Do Jewish professional basketball players live above or below the haimish line?
David Brooks’s old-timey espousal of the haimish line is powerful. "Often, as we spend more on something," opines Brooks, "what we gain in privacy and elegance we lose in spontaneous sociability." Just as self-restraint can be fulfilling, shtetl wisdom can be refreshing.
But Brooks has a tough sales pitch ahead of him. This is a generation that knows lavish before haimish.
Enter Dan Grunfeld. On the same day that former Duke basketball standout Jon Scheyer officially made aliyah to play for Maccabbi Tel Aviv, Grunfeld – who claimed Israeli citizenship last year and signed with Hapoel Holon last month– offered a first-person account of the differences between accomodations in Europe and the old country (America).
Contrary to Brooks’s claim, Grunfeld recalls that private jet travel in the goldene medinah didn’t negate "spontaneous sociability:"
Once the wheels were lifted and the plane took off, it was food time. For everyone on board, there was a spread of sandwiches, cookies, drinks, fruit and other stuff for us to pick on. And if that wouldn’t do, the flight attendants were also available to bring hot meals, cereal, other drinks or whatever else anyone may have wanted. After eating, guys were hanging out, watching movies, listening to music and just relaxing.
While playing in a Spanish league, economy class didn’t do much to build camaraderie between Grunfeld and his teammates:
After losing a tough game and eating lunch at the hotel, we carried our own luggage to the bus, then loaded it in and went to the airport. The only flight we could get to Madrid, the closest major airport to our city, Valladolid, left the islands in the early evening, around 7 or 8 p.m., so we sat in the airport for at least three or four hours pre-flight. Every game in Europe really matters, so because we lost, people were not in good moods. Everyone mostly kept to themselves, checking their smart phones, listening to their iPods, studying the trinkets in the gift shops, twiddling their thumbs and just somehow trying to pass the time until the plane left.
Despite what may seem like kvetching, Grunfeld still possesses the frugal sensibilites of a haimishe yid, as explained in this anecdote:
When you’re on the road in the NBA, you get per diem for food, well over $100 a day. Sometime on board the plane, someone from the team came around and casually handed me an envelope with like $500 in it. During my short time with the Knicks, my go-to move was to get to the city we were playing in, buy three or four Subway five-dollar foot longs, put them in my fridge, then pocket the rest of the per diem.
A yiddishe kop toeing the haimeshe line makes for a zaftig wallet.
Photo: Stanford vs. USF by Happy A via Flickr; Dan Grunfeld at the foul line.