Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Harlem Globetrotters never get old

Parking: $25.

Game program: $10

Tickets to see the Harlem Globetrotters play: Priceless and timeless.

Thanks to Tammy “T Time” Brawner, a Dominican University of California MBA graduate in Global Management and the 10th female to play for the Globetrotters in their 88-year history, I had the opportunity with my youngest teenage son to se  the Globetrotters – an America original -- play in person the other night at Oracle Arena in Oakland for the first time in decades.  As a kid we were introduced to the Globetrotters on Saturday afternoons via ABC’s Wide World of Sports.
They still enter to Sweet Georgia Brown and execute their famous Magic Circle at midcourt through there are a few more players throwing the basketball between their legs, behind the backs and over their shoulders with no-look passes now. And a couple of the gags that we grew up on – the confetti in the water bucket and the ball with the string attached – are still evident and it’s still the most comical basketball played this side of the Sacramento Kings.
But this is a new age and new area and some things have changed. Meadowlark Lemon is now a cereal (Special K) and the Washington Generals are now called the Global Select and Curly Neal dribbling trick is executed by someone with hair. Long hair. Female hair.
Tammy Brawner played two seasons for the women’s basketball team at Dominican but, in that time, she developed a flair for the game. Her rise from the Lady Penguins to the Harlem Globetrotters is a remarkable story and it reached a Cinderella-like moment in Oakland, her hometown. She came home to play with the Globetrotters on the same floor as the one she first saw the Globetrotters at the age of nine.
But it’s a different game now. The Globetrotters have as many different mascots as they do sponsors. They do more than interact with the crowd now. They are interactive. Fans at the game, with their smart phones, can text and vote for different rules to be implemented.  Fans do more than laugh and smile now.
For example, in the first quarter, fans voted for a four-point play to be used. Players were awarded four points for any shot they made from a “nut cracking” target about 35 feet from the hoop. In the second quarter, fans voted for points to be double. A field goal was worth four points and a 3-point shot was worth six.
At halftime the Globetrotters led Global Select 97-82.
All and all it was family entertainment. A referee with a belly as big as the basketball was the natural lightning rod for insults and gags.  Picking on the ref never gets old.  What stands out, though, is the smiles and joy and entertaining the Globetrotters do.  They appear to love their jobs, though on their current North American Tour they probably wake up in a different city every day with their schedule.
I asked my 15-year-old what he liked best. He loved the time when one of the Globetrotters literally jumped and grabbed the hoop and lifted himself up so that he could stand on the backend of the rim and kick a shot by Global Select. It took goal-tending to a new level. He also loved the sight of a 7-foot-8 Globetrotter named “Tiny.” He looked like a freak in a circus which is what the Globetrotters. Every night they play it’s like you’re under the Big Top and your eyes don’t know what to follow except to know that it leads to something that makes you smile.
As we rode home after the Globetrotters’ 145-114 victory, my son validated what I have always longed to believe about the Globetrotters.
You have to see them at least once in your life.


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