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August 18, 2004

The Harlem Globetrotters

Dear Vanessa --

Thanks to Steve Sailer (here) for pointing out this fab FoxNews visit (here) with basketball legend Daryl ("Chocolate Thunder") Dawkins, who tells it like it is about the current state of the sport. He's frank about the virtues and pitfalls of "black basketball" as well as "white basketball." Key Dawkins lesson: "In basketball and in civilian life ... freedom without structure winds up being chaotic and destructive. Only when it operates within a system can freedom create something worthwhile." And don't I wish that artsies would take heed of this wisdom.

I recently heard a similar comparison between "black basketball" and "white basketball" from a black college prof on an episode of A&E's "Biography" that was devoted to the Harlem Globetrotters, by the way. It was a first-class documentary, as well as one that brought back wonderful memories. As a kid, I saw the 'Trotters a couple of times, and I can't remember many sports or entertainment events that have made me feel as silly/happy as their shows did.

Did you know that, early on, the Globetrotters weren't just brilliant clowns, they really were the best players in the world? As Bill Cosby says at one point in the documentary (I paraphrase): "You gotta imagine Michael Jordan crossed with Eddie Murphy!" And did you know that, in the small Midwestern towns where the Globetrotters first toured, the 'Trotters were often the very first black people that these small-town white people had ever seen? Which means that the Harlem Globetrotters may well have had as much influence for the country's racial-understanding good as Jackie Robinson did.

OK, I confess: I watched this hour-long show snuffling back tears of happiness, delight, and gratitude. Goose Tatum! Marques Haynes! Curly Neal! Meadlowlark Lemon! -- as far as I'm concerned, these are names that deserve culture-canonization right up there next to Olivier and Hepburn. Talk about performers who knew how to blend freedom and structure.

A VHS tape of this wonderful show can be bought here. I was surprised to learn that the Globetrotters, bless 'em, still exist and still tour -- their own website is here.



posted by Michael at August 18, 2004


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