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JJ SAYS

The definition of Globetrotter is fun

Published: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 1:49 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 1:49 p.m.

It was all there, just like I remembered it from a visit to what we then called the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum Complex four decades ago.

There was the wizardry with the basketball, the player defending from atop the basket rim, the awestruck kids dragged onto the court, the water bucket filled with paper, the portly referee and, of course, “Sweet Georgia Brown.” The Harlem Globetrotters were in town and, for one magical night, we were all kids again.

The traveling court circus stopped by Santa Rosa Junior College last week on a tour of the Bay Area that included stops in Oakland and San Jose.

Thanks to the fortuitous tardiness of my companion, we managed to parlay our general admission tickets into courtside seats right under the basket where we could see every pratfall, dunk, dribble and dance. It was an awesome show.

Of course, today's Globetrotters are a major production. They have several teams playing in different parts of the country and the world simultaneously. They have been featured on television, and even had their own animated cartoon show. They are a merchandising dream with their trademark red, white and blue basketballs ($60 a ball), jerseys, head bands, sweat bands and much more. They have a whole litany of sponsors from Greyhound Bus Lines to Wonderful Pistachios (hence the “Get Crackin'” theme at their games). They even have a sponsorship deal with Inner Mongolia Mengniu Dairy Industry, a manufacturing and distribution company of dairy products in the People's Republic of China. It is all very big business.

It is also very good basketball. The Globetrotters are amazing athletes with court skills polished to machine perfection. Every move on the court, from the delicate dribbling to the thunderous dunks, is done with symphonic perfection.

Incidentally, their opponents/straight men, the International Elite, are pretty darn good basketball players in their own right.

But for the packed audience at SRJC and at other venues around the world, the Globetrotters aren't about business. They aren't really about basketball.

What they are about is happiness. There is no disguising the look on a youngster's face when he is called on the court to help in one of the team's gags. It is a gaze of mixed bliss and awe. The chosen adults may appear shy or full of themselves. The kids are just plain euphoric. For many adults, it is hard to remember a feeling like those kids are experiencing.

But you don't have to be a kid to enjoy the show. For two hours we were all lost in the excitement of the moments. In case you've forgotten, the feeling is called fun.

The Globetrotters don't evoke the excitement of a 49er game, the emotion of a movie like “Les Miserables” or the relaxation of a symphony. What they evoke is something even rarer — fun.

You forget about the mortgage, the commute, the demanding teacher if you're a kid, even the aches and pains if you're older. It is all about the Globetrotters, their basketball, their skits, their skills and their enthusiasm.

Just a few quick notes:

The Globetrotters have three women on their roster, but none were on the team that visited the Bay Area.

They do have one Caucasian player on the team. He is impossible to miss, not so much because he is white, as because he stands 7-feet, 8-inches tall. Tiny Sturgess, a native of London, England, is reputed to be the tallest player ever to play professional basketball.

Whenever the Globetrotters go into their ball handling routine, he stands off to one side and checks the rafters for pigeons. But nobody drives the lane when he is on defense. His bio says his signature move is a dunk shot, which he accomplishes by simply tip-toeing.

When I stretch I can look Tiny eye to kneecap. On the other hand, I don't even have to tiptoe to look Too Tall eye to eye. At 5 feet, 2 inches, he is the shortest player in Globetrotter history. He may also be one of the most talented. When he goes into his dribbling exhibition, the ball is often so close to the floor that an ant couldn't scurry underneath. The only two things he and I have in common are lack of both height and hair, although I acknowledge he has slightly more of the latter than I do.

I could go on and on, talking about MC/ringmaster Special K, ball-handling Magician Flight Time, the sky walker Hammer and all the others, but the Globetrotters are more than the sum of their parts. They are entertainment.

Look up Globetrotters in the dictionary and you get a one-word definition — fun.

(Contact John Jackson at johnie.jackson@arguscourier.com)

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