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The Night the Washington Generals Beat the Harlem Globetrotters

From: Cream City Review
Volume 36, Number 1, Spring/Summer 2012
pp. 106-111 | 10.1353/ccr.2012.0047

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First, the team name that night was the Reds. The New Jersey Reds. They were all the same team, and we were usually called the Washington Generals, but we had a couple jerseys and we’d swap them out so it’d look like a few different teams were playing. Different numbers, the equipment manager would come around and toss you a jersey and that was yours for that night. No names on the back. I don’t know when it was that they gave up with pretending there were different teams, but it was after I was on the squad. I only played two years, then I hurt my knee. My rehab nurse, a pretty little number with bright red hair, took a liking to me. She brought me a brochure for a community college where she got her nursing degree. I enrolled, thinking I’d impress her. I tried to go back to the team but I couldn’t get off the bench. My knee still bothered me a lot. Water would collect there. It still hurts me sometimes today. I got real interested in accounting, and ended up following that. And that pretty little nurse, that redheaded nurse will have been my wife for thirty-eight years this February. And put in there that we have two beautiful children, and five wonderful—

Okay. Sure, I understand. A girl from the student paper at the college down the road interviewed me about that game. That was probably three years ago by now. I could find the article if you’re interested. Okay, that’s fine.

That game was in January of 1971. 1970? No, 1971. I don’t remember the exact date. I bet you could get on the Internet and find that in a snap. Me, I log on and I can’t figure out—

I played center. I think I scored about 40 points that day. The Globetrotters never did play much defense. I bet they still don’t. I haven’t seen one of their games in many, many years. When my son was 9 or 10, he wanted to go. I told my wife, I said, “You take him. I don’t need to see that stuff even one more time.”

Not exactly. Think of it like professional wrestling. Is Hulk Hogan still wrestling? My son used to love him.

The connection is no one ever says, “Go out and lose tonight,” but you just get a feeling from the people around you. Your job is to make it look all right. If you were a Washington General—or a New Jersey Red, like us that night, and I think it was the Boston Shamrocks, and there was a team from Atlantic City called the Sea Gulls—you had to look like you came to play just a regular game of basketball. Like you never heard of the Harlem Globetrotters before. If they stopped playing to run up in the stands and throw buckets of confetti at each other, so be it. I mean it’s ridiculous—they’re bringing in a step ladder, they’re lining up like football players to hike the ball to each other like a bunch of ninnies. If you’re not going to call traveling, you can’t at least keep them from bringing a ladder onto the court?

[Pause] If I’m being really honest, some things about that time I didn’t enjoy much. It was great to play basketball for a living. But a man doesn’t like to lose all the time, night after night after night. He doesn’t feel like he has anything to play for anymore. I don’t mind telling you that. I earn a comfortable living, I’m respected at my place of employment, and I should be able to retire in a couple years, knock on wood. [Knocks on table] And here I am in my armchair, there’s a fire going in the fireplace, I helped raise two kids who’re raising a bunch of terrific kids of their own, and here the love of my life is bringing me a whiskey with just a little bit...



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