Anatevka and The Montreal Expos


Last night The Sports Rabbi had the opportunity to see the play Fiddler on the Roof in Jerusalem. Along with his 10 year old son, The Sports Rabbi couldn’t stop singing the many melodies of the show.

More than 20 years ago I had “starred” (really it was the role of Tevye who was the star, I had a bit part) as the Rabbi in the play that my mother produced back in Montreal. I didn’t have many lines, but at one point in the show the community asks the Rabbi if there is a blessing for the Czar of Russia. And the Rabbi responds, “Is there a blessing for the Czar? Of course there is a blessing for the Czar. May G-d bless and keep the Czar…. Far Away From Us!”

It’s kind of ironic how many similarities The Sports Rabbi found last night while watching the show. From the story, plot and the songs one can compare it to the story of The Montreal Expos.

The Expos were born out of The World’s fair that took place in Montreal back in 1967 and were named the Expos, taking the Jarry Park field in 1969 to a standing room only crowd.

This was a major break in Major League Baseball Tradition. A baseball team in Canada could one believe it! Amazing, everyone thought baseball was the American Pastime, not Canadian.

Tevye in the Fiddler on the Roof sings and constantly debates with himself throughout the production about Tradition. Keep to our roots, or move forward? On one hand it should be as it always has, on the other why should we not make a change.

As The song says:

Tradition, tradition! Tradition!
Tradition, tradition! Tradition!

Tevye & The Papas say:

Who, day and night, must scramble for a living,
Feed a wife and children, say his daily prayers?
And who has the right, as master of the house,
To have the final word at home?

The Papa, the Papa! Tradition.
The Papa, the Papa! Tradition.

Then his wife Golda & the Mamas continue:

Who must know the way to make a proper home,
A quiet home, a kosher home?
Who must raise the family and run the home,
So Papa’s free to read the holy books?

The Mama, the Mama! Tradition!
The Mama, the Mama! Tradition!

The Sons then say their part:

At three, I started Hebrew school. At ten, I learned a trade.
I hear they’ve picked a bride for me. I hope she’s pretty.

The son, the son! Tradition!
The son, the son! Tradition!

Of course the Daughters also have to chime in:

And who does Mama teach to mend and tend and fix,
Preparing me to marry whoever Papa picks?

The daughter, the daughter! Tradition!
The daughter, the daughter! Tradition!

As the song says, Tradition. Tradition in keeping with how the Jewish household is run. How a Jewish boy and girl get married. How the tasks are split between husband and wife.

The breaking of tradition is the plot that runs throughout the play. The three oldest daughters get married all in very untraditional ways. One marries her boyhood friend and breaks the match her father had made.

The next daughter falls in love with an outsider of the village who then takes part in the Russian Revolution. And the third marries out of the faith, something that Tevye as much as he couldn’t take what happened with the first two daughters, couldn’t go against his faith and accept the marriage. Not until the very end of the show when he says that G-d should be with them.

So now Tradition has been broken, just as Major League Baseball did by awarding a franchise to Montreal.

The Expos had some successful years, but never made it all the way to the World Series. Growing pains ensued for many, many years, but as the time went on they matured into a top franchise peaking in the early 1980’s and then again in the mid 1990’s when they had the best record in baseball at 70-34 at the time of the 1994 strike.

The song Sunrise Sunset gives us a sense of how the years go by, we get older and time continues on.

is this the little girl i carried,
is this the little boy at play?

i don’t remember growing older,
when did they?

when did she get to be a beauty,
when did he grow to be so tall?

wasn’t it yesterday when they were small?

sunrise, sunset (x2),
swiftly flow the days.

seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers,
blossoming even as we gaze.

sunrise, sunset (x2),
swiftly fly the years,
one season following another,
laiden with happiness and tears.

what words of wisdom can i give them,
how can i help to ease their way?

now they must learn from one another,
day by day.

they look so natural together.
just like two newlyweds should be.
is there a canopy in store for me?

sunrise, sunset (x2),
swiftly fly the years,
one season following another,
laiden with happiness,
and tears

The strike signified the end of The Expos and 10 years later they finally packed up and moved away from Montreal.

Unfortunately, Major League Baseball wanted to correct their ways and move back to what had been before.

The evil Czar of the Baseball World, Bud Selig with the help of the former owner Jeffrey Loria were able to remove The Expos from Montreal and bring them to another town, back in America.

When the Jewish people of Anatevka were forced to leave by the evil Czar the classic song of Anatevka was sung.

Anatevka, Anatevka
Underfed overworked Anatevka.
Where else could sabbath be so sweet?

Anatevka, Anatevka
intimate, obstinate Anatevka
Where I know everyone I meet.

Soon I’ll be a stranger in a strange new place
Searching for an old familiar face
from Anatevka

Anatevka, Anatevka
I belong in Anatevka

The Expos belong back in Montreal, not in Washington. They were put out to pasture by MLB and Bud Selig. They did not get the proper support after the strike to succeed. They did not help one of their franchises continue to grow and flourish. They saw the strike as an opportunity to go back to “tradition”, not to continue to evolve while keeping the principles of “tradition”.

Many people would argue that the fans did not support the team. That may be true, however that is also the fault of MLB for putting the franchise in a no win situation and not helping to keep them where they belong.

Look at the success of the Montreal Canadiens, Alouettes & Impact with the fans. Games are sold out on a consistent basis for all three teams. And the Habs haven’t won the cup since 1993!
I don’t buy that argument, sorry.

Major League Baseball at its Czar is to blame. And that’s the bottom line.