Occasionally, sports and politics merge to create moments in which it seems that resolving complex problems might be as simple as tossing a ball through a hoop. New Englanders, in particular, remember the “Miracle on Ice,” when Team USA beat the Russians in hockey in the 1980 Olympic Games at Lake Placid, and local players Jim Craig and Mike Eruzione became instant stars. The fact that the Russians could be defeated on the ice seemed to bode well for a parallel win in the Cold War.
Three years earlier, Israel had a similar sports moment against the Russians when their American born basketball star, Tal Brody, was playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv in the European Cup. Brody had been the 12th player picked in the 1965 NBA draft before playing for the US national team in the Maccabi games leading the United States to a gold medal. Asked to play for Tel Aviv the next season, Brody elected to forgo an offer to play for the Baltimore Bullets and moved instead to Israel.
While he had many exciting moments as an Israeli player, the peak of Brody’s experience playing for Tel Aviv is featured in a new documentary film, called “On the Map,” released at the end of last year, that highlights the 1977 competition. The Russian Army team CSKA was a powerhouse, and had beaten the United States in the 1972 games with a team that had many of the same players.
The game between Russia and Maccabi was supposed to have been played in Tel Aviv, but Russia refused to play in Israel while also refusing to invite the Israelis to play in the Soviet Union. Instead, the contest was moved to Belgium, where Tel Aviv, led by Brody, beat the Russians handily.
Carried on their shoulders by his teammates, Brody declared the win a breakthrough moment for Israel as he announced joyously, “We are on the map! And we are staying on the map – not only in sports, but in everything.”
Those words are deeply etched into the psyche of Israel, as is the victory, and they are an often used part of the culture. And the film brings the story of a sporting event that was an important part of Israel’s healing from the tragedy at the 1972 Munich games to the rest of the world.
Sponsored by the Lappin Foundation with Temple Ner Tamid and the Jewish Journal as co-sponsors, “On the Map” will be shown Monday, February 27 at 7 p.m. at Ner Tamid, located at 368 Lowell Street in Peabody. There is no charge for admission.