For a sports-crazed city that doesn’t have hope of a professional basketball team (we’re a football town, after all), the Harlem Globetrotters are a dose of dunking, slamming, and showboating that we just don’t get otherwise.
The Globetrotters have several surprising connections with Birmingham:
They were formed in the 1920′s like our Birmingham Barons, at that time the Birmingham Black Barons. Of course, sports leagues of the time were segregated so both teams had to “barnstorm,” meaning travel to wherever they could find a game with the promise of a ticket-buying audience.
The Harlem Globetrotters actually began in Chicago. Our Birmingham Barons are a farm team for Chicago’s White Sox. (Guess it was just as well the Globetrotters moved on and left the basketball reputation of that city to the capable leaps of Michael Jordan).
In the 1940′s the Birmingham Black Barons were owned by the founder of the Globetrotters, Abe Saperstein. This fellow Saperstein was some marketer. He named his basketball team the Harlem Globetrotters to suggest that the players traveled and were African American .(That’s a bit more subtle and imaginative than just naming a team the Black Barons, wouldn’t you agree?)
Ironically, the Harlem Globetrotters didn’t actually play in Harlem until 1968, 40 YEARS after making the city the team’s namesake. This seems to run counter the argument that the Birmingham Barons were somehow less representative of the city when playing in the suburb of Hoover, but I digress.
The Globetrotters offer a good family time, with players involving the spectators and demonstrating their signature amazing ball handling tricks They engage the referees in straight man/funny man routines that a parent can enjoy, unlike the tense coach/ref relations of your kid’s rec league. Like any good act, you’re led to wonder how they can choreograph all the spinning basketballs between them and still look so casual (it is choreographed, right?). A few local personalities are thrown in for fun.
The Harlem Globetrotters will be at Samford’s Hanna Center on Tuesday, March 20th, 2012 at 7:00 p.m., just in time for a spring break diversion. The Globetrotter’s soaring slam dunks, half-court baskets, and (spoiler alert?) confetti buckets are as good today as they’ve ever been. Tell the kids it’s like watching YouTube, only real time!
Order tickets here.
A word of warning: You will leave whistling “Sweet Georgia Brown” until you can’t bear your own company.