Maccabi Tel Aviv hosts AS Monaco tonight (21:05 IDT / 14:05 EST) in game 4 of the EuroLeague of a quarterfinal series. It’s an uphill battle for coach Oded Katash’s team which, after stunning Monaco in game 1 of the series with a 79-67 win in the Principality, find themselves down 2-1 after consecutive losses and one loss away from being eliminated from European competition. The Yellow & Blue have not performed at their best in the recent games: for example, in game 2, they had 17 turnovers to 10 assists (compared to 11.4 turnovers to 16.3 assists averages for the season); and in game 3 they shot at only 24% from 3 and 69.2% from the foul line (compared to 38.4% and 79.9% averages for the season). They will need to turn around those numbers and capture the form that saw them capture 5th place in the standings on the back of a 7-1 to end the regular season.
Apropos, tonight and tomorrow marks Pesach Sheni (the Second Passover), a day which falls on the 14th of the Jewish month of Iyar, a day short of one month after the beginning of the well-known Pesach (Passover) holiday. The core of the Pesach celebration is the offering of the Korban Pesach (the Passover Sacrifice), which the Children of Israel were commanded to make on the evening of Passover and to eat on the first night of Passover. After some who were impure on the first Pesach after the Exodus asked why they should be penalized by not being allowed to bring the Passover Offering at its designated time, Pesach Sheni was declared by Hashem as a day to give certain people the ability to offer the Passover Sacrifice on a different day in order to fulfil the commandment:
Hashem spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the Children of Israel, saying: If any man will become impure through a corpse or [will be] on a distant road, whether you or generations, he shall make the Pesach Offering for Hashem, in the second month [i.e., Iyar] on the fourteenth day…] (Sefer Bamidbar/Book of Numbers, 9:10-11)
Pesach Sheni represents second chances and a chance of redemption for many Jews – a chance to correct their past mistakes or failures.
Failures are experienced in sports every day, every game. Recently, the perception of losing in basketball have become topical as a result of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s response to a reporter’s question as to whether Milwaukee’s season is a failure following their 4-1 series loss to the 8th-placed team in the East, the Miami Heat, eliminating the 1st-placed Bucks from the playoffs:
It’s not a failure. It’s steps to success. There’s always steps to it. Michael Jordan played 15 years. Won six championships. The other nine years was a failure? … Exactly, so why do you ask me that question. It’s the wrong question.
There’s no failure in sports. There’s good days, bad days, some days you are able to be successful, some days you are not, some days it is your turn, some days it’s not your turn. That’s what sports is about. You don’t always win. Some other group is gonna win and this year someone else is gonna win. Simple as that. We’re gonna come back next year and try to be better, try to build good habits, try to play better … and hopefully we can win a championship.
Many have come out in support of Antetokounmpo’s response to the report. “What Antetokounmpo said was spectacular,” Real Madrid football manager, Carlo Ancelotti, said “Failure is when you don’t try to do something as well as you can. When you try to do your best, you have a clear conscience, and that’s never a failure, not just in sport but in life.
However, given that the Bucks had the best record in the NBA during the regular season – giving them home court advantage not only during the Miami series, but had they won through, every other series, including the finals – it’s difficult to avoid labeling the season as a failure.
Perhaps it’s about how you define failure – perhaps it should not be perceived in such a negative way. Michael Jordan is credited with many quotes on failure:
• “The key to success is failure.”
• “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. ”
• “Failure makes me work even harder. ”
• “I’ve never been afraid to fail.”
• “I know fear is an obstacle for some people, but it is an illusion to me. Failure always made me try harder next time.”
Failure is something to learn from: if you learn from it, it will help you grow and leads you to success. Monaco’s loss in the first game in this series – giving Maccabi home court advantage and seemingly overwhelming momentum – could have resulted in disaster for Saša Obradović’s team. But they learned from their mistakes in the first games and not only one the next game, but also stole back home court advantage for the series.
“We have to forget this one and the next will be different,” Obradović said after the game 1 loss. “We have to be smarter and have a plan and not just play with a heart. It will be different in the second game.”
The question for Maccabi is, can they learn from the mistakes of the last two games to level the series tonight and force a deciding game 5 next week in Monaco? Can they redeem themselves after the failures in games 2 and 3 – by taking care of the ball, by taking better shots and making more shots – and let that failure lead to success?
“We need to appreciate the opportunity that we have,” Maccabi forward Jake Cohen said before game 3. “Not very often in your career do you have a chance to play in these kinds of moments, so it’s important to approach them with a sense of gratitude and acknowledgement that these things are great opportunities that you can remember for the rest of your life.”
“I think that everyone understands the importance of Game 4,” Maccabi captain John DiBartolomeo said yesterday. “Our backs are against the wall now. This will test our character, but we have been preparing for this moment all year. We’ve worked to get here, so we need to be focused, ready and positive.”
Tonight, Jews around the world will be marking Pesach Sheni, recognizing the opportunity that they have to correct their mistakes and failures. Tonight, Katash and his players will have the opportunity to correct their own mistakes and failures in this series. The Yellow & Blue have the opportunity to keep their EuroLeague season alive beyond tonight and keep alive their dream of winning the title. But they will only be able to do this if they can learn from what’s gone wrong – especially in games 2 and 3. They need to learn from those failures and redeem themselves: for their fans around the country; for the 11,000 fans who will be in the arena tonight; and for themselves.