The Legacy Is On The Line
News broke last week that the Yeshiva University Maccabees were ranked No. 1 in the NCAA DIII national ranking. This is the first time the Macs have ever been ranked as the top team in the country. As is evident from their remarkable success, never before has the team ever displayed such depth and chemistry. One might go so far as to say that this team is — to borrow a term used to describe certain teams in the FIFA World Cup — YU’s golden generation. Their great success is a reason to celebrate, yet it underscores the pressure on the Macs to bring home a national title.
Winning a national championship has been the Macs’ goal ever since Elliot Steinmetz (SSSB ‘02) first became head coach in April of 2014. Such an ambitious, and even audacious, attitude might have seemed laughable to the average person. After all, the Macs had not had a winning season since 2007. But Coach Steinmetz was determined to turn this vision into reality.
The Macs have progressed in the seasons since Steinmetz arrived, posting a winning record each time. In 2018 the Macs made history, becoming Skyline Conference champions for the first time, and securing their first trip to the national tournament. The following season, the Macs posted another amazing season and made it to the Skyline Conference championship again. However, this time they would fall to Farmingdale State College. During the 2020 season, the team picked up where they left off, winning every game after their opening loss. The team made it to their third-straight Skyline Conference championship, hoisting the trophy for the second time in three years and earning their second trip to the NCAA tournament (which was eventually canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic).
Fast forward to today, and the Macs have continued to make history in their pursuit of concluding an unfinished chapter. They have won their first 10 games of the season and extended their win-streak to 46 games, the second-longest streak in DIII history. Still, these feats are only pieces of a bigger picture. That is why, despite the Macs’ being ranked No. 1 in the country, Coach Steinmetz offered the following comment on the matter: “Let me know what we are ranked on March 20.” Though this sentiment might seem harsh, it is still proper. If the Macs fail to qualify for the national tournament or lose in the playoffs or championship, the success they have earned thus far will have effectively been for naught.
That being said, we have reason to be optimistic about the future. We have a first-rate team with impeccable talent. Gabe Leifer (SSSB ‘21) is dominant in the paint. Eitan Halpert (SSSB ‘21) exhibits superb leadership in running the explosive offense. Ryan Turell (SSSB ‘22) has continued to showcase his prowess as an offensive titan, recently setting the record for points scored in a game by a Maccabee with an impressive 51-point performance. Ofek Reef (SSSB ‘23) is a gift to any team. He might be 6-foot-1, but he plays like he is much bigger and is the paradigm of a player that gives 100 percent every game. I can go on about the entire team, but you get the idea. Furthermore, the Macs are led by a head coach who understands the game of basketball, knows how to make proper adjustments and ensures that his team keeps its focus in the proper place. Coach Steinmetz’s high hopes are certainly central to the team’s success. Taken together, they have all the right parts in the right places. They just need to deliver.
As we know from history, a golden age will last only so long. Empires rise and fall, no matter how big they are. We need to savor every moment of the golden age we are living through by understanding that opportunities like this appear once in a lifetime. We also need to internalize and inculcate the fact that the pressure is not only on the Macs to earn the ultimate victory, but on we the fans as well. We have a stake in every game considering that our school has garnered some prominent media attention due to the Macs’ success. We need to show our support for the team at every game, at home or on the road. Whether going to the game in person or watching it on MacsLive, every fan should throw their support for the Maccabees. Nobody should ever ask again in a rhetorical fashion “did the Macs win their latest game?” waiting to hear their assumption of the affirmative confirmed. Instead, everyone should know the answer, having watched the game from beginning to end. In such a critical year, it is vital that we — as a certain Macs shirt says — “back the Macs.”
Moreover, the Macs do not only represent YU. They also represent the entire Jewish community and serve as a source of inspiration for its members. One person told Gabe Leifer that his son began to wear a kippah when playing basketball after he saw how Leifer wore one during every game. The Macs’ success also allows Jews everywhere to stand together, no matter our religious differences, in supporting these players on the court. The team itself has acknowledged that there are different levels of religious observance among the players, and that playing together brings a strong sense of unity. A victory for the Maccabees would be a victory for every Jew, and every kind of Jew. With the dreams of an entire community resting on their shoulders, the Macs have all the more reason, aside from the historic momentum behind them, to ensure that they achieve a victory come the national tournament in March.