Last night, Salt Lake City played host to that most bitter of basketball rivalries– the Harlem Globetrotters vs. the Washington Generals. My son Rex and I were lucky enough to watch the game play out with my father-in-law, from the sixth row. The Salt Lake City crowd ended up squarely on the side of the Globetrotters, despite the more workmanlike style of the Generals, which is typically preferred by Utah basketball fans. Cheered on by a half-full arena, the Globetrotters were able to pull out a closer-than-it-sounds victory over Washington, 84 to 70, after a game whose outcome remained very much in doubt through the final two minutes. When we got home I turned on the post-game to see what the players had to say and was shocked to see Generals power forward and Team Captain, Marvin McCullough, read the following statement to the press:
To the Commissioner, members of the media, and fans of the game everywhere:
In the three years I have worn the uniform of the Washington Generals, I have played 360 games.* I have also lost 360 games. And every last one of them came at the hands of the Harlem Globetrotters. I knew when I came into this league that the Generals did not have a tradition of winning, but I thought that with enough hard work and dedication, I might be able to turn that tradition around with the help of our coach and my teammates. I have given the last three years of my career to achieving those goals, and sadly, today, after yet another difficult and frustrating loss, I have concluded that those goals cannot be achieved in this league as presently constituted. I have always tried to keep my mouth shut and let my play speak for me, but it is now clear that no one pays attention to what your play is saying when you are being pantsed while bringing the ball up the court. So, though I may be fined by the commissioner, or suspended, or have my heart-printed boxer shorts exposed once again to thousands of laughing fans, I feel I must come forward and speak truth about the dire problems facing this league that so many have worked so hard to build.
1. Star Treatment. As everyone knows, there is only one superstar in this league: Big Easy Lofton. He’s the one player that is mic’d the whole game, and the one with all the really good gags. But this is no reason to give him special treatment. Night after night, Big Easy pinches the referee’s bottom, puts him through a full eye exam, and throws buckets of confetti at him, yet despite this, Big Easy still holds the league record for the fewest technical fouls over his career (tie- all Globetrotters, ever). While Generals players treat the referee with respect, Globetrotters stars consistently yap at him, insult his mama, and try to make him dance with the mascot, but without any consequences. While we assume Big Easy and others are fined for their envelope-pushing behavior, this can never be known for sure until the league makes public its fining decisions.
2. Values. Washington Generals play the game ‘the right way.’ We focus on fundamentals, make hard cuts and screens, crash the boards, and make good passes. Although in our fifty-eight year history we have never been able to defend the three man weave play or find the ball when it has been hidden up the backs of our jerseys, we have given the game our all, and waited for the rewards. Meanwhile, while we are practicing footwork and post moves, the Globetrotters are practicing half-court hook shots and four man bounce dunks. I know this because the only shots they take in our games are half-court hook shots and four man bounce dunks. This league rewards showboating and hot-dogging over basketball fundamentals, and the fans can smell the phoniness. I find it harder and harder to explain our lack of success to the little kids I meet that have grown up dreaming, like I did, of one day becoming a Washington General. Now that our losing streak has far surpassed 10,000 consecutive games, some of us are wondering if playing ‘the right way,’ even matters. And while it may help us score points in the short run, I cannot support our coach’s new strategy of hypnotizing Globetrotter players during time outs, using his spiral-patterned umbrella, and then telling them to score the ball on our basket. This always gets us a few points, but it only seems to anger the crowd, and the Globetrotters usually find a way to de-hypnotize the player before he can do serious damage.
3. Parity. Once upon a time, there was some modicum of parity in this league. I’m talking about the days when the Generals would sometimes win, like 1962, when we got our first win, and in 1971, when we got our second, and last win. Back in those days, there was a sense that any team could win on any given decade. But nowadays, it’s like the big-market, high-payroll, razzle dazzle Globetrotters are declared the winner before the opening tip-off (I’m talking about the real tip-off, not the one with the beach ball that Big Easy secretly plants in the ref’s hands right before he throws it up). If this game is to survive, the league needs to ensure that all of the teams have a chance of winning. The draft process needs to be fine-tuned, a salary cap instituted, and even perhaps a luxury tax on teams who score more than 4 points a game by using little kids they have pulled out of the crowd. Plus, it’s just obvious that if we can have like six white guys on our team, they should have to have at least one.
I want to wrap this up by thanking my teammates, who, despite the tremendous obstacles they face, still display great heart each and every night. We believe in each other, and we believe each night that we can come away with a win for the good fans of Washington, D.C. However, I believe that sometime around the 10,000th consecutive loss, there seems to have been a culture of losing that has seeped into our locker room. People putting their heads down when we get behind, or guys lagging on defense after Big Easy does his farting football routine. (Man, I really hate that guy). Does anyone know what it is like to lose 120 games every year, night in, night out? It takes a toll, especially on a player with pride in his team, and those who don’t like being tickled. These players deserve better than to be stranded on a perpetually losing ball club, let alone to be told nightly over the public address system “Dude, you ugly!” in front of thousands of hysterically laughing fans. The owner, Mr. Klotz, needs to seriously consider blowing up the team and rebuilding (perhaps around a new centerpiece, assuming someone like Big Easy could be obtained by the Generals in a trade)
In short, while I and my team-mates care about this league, we intend to go on strike until the league takes steps to address the rampant corruption, favoritism, hot-dogging, and long pauses in game action for light-hearted, family-friend comedy bits.
I just saw in the newspaper today that the league has issued a tersely worded statement this morning as well: “This league takes very seriously any accusations of corruption or unfairness. We are investigating Mr. McCullough’s very serious charges as we speak. However, we believe that Mr. McCullough’s statement may have been prompted more by the fact that tonight he had his whole uniform hilariously ripped off in the middle of the game, instead of just being pantsed as usual. The league thinks Mr. McCullough needs to just lighten up and keep trying, and maybe someday the Generals can stop getting embarrassed by the infinitely funnier and more talented and more famous and gregarious Harlem Globetrotters!”
Asked for comment, Big Easy stated simply “Marvin who? That dude is so uuuuuugly!” and reporters just laughed and laughed.
*The numbers in this statement are real. That is, in three years, the Generals would have lost approximately 360 games. And yes, it is also true that their losing streak is now somewhere above 10,000 games. And yes, their only wins took place in 1962 and 1971.