Mensch Madness Game 8: Semifinals, Scapegoat vs. Big Fish!

The Scapegoat pulled a surprise victory in his last game, and he’s back with more confidence and a new nickname: “Ozzy” Azazel is coming into this looking like the sure winner. He’s been to hell and back[1], but his koach (strength) has rebranded him “Ozzy,” from another Hebrew word for strength, oz. Now he’s ready to ram the ball into the net to bring home this championship.

Though there is no known Billy Goat curse in basketball like there is for baseball’s Chicago Cubs, Ozzy is taking nothing for granted. Just in case he accidentally got someone’s goat since the tournament began, Ozzy is doing some preemptive atonement, usually reserved for the High Holidays: s’lach lanu, m’chal lanu, Capricorn lanu.

So who’s Ozzy up against? His big challenger is none other than the Big Fish.

Big Fish, too, is a bit cockier this time around than he was in his first game. He’s filled to the gills with pride over last week’s comeback win against the Golem. After slinging mud in the trenches, he’s ready for the more elite competition of the Semifinals. No stranger to the High Holidays himself, the Big Fish expelled all his inner struggles in anticipation of and preparation for the physical demands that this game will require of him.

Big Doug “Dag” Collins throws the jump ball and the game begins. A quick snag by Ozzy gives him an early advantage. He heads down the court and easily leaps up to drop the ball in the can as his fans bleat their approval. Shofar so good for Team Ozzy, but things don’t seem to be going so whale for Big Fish, who appears to be feeling a bit blue-ga on the court. That pre-game cockiness has worn off, and it’s clear that Big Fish will have to swallow his pride and flap up a storm if he’s going to win this thing.

And that seems to be exactly what he’s doing! Suddenly, everyone’s attention is focused on Big Fish, sneaking down the sideline as he weaves in and out of Ozzy’s legs. The Scapegoat can just barely keep pace with Big Fish’s swift and sleek movements. The crowd thinks the finned favorite is getting cocky again, flaunting his moves without reserve, but Big Fish doesn’t think he’s gone overboard—he’s got scales—er, skills!—to show off!

In comes Ozzy with some fancy hoofwork, and goads Big Fish out of the way with his hoof. The referees whistle interrupts shrilly—no dirty play allowed. Ozzy gets called with a technical foul, and suddenly things get a bit hairy for the scapegoat. With only a few seconds left in the game, that foul was a really bad move.

Big Fish makes the first shot off the backboard and swims back slowly for the second shot. He lines up evenly with the free-throw line. Then, with a swift flick of his tail, he sends the ball sailing. It glides easily through the net, making a splash as it comes through the bottom. The crowd does the wave and storms the court, cheering on the Big Fish as he wins this pivotal game, taking him next to the Championship round.

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[1]The modern Hebrew equivalent of “hell,” Azazel is the place to which one of the goats was sent in the Temple service on Yom Kippur.

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