Globetrottin’ from Harlem

Words by AM
Art by Rachael Park

The ‘Global Edition’ approaches. Sounds like a hoot.  

You spend 45 seconds performing basic word association.

“Global Edition… Global …Globes?… A think piece about buying a world globe… An article about changing light globes? …Something about the Harlem Globetrotters? …Actually that last one might do.”

Like almost all US cultural references, the entirety of your knowledge about The Harlem Globetrotters rests on a brief gag from The Simpsons – never a concern. Topic submitted.

You don’t even know anything about the NBA itself. How many players are on a team? You think you’ve seen a pass, so it’s more than one. Likely fewer than 250, because they’ve got more than a square metre of space each; although players are, from memory, pretty large, therefore less densely spread – maybe the number changes sporadically throughout the game? Turns out the Globetrotters aren’t part of the NBA.

You prepare yourself for a productive few weeks of slowly soaking up documentaries, articles, old interviews and books; letting creative juices naturally ooze out over time, dribbling into a constantly refined Word document. You will have gained some esoteric knowledge and written an insightful article of which you can be proud.

Yet you didn’t do that. You’re once again reminded that although you’re not the kind of person who works well under pressure, you will only work when under pressure.

Given a general lack of interest paired with limited knowledge, you wonder why three weeks ago you thought this could ever be a good idea. You realise there’s is a wealth of stories to tell from literally the entire globe, yet this is where you landed.

The submission deadline has just past; time to begin. You search ‘Harlem Globetrotters’ into YouTube. You click on the first result: an eight-minute official highlight reel from a show six months ago. It starts with various high energy and well choreographed basketball shenanigans with an unprecedented amount of ball spinning. It’s both wholesome and impressive.  

You’re three minutes in and so far the whole video has just been raw footage from one camera, no cuts. Like a band that releases a ‘Greatest Hits’ album as their second album, you wonder if they know how highlights work. Cuts become more frequent and the high quality of the sports entertainment makes you start to respect the athletes even more than you had the conviction of the video editor.

You decide to finally skim over the Wikipedia page. You find out that, although the team had their first game in 1927, the Harlem Globetrotters didn’t actually play their first ‘home’ game in Harlem until roughly a year before Bryan Adams got his first real six-string, 1968.  You find this strange, given that the Globetrotters are arguably Harlem’s second most famous export, following the titular Shake from 2013.

You strengthen your lack of discipline and search the ‘Harlem Shake’ into YouTube, curiously filtering by new. All in the same original structure, you count 12 Harlem Shake videos in as many hours. You’re not really sure what to make of this discovery.

You can’t help but be consumed by these shoddily choreographed videos of a relatively prehistoric internet trend with three views and zero subscribers. As strange as this phenomenon is, you see a certain purity to it. Happy families, friends, work colleagues finding an excuse to let their guards down to simply have a bit of a dance and goof around, not for online attention, but for their own pleasure and for the joy of bonding with those around them.

You realise this wholesomeness comes back to the appeal of the Globetrotters: a happy, healthy and long-lasting form of entertainment.

You start to really regret your lack of research and preparedness as you realise that you could have written an uplifting piece about the origins and longevity of talented basketball entertainers, creating a pathway for African American players into the NBA in the 1950s while creating delightfully exciting family-friendly entertainment for the past nine decades – yet instead you have this.

 

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