Trotting into Norfolk

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 9, 2005

Suffolk News-Herald

Since they first hit American courts more than seven decades ago, the Harlem Globetrotters have entertained over 121 million fans. On Friday night, their total increased by a few thousand.

One of the longest-running acts in sports history visited the Old Dominion University’s Constant Center in Norfolk to put on their trademark comedy basketball show for a stadium-load of local caging fans.

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The lights dimmed, and smoke poured out of a corner of the court. Suddenly, the boys in red, white and blue ambled out to the cheers of the crowd, and started doing a high-speed passing and dribbling drill to their unofficial anthem, &uot;Sweet Georgia Brown.&uot; Their resident opponents (and oftentimes verbal punching bags) the New York Nationals got ready to roll. Then resident Clown Prince Paul &uot;Showtime&uot; Gaffney took over.

The Nationals scored, and Gaffney took the inbound pass. Instead of heading down the court with the rest of his teammates, however, he stood still, then turned and shot at his own basket.

Just before Gaffney scored the errant layup, teammate Herbert &uot;Flight Time&uot; Lang raced back up the court and stopped him.

&uot;What are you doing?&uot; Lang demanded. &uot;Our basket’s down there!&uot;

&uot;Maybe,&uot; Gaffney said, &uot;but this one’s much closer!&uot; The crowd cheered and applauded.

After a bit more back-and-forth action, ‘Trotter Antwan Scott used his 6’10&uot; height to fly through the air and nearly shatter the backboard on a slam dunk. The Nationals inbounded, and Gaffney’s mouth started running faster than his sneakers.

&uot;Defense! Defense! Defense!&uot; he shouted to his teammates. &uot;You get him, and you get him, and you get him!&uot;

A smaller National ran past. Gaffney reached out and grabbed him.

&uot;Hey,&uot; he told the surprised opponent. &uot;I got you.&uot;

Official Barry Terry charged forward.

&uot;Foul!&uot; he raged at the scorer’s table. &uot;Foul!&uot;

&uot;Foul?!&uot; an indignant Gaffney said. &uot;On who?&uot;

&uot;On you!&uot; Terry shot back.





&uot;O.K., that’s right,&uot; Gaffney said. &uot;I did it. And I’ll do it again.&uot;

After disrupting play by blasting the timekeeper’s horn, Gaffney let his rage back out. A Lang raced through the paint, and was grabbed by a National. Terry called a jump ball.

&uot;A jump ball?!&uot; Gaffney said in disbelief. &uot;That was a foul!&uot;

Undaunted, the official repeated his claim. But Gaffney wasn’t through, storming over to a line of people sitting courtside.

&uot;Foul!&uot; he roared, grabbing a youngster’s drink and hurling it across the court. Then Gaffney picked up a box of popcorn and launched it. Then he yanked off the child’s shoes and fired them at Terry.

Then he picked up the kid. Fortunately, Lang was there to save the youth – and the team swept the kid’s food back from the floor into the box and handed it back to him.

Just before the half ended, Gaffney took an inbound pass near midcourt. A National hurried up and raised his arms around his opponent.

&uot;What are you doing?&uot; asked an angry Gaffney.

&uot;Playing defense,&uot; said the bewildered opponent.

&uot;Well,&uot; Gaffney said, &uot;could you move your arm?&uot;

Unsure of what to do, the opponent slowly walked away. And just before the buzzer sounded, Gaffney launched a long, two-handed underhand shot that tickled the twine and sent the crowd hysterical on the way to yet another sure victory.