with migrant workers fighting for it and for us, in its name and ours.

I commend this tolerance. I wish such a tolerant approach was applied to other foreign workers. What a pity the elite unit Oz wasn't instructed to treat 1,200 children and their parents, foreign workers from south Tel Aviv, as it treats the Americans, Poles, Croats and Lithuanians from Yad Eliahu. What a pity the authorities don't naturalize or convert immigrants as speedily as they legitimize the immigrants on the basketball court.

Maccabi represents our double bookkeeping too. The Filipinos and Thais who diaper our elderly parents and grandparents really have no substitute. But the players have indeed. Many talented Israelis are sitting on the bench, waiting for the chance they won't get, because we must win at any cost. We've had more than enough disappointments lately, and only Maccabi can raise an entire nation from the dumps.

Last week I thought of the Jews in exile who thronged in their thousands to Madison Square Garden to get a taste of Israel. They watched one American team play against another American team. There we recognized another national characteristic of Israel and the team that represents it - hutzpa and rudeness. The guest coach gave his own show to cover up for his team's redundant performance.

And now it suddenly transpires that Maccabi has its own cash envelopes affair - yet another proof that it and the state are one. Basketball's immunity is also beginning to crack, much like parliamentary immunity. Suddenly it appears that Maccabi was doing things not only on the court but outside it. Many kept mum with fear, while the watchdogs licked their masters' hands gratefully.

The conspiracy of silence is beginning to crack and the question arising from between the cracks is: Has anyone bought his way into power?

The two states - or rather, the state within a state - prefer to live in the twilight zone.

Power corrupts not only in politics, but in sports. And an autocracy that lasts too long corrupts even more. An ill, yellow wind is blowing over Maccabi Tel Aviv. Not because it is going to lose, but because only foolish fans will have any interest in its victories. Win or lose, it is all the same to us. And there is no greater enemy to the state or the team than indifference.