Parenting: Kids and the court jesters

The Harlem Globetrotters are at the Shore this week. David Murphy says it's an old act that stays fresh for every generation.
The Harlem Globetrotters are at the Shore this week. David Murphy says it's an old act that stays fresh for every generation.
August 4, 2012 11:19:37 AM PDT
The first time I saw the Harlem Globetrotters was when I was about six-years-old. I will not reveal awkward details, like what year that was, but you can assume it was a long time ago.

My mom prepped me a little on what I was about to see. The strains of Sweet Georgia Brown echoed through the old Spectrum, Meadowlark Lemon and Curly Neal were into the night's first round of antics and I was sold. They had to drag me out of there, howling with laughter.

These days, it's easy to overlook acts like the Globetrotters, even for a guy like me who remembers fondly the era of six TV stations and seventy-five cent cotton candy. The Globetrotters inhabit about the same station as the circus: a quaint reflection of a time that's largely deceased.

How can a band of funny men doing the same tricks and gags they've been doing for decades hope to compete in a world of movies with surround sound explosions, walking dinosaur shows, and Justin Beiber? A few years ago, I found-out.

Determined to resist today's in-your-face pop culture, I trotted my then ten-year-old son down to a Globetrotter's matinee at the Liacouris Center, and guess what? He liked it. He liked it so much that the following year, he gladly went again, and has even asked more recently if we can give it a third try.

The reality is that a good time is a good time, no matter how far back into the past certain entertainers have to reach to get their inspiration.

Maybe this explains why something like baseball can remain a draw for a century or more. Even before the trendy new stadium and a few years of high-payroll success, the basic elements of the product still managed to put 18,000-25,000 people in the seats every night.

With the Trotters, though, it's the tested formula that keeps them going. They play the same team from Washington, they never lose and they still do "the Magic Circle." As of last year's version, they still had a small-body trick shooter paired with a long, lanky funny man hurling confetti and water at the crowd and revealing the Valentine's Day style undershorts the referee always seems to be wearing.

The only significant difference this time around appears to be Temple grad Fatima "TNT" Maddox, the first female member of the squad since the early 90s.

If the details sound familiar to those of you who haven't been to a Globetrotters show in a while, it should. It's the same stuff these clowns of the court were trotting out three generations ago. However, there is a difference - it's your kid who's discovering the timeless fun these guys provide.

As you sit back and watch them laugh, the tradition of it dawns on you, and you can't help laughing yourself. You laugh - not only at what you're seeing, but what you remember seeing years ago, and the people who shared in the fun with you.

The cotton candy is probably five bucks nowadays and the tickets are priced higher than you remember, too. Yes, the entertainment is predictable but it still delivers laugh for kids, and maybe for you, too.

The Harlem Globetrotters are playing four games at the Wildwood Convention Center from Wednesday August 8 through Saturday, August 11 at 7pm each night. There's a skill clinic with the players during the day for those with a greater need to meet and greet the players and have a more personal experience.

Tickets are available through ticketmaster.com. The Trotters usually visit both the Liacouris Center on Temple University's campus and the Wells Fargo Center each spring.

---David Murphy

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