Some things best left unchanged

By Kevin Wilson: Freedom New Mexico

I set the flash up like normal. I stood in the same spots. I said hi to the same Greyhound Arena staff.

For all intents and purposes, this was a normal basketball game for me. Except it wasn’t. It was the Harlem Globetrotters. It was the third time I’d seen them, and my first time covering them as a media member.

My first experience with the Globetrotters came when I was in fifth grade. We made the 65-mile trip to Bozeman, Mont., for the Globetrotters, who entertained the capacity crowd while temporarily doubling Montana’s African-American population.

One of the biggest things I remember about the trip is buying the program. It was a large, full-color program with exciting poster-sized photos … and it was only $5. This was a big deal to me, and my dad handed me a $20. I assumed he meant, “Buy a program for you, your brother and both of your parents.” Now, my parents keep their programs in a memory box with baby shoes and old toys to remind me why they never let me borrow money.

Now I can buy my own programs and tickets, but I normally get them for free as a member of the media. Strangely, that was the only thing that really changed.

The jokes were pretty much the same. The big, loud guy they miked up was the last player they introduced, and he pouted about it. He also got de-pantsed, lost his popcorn and took a purse from an audience member.

The only thing that changed was me, as a seasoned and bitter journalist. I remember reading Karl Terry’s interview with one of the Trotters, who said the games weren’t fixed because every once in a while, the Washington Generals have a chance of winning.

With that in mind, I thought, “What if I treated this like a real game?” I could ask for statistics afterwards, and insist on press conferences, which would be the most awkward thing ever.

“OK coach, I hate to second-guess you, but shouldn’t your player have seen that purse gag coming? From my scouting report, he’s done that the last … 249 times you guys have played. Still a mystery? Fine, I won’t quote you on it.

“Now, talk about the turning point of the game, because I thought it was the circle thing they did at the end of each quarter. Which one?

Oh, the one where Mr. Big came in on the backside lob. End of each quarter. Didn’t see that one coming either, huh? No need to get testy, sir, I’m just giving you a chance to respond.

“Still coach, a tough losing skid. Any weaker opponents on the schedule? Playing them every game this season? That’s a rough patch. Good luck, coach.”

There are serious questions I’d have too, like how they recruit the Globetrotters (there was a player from the University of Montana, which means the African-American population has dropped significantly there since he joined the Trotters). Or maybe they could tell me how they recruit the Generals — not exactly my hoop dream growing up.

But even though the jokes were still the same, I laughed just as hard. Maybe it’s best that some things don’t change.

Except, every season, for the names in the programs for which some fifth-grader will buy way too many.