YU Macs Home Games as Opportunities for Kiddush Hashem
Throughout most of my life, I’ve never particularly enjoyed following sports, having never quite understood the desire to do so. However, upon seeing the YU Macs’ impressively strong performance last year, that changed. I found that there was undoubtedly something very special and invigorating about getting to watch players wearing yarmulkes attain national recognition in our little gym.
YU Macs home games indeed present wonderful opportunities to support our friends and colleagues representing us on the basketball court. Unfortunately, however, these games can and sometimes do bring out the worst of people. As Jews, we have the responsibility to serve as an or goyim, “light for the nations.” This means that there are high standards we must meet for how to act in all scenarios, especially when in the public eye.
Last year, throughout the Macs’ fantastic season, more than one game was ruined for me by how some fans acted. I was once next to a small group of people yelling insults at specific players on the opposing team, singling players out using the number on their respective jerseys. I witnessed much clapping, laughing and jeering at the mistakes of the other team. And I heard many derogatory chants that made me uncomfortable. Though many of these actions were either perpetrated by a small minority of the fans present or have become widely accepted and normalized behaviors, this shouldn’t matter to us. We have an obligation to be role models by demonstrating proper conduct, which includes having respect for all human beings.
One of the best examples of how to properly act as a fan is none other than Mrs. Turell, mother of YU’s former superstar Ryan Turell. Throughout her son’s time playing for the Macs, she built a name for herself as being the embodiment of positive energy. She would always be the first to start up the cheer of “Let’s go Macs!” Importantly, she was always rooting for the Macs and never against the opposing team. I was once at a game at which a non-YU player fell and wasn’t getting up, and Mrs. Turell, not realizing what had occurred, started up another round of “Let’s go Macs!” Upon realizing what had happened and how insensitive she must have appeared to others, she apologized profusely to the player’s father. She made sure to treat all players with dignity and respect.
We always, especially in public spaces, have the duty to avoid chillul Hashem, desecration of God’s name, as much as we possibly can. It is one of the most severe sins. Additionally, with antisemitism on the rise, we certainly must not provide our haters with potential justifications for what they believe and do — not that anything could ever truly justify antisemitism to any degree. With the new basketball season just beginning, we must remember to inspire all with our love, respect and positivity toward others, and remember, of course, that it’s just a game.
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Photo Caption: YU Maccabees Basketball
Photo Credit: Yeshiva University Athletics