Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Harlem Globetrotters - Entertainment for Everyone

For those of you who are looking for a night of family entertainment, I would highly encourage you to check out the Harlem Globetrotters. We went to one of their 'games' over the weekend. Of course, basketball is what you're going to see but it is entertainment, dancing, athleticism, but most importantly, showmanship and performance. Both the Trotters and their perennial opponent, the Washington Generals, put on a good show for adults and kids alike.

Staples of the Harlem Globetrotters experience were certainly evident. They ran the three-man weave several times throughout the game. The alley-oops were beyond impressive. It made you think that the rims were lower than the 10-foot regulation height after seeing the high flying acrobatics that these guys displayed. The Trotters experience wouldn't be complete without many of the guys spinning the red, white, and blue basketball on their fingers, arms, and torsos (during one time out, one of the Trotters spun the ball on a young girl's finger, too!). And, of course, you're going to hear their theme song, 'Sweet Georgia Brown.'

The Globetrotters' red, white, and blue ball

They've managed to incorporate quite a bit of pop culture into the show (it's not a game, it really is a show). Pre-game featured the self-proclaimed world's most popular mascot, Globie, and a number of males dancing and styling to the likes of Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Vanilla Ice, and Michael Jackson.  Globie's dance moves were spot on at emulating the moves of these celebrities. 

Globie styling as Eminem with his dance crew

Big Easy was the most prominent member of the team. He was miked up throughout the game and acted as a Master of Ceremonies of sorts. It appeared as though the crowd was drawn to him, perhaps thanks to his and Flight Time's venture as contestants on the reality television show, The Amazing Race, in 2009. Throughout the evening, he was slapping fives with the closer spectactors and fake flirting with some of the women. Heck, we even learned firsthand that he wears Elmo briefs with 'Tickle Me' across his back side thanks to a retaliation from one of the Generals.

Big Easy taking a seat among some fans

The Washington Generals were their usual good sports about the festivities. Their coach played up the role of villain to the crowd, successfully bringing out resounding boos. The Generals had a few pretty solid players with above average shooting skills and athleticism. But, their performance was intentionally muted compared with the flashy ways that the Harlem team scored.

Known for their creativity in the game of basketball, the Globetrotters experience included two intriguing innovations.
  1. A penalty box. If someone did something excessively out of hand, say, dropping the shorts of an opposing player or poking his head up through the net to ensure an opponent couldn't score, the referee could send one or more players behind the velvet ropes next to the scorer's table. There was one instance where the referee issued three Trotters to the box. This scripted set of fouls allowed two of the better ball-handlers dribble and slide all over the court, leaving General defenders in their wake as they worked their magic.
  2. 4-point shot. There were four circles on the court located near each sideline 35 feet from the basket. If a shot was made within this area in the last three minutes of each quarter, the field goal would count as four points. Both teams struggled mightily from this range despite being wide open for every attempt...that is, until one of the Washington players caught fire down the stretch in the fourth quarter. I think that the Globetrotters should ditch this idea...it stagnated an otherwise great flow of action. After all, the players are human - making 35-footers isn't exactly easy. 

Here's a diagram of the 4-point areas on the floor

Because it is such a loose, relaxed environment for the guys to play, they interact frequently with the fans. A number of lucky guests were able to be on the court for some of the team's antics, including:
  • children getting autographed jerseys for making shots
  • adults dancing and being part of off-the-cuff skits
  • crazy jersey / warmup dressing and cycling races for the kids
  • fans in the audience getting soaked (myself included) with buckets of water 'intended' for the referees (I thought it used to be confetti, not water!?) 
  • some players signed autographs for up to a half-hour after the game concluded

One of my favorite portions of the game was an elaborate game of 'football.' This showcased dancing to MC Hammer's "U Can't Touch This," a center-quarterback exchange with a gastric disturbance, one of the players named Dizzy (that may need some medication to treat ADHD) gyrating like a jackhammer, among other things. After 3-4 minutes, the touchdown pass was successfully executed and the entire sequence was rewound backwards and done flawlessly.  Check out a variation of this football game at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Bfrz2SUrEY

The most side-splitting moment of the night was during a time out, featuring an inflatable version of Globie performing some dance moves when the song changed to Chumbawamba's "Tubthumping." The familiar chorus to this song goes "I get knocked down, but I get up again...never gonna keep me down" and repeats over and over. Now, picture the mascot abruptly smacking its head on the hardwood, but getting up again, only to take a few steps and pound its head again, right in time with the lyrics of the song. It brought my wife to tears - she was laughing so hard.  Check out the 30-second mark at the following video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_x2oncj0laY

The Globetrotters won the 'game' 126-122. Surprise, surprise. The outcome is never the most meaningful part of the game, considering the team's winning percentage is approaching 99% over its lifetime.

Abe Saperstein championed the Harlem Globetrotters in 1926-1927 to give promising, African-American basketballers an opportunity to play exhibition games. They have become a worldwide phenomenon. I think he would still be proud of the entertainment that they provide the world today. They might not quite have NBA skills, but they are a treat to watch in person.  Next time, we might even take the kids.

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