When I went with my six year old to see the Harlem Globetrotters during their recent show at the AT&T Center, he made four generations of my family that's enjoyed Globetrotter entertainment. I got to see them about 20 years ago with my family, and my grandfather would tell my mom about the exploits of Meadowlark Lemon. "If only Meadowlark Lemon could have lived forever," she said, as we watched this latest game. When I got home, I discovered that Meadowlark is actually still alive. Yay! Wishes do come true!
Spirits were high on the way to the show ("game"), and after I failed to impress them with my knowledge of Globetrotter trivia ("The theme song for the team is 'Sweet Georgia Brown!'"), my son and his friend gleefully traded math quizzes. My son lost interest in providing accuracy fairly quickly.
Friend: "What's 6000 plus 6000?"
Friend: "What's 12 plus 12?"
Friend: "No, it's about...23."
Me: "Yes, yes it is."
We arrived shortly thereafter and discovered we had some pretty good seats, only a little ways up from the Globetrotter bench. After quite a lot of pre-game entertainment by youth sports groups, the main event teams came out and got warm ups underway. You might recall the Globetrotter opponent of choice as The Washington Generals. This night, the plodding straightman was played by Global Select, which Wikipedia says (and it never lies) is one of two new identities for the Generals entity, the other being International Elite. "Global Select" sounds like some vaguely legitimate import/export business. I guess "International Elite" sort of does, too. I have to give the Select guys credit; they were way more involved in the showmanship than I remember the Generals being 20 years ago. The Globetrotter ringmaster for this performance was Special K, who wears a familiar and beloved number. The first player I noticed during warm ups, however, was Tiny, who is literally the tallest human being I have ever seen.
He's 7'8" and British.
The concept for the "game" was that it was the World Championship of the "Awesome You Write the Rules" tour. There was a trophy and everything. The particular rule gimmick changed by quarter, and it seems that attendees were able to vote on which rules they wanted to see in advance. These rules include "two ball basketball," "double points," "the four point shot," "the penalty box," and "5 on 6." While two ball basketball created some unique situations regarding difficult defensive decisions (much like the All Star game, the decision was to not defend), I thought the rule that the NBA could most benefit from is the four point shot. Two circles, placed 35 feet from each basket, mark a small area from which baskets are worth four points. GENIUS.
I'm pretty sure that's goal tending.
The player names--B-Nice, Too Tall, T-Time--were a source of high mirth for the 6 year old contingent of my party. I can also report that the biggest laughs from my son and his friend involved any bit featuring Tiny and Too Tall (who is 5'2") together and any occasion upon which someone ended up losing his pants, which occurred much more frequently than I'm accustomed to during a basketball game. Globie, the mascot, was great. There was an impressive "instant replay" sequence where the two teams went through the proceeding possession backwards and then replayed it. A Global Select player made a layup right after his breakaway uniform was torn off. There was a crowd-pleasing assortment of fat jokes and physical gags. It's really hard to overstate the popularity of all the pantsing.
In all the comedy and marketing, I think it's easy to fail to appreciate the skills of the Globetrotters, but they really are entertaining to watch. My six year old would later say T-Time (the lone woman on this particular squad) was the best player, so her fancy dribbling routine must have made quite the impression. There was also the sort of ball spinning and juggling that one would expect from the Harlem Globetrotters, and really, it was very fun. The organization has been doing this for many, many years, and they have their mix of comedy and skill down. It's not altogether different from All Star Weekend, except the Globetrotter game is far more honest about itself. I actually appreciate that.
I hope you had the chance to take the children in your life to see this piece of American history, and if you didn't, I hope you do the next time the Harlem Globetrotters are in your area. Make sure you bring money for authentic Harlem Globetrotter headbands. And we can only hope that we start seeing the four point shot and some aggressive pantsing in the NBA.