Timing is a funny thing.
At a time when we have been reminded of the perils of being a proud Jew in today’s world, the Jewish world has an opportunity to witness Jews being proud without fear.
Just days after our televisions and computers were flooded with the gruesome footage of the carnage left behind by a despicable gunman who heinously murdered three Jewish children and their father outside a day school in France, the 21st annual Red Sarachek high school basketball tournament at Yeshiva University tips off.
As described to me by former Director of Broadcast Operations and current Alumni Advisor for YU’s athletics website MacsLive.com, Moshe Kook, the Sarachek tournament is, “Jewish High School teams traveling from across the continent to New York to play under the bright lights, in front of a packed gym, playing for your school.”
And for the first time in the tournament’s 21 year history every game will be broadcast in HD quality video on MacsLive.com for the entire world to see.
To me the timing couldn’t be better.
As an American sports fan living in Israel, the time has always been five in the morning. That is roughly the time I experience strong feelings of either devastation or euphoria.
Six years ago it was sorrow, as I sat outside in a freezing cold Jewish Quarter of the Old City after watching UCLA lose to Texas on an airball converted into an alley-oop at the buzzer. The pain was palpable, and no it wasn’t just the frostbite and dirty looks from beggars on their way to the Kotel.
Conversely, three years ago it was unbridled joy, as I chest bumped my friend’s father after Derek Fisher’s buzzer-beating three to all but lock down another NBA title for the Lakers.
The fact that the sun was rising at the same moment that the Larry O’Brien trophy rose from Kobe’s fingertips somehow made it all the more sweet (although the 6 a.m. victory cigar was not).
With that in mind, I am ecstatic about watching my YULA Panthers compete in the YU Tournament. I still fondly remember my entire school cutting class to huddle around the receptionist’s desk listening to the audio broadcast of our Panthers bringing home another title.
Thus, I have no qualms with the games being played in the wee hours of the night because I know that the adrenaline I receive from watching the Purple and Gold claim another ring will pale in comparison to the pride and exhilaration I will feel if my Black and Yellow bring another banner back to the City of Angels.
Bring it on conventional sleeping hours, you can’t stop me from “seeing Red” (patent pending)! But wait, there’s more! This year’s Red Sarachek Tournament is not just a great time for Olim with insomnia.
For the YU student body it is one of the most electrifying times to be on campus. “YU campus comes alive during Sarachek,” Kook exclaimed.
“Lines are drawn as alumni band together to root for their teams and the Sarachek rivalries take center stage.”
“It really merges the YU and basketball sides of the tournament together in a wonderful way.”
For my YULA Panthers, it’s time to reinstate the old guard. The winningest high school in Sarachek history was defeated last year by newcomers, the SAR Sting, and they appear to be on a collision course yet again. YULA entered the tourney Thursday as the No. 2 seed. SAR is right behind them at 3.
For the B'nei Akiva Stars of Houston, Sarachek will be the first time that many of the players that stood up for their religion, playing for Beren Academy, get to face the greater Jewish community they so wonderfully inspired.
“I think it’s going to be so much fun, we get to compete with the best Jewish teams in the country,” BA Star senior Ahrony Guttman excitedly told me just minutes after the Stars touched down at LaGuardia Airport.
After winning the right to have their semifinal game pushed from Shabbat night to Friday morning and reaching the State championship, these players will look to prove their meddle against their own.
Finally, for the MacsLive staff it is a time of exciting growth and innovation.
I had the pleasure of working for MacsLive in my one and only semester at YU, and their professionalism and dedication continues to amaze me.
This indomitable spirit was reinforced by MacsLive co-founder Adam Cohen in his announcement of the HD video broadcast.
“MacsLive has grown by leaps and bounds in the past ten years thanks to innovative and exceptional Yeshiva University undergraduates, “Cohen gushed.
“[MacsLive co-founder] Avi [Bloom] and I began with under $5,000 in equipment and a staff of four, calling a no-frills radio broadcast that was hosted on Yeshiva’s website.
“We had one unbreakable rule: we do things first-rate or not at all.”
I asked Kook how he thought the new video would transform the Sarachek experience for those not fortunate enough to watch the action live at the Max Stern Athletic Center.
“Our goal has always been to bring the pulsating, exhilarating atmosphere of Sarachek into your home, office, or school through your computer,” Kook explained, “and our new video product will make the fans feel like they’re sitting in the gym.”
Asked if there was any downside for the MacsLive staff, “We’ll all need to look presentable now,” he quickly replied, with a chuckle.
This weekend MacsLive and the Red Sarachek tournament enter a new and exciting era in its already storied history.
“We’ve certainly come a long way from ten years ago when all we had was four headsets, an audio mixing board, and couldn’t even go to commercial during breaks,” Cohen said.
I would say, with the issue of Jewish pride on the front-burners of the global conscience, for this former fan, player and employee, even if it is at five in the morning, the 21st annual Red Sarachek Tournament has arrived right on time.
Catch every second of exciting Red Sarachek basketball at MacsLive.com