[ATTENDED: February 18, 2012] Harlem Globetrotters
When I was a kid, The Harlem Globetrotters were the coolest thing ever. I played basketball in grammar school, but I was pretty bad (short with no vertical leap), so seeing guys who were amazing ans also silly at basketball was wonderful to me. I whistled “Sweet Georgia Brown” a million times. I showed off my amazing “trick” shots at friends’ houses and during gym. I tried to bounce basketballs off of everything. Of course, I never did learn a lay up, but that’s beside the point.
And the Globetrotter commercials were on TV seemingly all the time. Like this one:
How cool, to slide across the floor, roll a ball down your back and make crazy baskets.
Of course, I think I remember the Globetrotters more from this show, which featured the voices of the all-time greats: George “Meadowlark” Lemon, Freddie “Curly” Neal, Hubert “Geese” Ausbie, J.C. “Gip” Gipson, Bobby Joe Mason, and Pablo Robertson (okay, these last three I don’t remember).
Twenty-two episodes were made in all, and I’m pretty sure I saw all of them (the old lady and the dog never made much sense but that’s okay too).
Suffice it to say, the Globetrotters left an indelible stamp on my world. But I never saw them live. So, imagine my delight when a few weeks ago, I won a contest for four free tickets to see the Globetrotters! I was pretty psyched.
Our seats weren’t very good. They were close to the court but they were behind one of the baskets, which meant we couldn’t see the action on the far court very well. But that’s what TV screens are for, right?
It was amazing to see that after thirty or so years, (aside from the shorts), things weren’t very different from this:
They played most of the same gags (confetti bucket of water, ball on a string, mocking the ref) and did most of the same stunts (looping dribble/passes, sliding on the court while dribbling, super far shots) that they have apparently been doing for decades. The brand continues; the players are different.
There were two major differences from what I could tell–there is now a 4 point shot area (!) and, most shocking to me–they no longer play the Washington Generals (in my head that was the only team they ever played). Rather, they played Global Direct, a team in all black that was really quite good and who hit almost as many 4 point shots.
The four points shot areas are round rugs that are in between the 3 point line and half court and are only in play during the last 3 minutes of each quarter.
This year’s team has a bunch of “-ests” attached to it: Too Tall, at 5’2″ the shortest globetrotter ever (he sank 3 four-point shots in a row); Tiny, at 7′ 7″ he is the tallest globetrotter ever and is taller than any NBA player (he can grab the rim with his feet still on the ground); TNT is the first woman on the team since 1993, although sadly she didn’t play at our game. The “star” is Special K. He is mic’d which I didn’t expect, but how else would you hear all of his jokes, incessant chatter and trash talk?
I found the trash talk to be a bit mean at the ref–making fun of what he looked like more than the actions he did–of course he’s in on it too, so I guess he doesn’t mind. But it seems more mean than fun. Just a bit–maybe I’m sensitive because my kids are 4 and 6, and I wouldn’t want them saying things like that. But there wasn’t a lot of mean spiritedness. They let the action do the talking.
A few observations. I was surprised at how low their scoring percentage would have been. For a team that in my head never missed a basket, they miss more than their fair share. Even some of the more obvious trick shots.
The clock was all but arbitrary. Several times I looked up at the clock to see that it was either ticking away when they weren’t playing or was stopped while they were. That’s all because they clearly have time demarcated for their “set pieces” (the floor dribbling, the “skits”). So that’s fine. Although I admit to thinking we were in the 4th quarter with under a minute left and being surprised that the Global Direct team was ahead! (The “skits” aren’t done during quarter breaks, sometime they’re done in the middle of a quarter, so who knew what time it actually was in the game).
The whole time I wondered what the deal was with the other team. They are clearly good player who can sink shots from all around. They just don’t have the “flash” of the Globetrotters. I know they’re in on the game (or at least they are clearly in on it when they do their set pieces), but they also scored pretty high as well. So what is their instruction–play your hardest but don’t win. Play your best and if you do great, we’ll match you? But whatever you do don’t try to stop our man when he is dribbling on his back.
My favorite part was that the souvenir booth was basically behind the opposite basketball net, which meant that we got to walk on the floor to get to the goods. There was no security and we were able to practically touch the players. We walked like where Spike Lee gets to sit. That was pretty cool. It also meant we got to be inches away from Tiny. Man, 7’7″ is BIG!
My kids had fun–I’m sure both would have enjoyed it more if they understood basketball a little bit more. But they knew who won, which I guess is all that matters.
In the end, I was a little disappointed in the whole experience. The crowd was more subdued than I imagined they would be and the whole experience had a feeling of, what, desperation? But I’m led to believe that’s what happens whenever you meet your childhood icons. On the plus side, we bought a Globetrotter ball and I have been in my driveway whistling shots and shooting from behind the backboard.