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The definition of Globetrotter is fun

It was all there, just like I remembered it from a visit to what we then called the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum Complex four decades ago.

There was the wizardry with the basketball, the player defending from atop the basket rim, the awestruck kids dragged onto the court, the water bucket filled with paper, the portly referee and, of course, "Sweet Georgia Brown." The Harlem Globetrotters were in town and, for one magical night, we were all kids again.

The traveling court circus stopped by Santa Rosa Junior College last week on a tour of the Bay Area that included stops in Oakland and San Jose.

Thanks to the fortuitous tardiness of my companion, we managed to parlay our general admission tickets into courtside seats right under the basket where we could see every pratfall, dunk, dribble and dance. It was an awesome show.

Of course, today's Globetrotters are a major production. They have several teams playing in different parts of the country and the world simultaneously. They have been featured on television, and even had their own animated cartoon show. They are a merchandising dream with their trademark red, white and blue basketballs ($60 a ball), jerseys, head bands, sweat bands and much more. They have a whole litany of sponsors from Greyhound Bus Lines to Wonderful Pistachios (hence the "Get Crackin'" theme at their games). They even have a sponsorship deal with Inner Mongolia Mengniu Dairy Industry, a manufacturing and distribution company of dairy products in the People's Republic of China. It is all very big business.

It is also very good basketball. The Globetrotters are amazing athletes with court skills polished to machine perfection. Every move on the court, from the delicate dribbling to the thunderous dunks, is done with symphonic perfection.

Incidentally, their opponents/straight men, the International Elite, are pretty darn good basketball players in their own right.

But for the packed audience at SRJC and at other venues around the world, the Globetrotters aren't about business. They aren't really about basketball.

What they are about is happiness. There is no disguising the look on a youngster's face when he is called on the court to help in one of the team's gags. It is a gaze of mixed bliss and awe. The chosen adults may appear shy or full of themselves. The kids are just plain euphoric. For many adults, it is hard to remember a feeling like those kids are experiencing.

But you don't have to be a kid to enjoy the show. For two hours we were all lost in the excitement of the moments. In case you've forgotten, the feeling is called fun.


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