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  • Ken Thorp

Stadium Journey Visits The Harlem Globetrotters On Tour

Photo by Ken Thorp, Stadium Journey

On Friday, February 24th the Harlem Globetrotters brought their brand of basketball fun and family entertainment to the Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes Barre, PA. While this is normally the home of the Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins hockey team, the ice was removed, and the hardwood was laid down for the show. The wild and crazy atmosphere they brought with them was electric and captivating to all in attendance. They ran through the crowd telling jokes and goofing around. They danced on the court, performed amazing tricks with a basketball, and brought fans young and old onto the court to get them involved in the show. They even played some basketball in between the comedic acts. So, who are these magicians of the hardwood? What was the experience like for an 11-year-old and his dad? And what did the show and the venue have to offer for the thousands in attendance? Let's find out.

On the south side of Chicago, in the late 1920s, a group of men formed a basketball team known as the Savoy Big Five. They were one of the premier acts at the Savoy Ballroom who played exhibitions before dances to try and draw crowds and fight the declining attendance issues the venue was having. After some internal strife, some of the players broke off from the team and formed the "Globe Trotters." Abe Saperstein became the manager and promoter for the team and named the team the New York Harlem Globe Trotters. While we know the Globetrotters today as more entertainment and stunts than basketball, this is a team with a rich history of success and goodwill across the world.

On February 19, 1948, the Globetrotters defeated the World Champion Minnesota Lakers of the Basketball Association of America which later became the NBA, by the score of 61-59. A year later they beat them again. In 1950, Nathaniel "Sweetwater" Clifton, a member of the Globetrotters became the first African American player to sign an NBA contract when he joined the New York Knicks. The Globetrotters traveled overseas in 1950 on an international tour. On this journey, they played in front of their largest crowd ever at Berlin's Olympic Stadium. There were 75,000 in attendance. After the trip, a letter was written from the U.S. States Department to Abe Saperstein. In the letter, the team was referred to as "Ambassadors of extraordinary goodwill." The Globetrotters have been acknowledged by U.S. Presidents for what they have done for people around the world. In 1985, Olympic Gold Medalist Lynette Woodard became the first female to play for a men's pro basketball team when she joined the Globetrotters.

As we entered the Mohegan Sun Arena and picked up our order of chicken (which was described as the best chicken nuggets ever), we found our way to our seats in the 200 section. A cheese steak would have probably been a better choice because they looked splendid, but when you are with a picky eater you are just happy, they found something they really enjoyed. Food prices were about the norm for any venue for a semi-pro team. The seats were good. There were a lot of open seats around the section, so we had the ability to spread out a little. Seats near the entrances to the section can be a little dicey. The safety bars come up a little high above the stairs and can obstruct portions of the viewing area (especially for children).

The show itself was incredible. Everyone in the arena knew that basketball was going to be secondary to the stunts and action they were going to see tonight. There was a little basketball played and, spoiler alert, the Globetrotters won. There was so much more than a basketball game going on. Players were chasing each other up and down the isles with buckets of water and confetti and, it appeared, some people may have gotten a little damp. At one point during the first half, the game was stopped, and a gentleman was brought onto the court to dance with one of the Globetrotters. It was like a scene that came straight out of "Dirty Dancing" (he even managed to do a version of the lift). As the game was going on, one of the players actually climbed onto the rim and started waving to the crowd. Football also found its way onto the court as the Trotters not only huddled up, but they also called a running play and executed it past the end line, which acted as the end zone. The referee said he needed to see an instant replay and the team did the entire play in reverse, in slow-motion, not missing a beat, just to re-run it again. Players were spinning the ball on their fingers for what seemed like forever before inviting a young fan to the court and spinning the ball right onto his finger. The ability of the players to seemingly defy gravity and remain in the air as long as they did just to wait for the ball to arrive and slam it through the hoop was mesmerizing.

Photo by Ken Thorp, Stadium Journey

Halftime was amazing filled with crazy stunts and fun interactions with the players. The team invited the fans to the ends of the court to purchase Globetrotter basketballs. There were 3 to choose from. They had small, large, and the commemorative ball with gold writing. Considering a standard souvenir for most special events is about $20, I did not see the $35 cost for the large ball to be terribly over the top however the $70.00 price tag for the commemorative ball was a bit steep. After the game, fans were invited down to surround the court for a meet and greet with the players. The ball came in handy as they took pictures and signed autographs. My son garnered several signatures on his ball which made for a great souvenir.

Photo by Ken Thorp, Stadium Journey

Now was this a flawless endeavor--- by no means. Nothing is ever going to be 100% perfect. As I mentioned earlier, there was a minimal issue with the seats but being that we had some freedom to move around that problem was fixed. As we were waiting for a ball during halftime, they claimed they had run out although I did see 3 left in the bin and I was next online. I explained to the gentleman selling them that we were waiting a while and he just brushed me off as if I was not speaking at all. We had to go across the floor to the other stand to purchase one and wait in line all over again. My son did not seem to mind as we walked past the Globetrotters bench, and he said hello. Lastly, the end of the game player experience was a great idea but completely disorganized and could have been handled far better. Crowds were just gathered in front of players who were understandably overwhelmed but handled it beautifully. Parents were worse than the kids as they tried to weasel in front to get a signature.

Lastly, if you are going to pay a visit to the venue, GET THERE EARLY! There is one way in and one way out of the parking lot. It is a smaller venue so it sounds worse than it is, but you will have a bit of a wait and miss the beginning of the show if you do not give yourself appropriate time. Once we made it into the parking lot, parking and entering the arena was easy. There are luxury suites available for advance purchase and at certain times of the year, they are half-price. I can speak from past experience and say they are very comfortable and offer great views of the entire event.

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