This is an incident that happened to me a long time ago in Yeshiva. You'd think I'd have gotten over it by now, especially since I'm a fairly easy-going person, but apparently I haven't. Maybe airing it out will do the job.
I went (as I have mentioned on this blog before) to a fairly RW Chareidi school. Back in the 80s, when I went (and probably today, I guess), there were several things that were taboo, for one reason or another. TV, of course, was one. Movies, too. Many secular books as well. And, for some odd reason, baseball cards. And that leads me to the story.
The time was 1986, and I was in high school. High school consisted of a full-day, from the Shacharis minyan at 7:30 in the morning until the Ma'ariv minyan at 9:15. During the day, there was a half-hour for breakfast, an hour for lunch and an hour for dinner (and a fifteen minute break for recess in the morning).
Now, I have always been a big baseball fan. Ever since I was a wee kid, I would always grab the paper in the morning and open it to the sports section to see how my beloved Yankees did the night before.
It was the summer of 1985 that I discovered Strat-O-Matic baseball. For those of you who are unaware, Strat-O-Matic baseball is a game whereby you can play baseball games using the abilities of real-life major leaguers. Each player has a card, and the managers assemble the lineups, roll the dice and consult the cards to determine what happened on that particular play. I played a few games with some friends during the summer and, while I wouldn't say that I was hooked, I certainly came to enjoy the game immensely.
The following spring, the new player cards came out (a new set is released each year based on the players' performances from the previous year). Armed with my new game and no one to play with, I quickly thought up a plan. I gathered up three friends whom I knew were underground baseball fans, such as myself. After explaining the game to them, we quickly set up a league. Each of us would draft a team and play during lunch. We found an unused dorm room and during our next meeting began to draft players.
Well, we were a few rounds into the draft when my legs were getting a little cramped from sitting down. So, I got up and began to walk around the room. I noticed on a shelf a large roll of bookbinder's tape. This wasn't so unusual -- boys were forever re-binding seforim that were worn out from use. However, what *was* unusual was that there was a small red light in the roll. Moving closer to it, I saw that the red light was attached to a tape recorder... we were being taped!
It didn't take very long to figure out who'se tape recorder it was... it was the Rosh Yeshiva's son's. I took the tape out and disbanded our little meeting. (As an aside, it was far easier to figure out to whom the recorder belonged than to figure out which one of my three "friends" betrayed me.)
I was confronted by the RY's son later when he had the nerve to demand the return of his tape. I politely informed him that I was keeping the tape, as he had no right to do as he did. I even told him I'd buy him a new tape (boy, wasn't I a sucker!) but that under no circumstances would I return the tape in question. He blustered, he threatened. He told me that I was a ganav (thief) and that I had no right taking the possessions of innocents (I guess he should have considered himself lucky that I didn't keep the recorder). He threatened to have me expelled.
None of that happened. I doubt he ended up telling his father what happened, as I have little doubt that had he known, I would have heard about it from the RY directly. Maybe he was secretly ashamed at what he did? I doubt it. But who knows?
In the days following, while waiting for the axe to fall, I spent a fair amount of time trying to come up with my defense. My first line of thought was that if there was a rule against possessing baseball cards then I certainly wasn't in violation of it. These weren't baseball cards, they were game cards. Of course, I began to realize that such a defense would fall flat, simply because the RY wouldn't know what a baseball card was. The game had cards, it was about baseball... ergo, they were baseball cards.
This happened almost twenty years ago. I sometimes wonder if things have changed (for the better) in some yeshivos. I don't know if this sort of story is atypical (i.e. I just happened to have a snooty, holier-than-thou, ready-to-stoop-to-any-level RY's son in the same school) or if this sort of thing goes on all the time. I certainly hope not.