As a professor of video games at a major university, I spend a lot of time, well, playing video games. So when Marc Tracy posted a trailer for NBA Jam: On Fire Edition, I was thrilled. The game features the four European teams that made it to the Final Four last year, which means that, after decades of sitting in Gate 3 of Yad Eliahu basketball stadium rooting for my team, Maccabi Tel Aviv, I could now grab a controller and play as my favorite boys in yellow and blue.
But among the “boomshakalakas” and other fist-pumping excitements, one thing seemed odd: While the other teams—Montepaschi Sienna, Real Madrid, and Panathinaikos—were identified by name, my home town team was presented as Maccabi Electra. Why would the game’s makers stress Maccabi’s corporate affiliation—Electra is a large Israeli construction conglomerate—but suppress its ties to Tel Aviv? Why do the dudes from Sienna and Madrid get to fly their local colors (Athens-based Panathinaikos is always referred to just by that one name) while the Israelis are relegated to national anonymity (minus, admittedly, the Star of David that adorns Maccabi’s logo)? Could EA Sports, the world’s premiere maker of sports video games, be run by notorious Israel-haters?
Hardly. “I think you are probably better off directing your question to the Euroleague,” wrote a helpful EA Sports spokeswoman, “as we take our direction from them.”
The European super-league, where the continent’s champions play each other for the ultimate bragging rights, depressingly presents the Israeli team merely as Maccabi Electra. No Tel Aviv in site. My soul further darkened when I saw the banner on the top of the Website; the Final Four’s sponsor, I learned (as you can also see in the trailer), is Turkish Airlines.
An email to the Euroleague went unanswered. Conspiracy? Coincidence? I report, you decide.
NBA Jam: On Fire Edition [YouTube]