Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
For 14 years, Abe Pollin, owner of the Washington Bullets, has had these two dreams: First, he wanted to win a national basketball championship; and then he wanted to take his team to Israel.
Well, as anyone who hasn't had his head under a bucket knows, the Bullets took that National Basketball Association title last May. And now, next week, the Bullets are going to Israel, where they will tour and play an exhibition game against Maccabi Tel Aviv, the 1976 European Cup Champions.
So, as might be expected, Abe Pollin is a very happy man.
"We're world champions, so we have to do things a little differently now," said Pollin Tuesday night, still gleefully accepting congratulations from guests attending the team's bon voyage reception, which was hosted by Israeli ambassador Simcha Dinitz and his wife, Vivien, at their official residence. "I'll naturally be underwriting any losses for the trip," continued Pollin, "but we're hoping there won't be any because of big ticket sales for the game."
The Bullets' appearance in Israel will be the first time an American NBA team has played there, where next to soccer, basketball reigns as the country's favorite sport.
"I don't know what we're getting ourselves into as far as the players are concerned," remarked Bullets' forward Greg Ballard, "but we're all pretty excited about the trip. Seeing the Holy Land and stuff . . . well, it's sort of like getting to see where it all originated from, you know."
Although excitement about the trip seemed universal among the Bullets, some, like Bob Dandridge, did admit to a little ambivalence. "Actually, I have mixed feelings," he said. "I'm a little concerned about what's happening with the political situation - a little worried, I guess, about whether it's safe to go or not."
It was a sentiment echoed by Dandridge's wife, Barbara, who unenthusiastically recalled other NBA forays abroad. "We've run into some real unpleasant situations playing out of the country," she commented. "I remember one time in Brazil where the fans got so hostile they started throwing boards onto the floor. American fans are enthusiastic, but out of the country fans really get involved."
Meanwhile, presidential aide Ed Sanders, newly arrived from California to fill the job vacated by Mark Siegel as liaison with the Jewish community, said he'd rather not say anything "until after the summit (at Camp David). Besides, being new here, I'm not sure how this works.
"Are parties off the record?"