Hoops and hollar

I’ve been working the night shift lately, and that means shooting a lot of sporting events. Mostly Stockton Thunder hockey and basketball – a lot of basketball. I’ve shot several UOP (men’s and women’s) and Delta College (men’s and women’s) hoops along with countless prep games (boys and girls). Some were close games, others were blowouts. It can get a little creatively wearying at times shooting so much of the same thing.  Tuesday night I covered yet more basketball, but it was like no other game I’ve shot before.

The clown princes of basketball, the Harlem Globetrotters, came to joke, entertain and shoot a few hoops at the Stockton Arena.

As a kid, I’ve seen them play many times on TV, but this was the first time I’ve seen them in person. In my day, “Meadowlark” Lemon and “Curly” Neal were the stars, with Lemon as the clowning ringleader and Neal as the supreme ball-handling speedster. At the arena there were two dribbling virtuosos. At one point “Ant” Atkinson lay on the floor and spun around like a clock while dribbling the ball. “Flight Time” Lang dribbled while on his knees, vexing the Washington Generals defenders who were chasing him.

The star and main instigator of the comic mayhem was “Special K” Daley, who joked and cajoled with nearly everyone on the court (and some who weren’t). The only ‘Trotter who was mic-ed (Washington General coach and appointed bad guy Reggie Harrison had one, too), Daley mocked one the General’s looks as he pointed at him and said “I hope you get that plastic surgery.” And to a shorter opponent he said: “Look at the little baby. A baby with a grown man’s head.”

Some things never change, and sometimes that can be a good thing. The Globetrotters’ show was filled with jokes and skits that the team has done probably thousands of times over the 84 years of its existence. They probably could do the act in their sleep, but they didn’t. They put on a good show. It was all done with enthusiasm and looked like they here having as much fun as the audience.

You’d think that children, having limited experience with the Globetrotters, would be the ones who had the most fun (which they did) but laughter was had by both young and old. Even when I knew what was coming, I, too, ended up chuckling.

Many of the shenanigans that the ‘Trotters pulled were tried and true skits that I remember watching as a kid. The stuffing of the basketball under an opponent’s shirt, the rubberband basketball, and, of course, the always-classic water/confetti bucket scenario.

It was like watching legendary comedians the late Henny Youngman or Rodney Dangerfield. They would rely on much of the same old material over the years, but it became part of their appeal, and audiences loved them for it. People would be disappointed if they went home without hearing Youngman’s “Take my wife, please” or Dangerfield’s “I get no respect” lines.

The players were all professional-level athletes with incredible shooting and ball-handling skills and in between the antics some fairly decent basketball was played, not that anyone noticed. They were too busy laughing and having fun. The Globetrotters may have been doing their show for decades, but last Tuesday night they showed why there were a perfect example of doing the same thing over and over again yet keeping it fresh every time.

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