Sport has long been the bastion of maleness. It is all about showing who is more powerful, single-minded, skilled, and masculine. In that it is a thinly-veiled recreation of war, sport is not usually the venue for placing entertainment first and sports ability second or focusing on interaction with the audience. An anomaly in the sports arena have been the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team. Entertainment and connecting with their fans is what the Harlem Globetrotters have been about for almost 85 years. And their millions of fans worldwide love them for it.
Friday night at the Bell Centre the ice was covered over with the traditional wood boards of a basketball court and the Harlem Globetrotters brought their traveling show for an evening of family friendly and funny bone tickling entertainment.
It has been years since I’ve seen the Harlem Globetrotters. My parents used to take me as a kid. All these many years later and the show has not changed a whole lot. And that is comforting. They say “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” This is the case with the Harlem Globetrotters. The show was fun then and it continues to be fun today.
They still do the throwing water buckets at the ref and then confetti into the crowd bit, the using a lady’s purse thing, pulling down the shorts of an opposing player, the famous “magic” circle, and the choosing a kid from the audience then helping them to spin the ball on their finger at center court. All these are tried and true shticks that have worked over the years. The team has added several new twists like being hypnotized by the umbrella of the opposing coach then doing his bidding and lining up like a football team.
Besides being good basketball players these guys are all top notch entertainers. They know that the crowd, young and old, are all there to see them make fools of the Generals and do crazy things on the court. Basketball is secondary. If you looked at the game closely you would see that they scored less than 10 of their points from jump shots, obvious fouls were not called against the Globetrotters, the Generals basically just let the Globetrotters do their thing, and the game was played at 50% pace, if that. But all that, which seems at first glance like a criticism, is exactly what the fans want. The fans wants the zaniness and the showboating slam dunks. If they wanted traditional basketball they would be at home watching an NBA game. The Globetrotters give their fans exactly what they want.
The fact that the final score was 78-71 in favour of the Globetrotters is irrelevant except for the fact that it keeps their winning streak of thousands of games intact (they have not lost to the Washington Generals since 1971). What every fan left the building with was not the fact that the Globetrotters won, but rather, that they brought to them to “fun” that playing sports should really be about.