Pictured: Tal Brody after the victory.
Sports Diplomacy in “On The Map”
By Skip Sheffield
You don’t have to like basketball to like “On The Map.” This documentary by Dani Menkin tells the background story of the stunning victory of Maccabi Tel Aviv’s 1977 European Championship.
To say Maccabi Tel Aviv was an underdog is a vast understatement. Israel did not have a viable basketball team until war hero Moshe Dayan invited an American player named Tal Brody to come from Trenton, NJ, to whip Israel’s underpowered team into some kind of shape to face the fearsome teams from Italy, Spain and the Soviet Union. Brody had played for the American team in Israel and became inspired enough to forego a career with the NBA.
Who knew Moshe Dayan was a basketball nut? Brody was not the only American recruited for the team. Not all of them were Jewish. Aulcey Perry was an extremely tall, thin and talented black man from tough Newark, NJ. When he was cut by the New York Knicks in 1974 and got an offer from Brody to come on over, he said “any job I would have said yes to.”
There are background snippets and grainy footage to set the stage; first Israel’s fierce battle for independence in 1948 and then the 1967 six-day war; the horrendous 1972 Olympic massacre in Munich; the 1973 Yom Kippur War and the 1976 highjacking of an Air France flight from Tel Aviv which was resolved by the daring raid on Entebbe. Russia did not have diplomatic relations so its CSKA team had to play Israel on neutral ground in Belgium.
Providing an American perspective is basketball great Bill Walton, who was once a teammate of Tal Brody. We see the 1977 team reassembled and dressed in their colors to watch their great triumph. They are now in their 60s and 70s but still filled with youthful spirit.
“We are on the map” Tal Brody exalted after their victory. It was a double entendre. Israel had secured its place on the world map after many attempts to exterminate it, and now it had a champion basketball team no one could deny.