Saturday, May 7, 2011

Why I Love The Washington Generals

Picture 079
Photo by Dinur Blum. Used under
Creative Commons.
A friend of mine recently asked me why I was a Washington Generals fan. Actually, she wasn't much of sports fan in general, so her actual question went more like, "So why are you a fan of these Generals guys and not the Globe Tingamajigs." Still, the intent was the same.

So it begs the question, what is it about a team that has lost over 10,000 games and counting to the same team, and had their last win against them all the way back in 1971, that I felt was worth paying tribute to with this blog? That is a fair question, but to me it is all about whether you put the value of the Generals on their stats (which without argument is not a pretty site), or what the team truly is.

Growing up I have always been a fan of the underdog, the guy not expected to win, the one who tries even when the odds are against them. It has always been an American tradition to rood for the underdog, whether it is the 1980 US Hockey Team beating the U.S.S.R. (A win not unlike the Generals fabled 1971 win.), if Charlie Brown will finally win a baseball game, if Rocky Balboa can win his next Boxing match, or Custer at Little Big Horn. American's always love the underdog.

In fact for a more contemporary example, you can look to YouTube singer Rebecca Black. Rebecca is a 13 year old aspiring singer, who after releasing a single and YouTube video was universally panned as the worst song ever with over 2 1/2 million dislikes. Yet she has amassed a strong and growing fan base for her inability to let the critics get her down and refusal to give up her dream.

I think it was this love for those who try to buck the odds that I took with me when at 9 years old my parents took me to see my first Globetrotter game. Up until that time all I knew the Globetrotters as was "those guys who helped Scooby Doo." Imagine my surprise to find out they were in fact real life people!

As my parents drove me to the game I asked the logical question, "Who are they playing?". Being the early 80's my home town of Oklahoma City was a long way from being the place the OKC Thunder would one day call home. So who was a basketball team coming here to face?

It was then that they explained to me about The Washington Generals. A team that traveled around the world facing the Globetrotters in every city. Yes friends... these were the sworn enemies of the guys who twice helped out Scooby Doo, and rescued Gilligan! With that in mind you would think I had found a team to boo for life. After all, the Globetrotters had Daffney and Shaggy for friends, who did the Generals have to speak on their behalf?

But as I sat in the arena waiting for the game to start and flipping through the program I saw a site others might remember as well. It was a picture of Red Klotz and the rest of the Generals sitting in their locker room looking over a blackboard. On one side of the blackboard the Globetrotters name was written with marks underneath it, each one representing their many victories against the Generals, and on the Generals side one lone mark signifying a win made before I was even born.

Suddenly it hit me, these weren't bad guys. This wasn't a team that hated Scooby Doo. This was a team who traveled the world facing off against a team who constantly beat them. But did they give up? No, they dusted themselves off and got back up again ready to try one more time. It's easy to win every day, but to loose every day yet never give up... that was something that spoke to me. It was also something easily admirable to a young child, who knew all to well the feeling of always coming up short in a world ruled by adults.

As the game went on I laughed at the antics, cracked up when the Globetrotters pulled the pants off of the hapless opponents, defied gravity with their trick shots and slam dunks, and even ducked as they faked out the crowd for the thousandth time with the infamous buckets of confetti. But as this went on I clapped every time the Generals scored a goal wondering if maybe, just maybe, they could beat the odds once more and add another check mark to that almost empty win column.

Sadly that night did not belong to the Generals, but even without being able to say I witnessed a history making moment I had a blast and still fondly remember that game to this day.

As the years went on I saw the Generals take on the Globetrotters time after time. And as I grew older and learned more about the underdogs I secretly cheered for, I came to realize how truly amazing and under appreciated a team they really were.

The Globetrotters are well known as the "Ambassadors of Basketball" for their travels all over the world introducing them to the great sport it is. And that is very much the truth, but you know who else has been right there with them the whole time? That's right, their constant opponents The Washington Generals. The Globetrotters may get all the glory for introducing Basketball to millions of fans all over the world, but they couldn't have done it without their constant adversaries right there with them.

And lets not forget their owner Red Klotz, a man who played with the Generals until the age of 63, and that is not even counting his prior basketball career before forming the Generals. A man who's career ran longer than any of the Globetrotters and is likely the longest career as a professional basketball player anyone has ever had. Surly with more than 13,000 games to his record, he has scored the most career point of anyone. Having played longer than any of the Globetrotters some would argue Klots may be the true world ambassador of basketball.

And lets not forget the other players. In the time they have been around, the Generals have had players who went on to play for the Globetrotters themselves, the NBA, and even briefly had an Olympic medalist don the green and yellow.

So how has a team that has gone on to host so many talented athletes become known to so many as "losers"? Frankly, because some people simply don't get what it is about the Generals that has made them in fact one of the winningnest teams in sports.

Their job is not, nor has it ever been to win championships. Like their long time rivals their job is to entertain a crowd. The fans may come to see the Globetrotters but it's the generals who see to it that the Trotters always do their best. It is the generals who are there to give the fans a foil to root against. And it is the Generals who are there to take the falls, the humiliation, and be the straight man the Globetrotters need to entertain the crowd. Much like Laurel would the nothing without Hardy and Gracie Allen would have been lost without George Burns, the Globetrotters would not be what they are today without the Generals.

Besides, lets all be honest. While most of us strive to be the Harlem Globetrotters of life, I think at the end of the day we all end up more as the Generals of life. But you know what? I am fine with that. Because what the Generals have taught me most of all is that if you do your best and "play to win" you are the true winner in life, not matter what the scoreboard says.


Photo Taken by Dinur Blum on 3/27/2009 Used via Flickr

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