Monday, June 27, 2011

Review: New York Nationals vs Harlem Globetrotters Holiday Special on ESPN Classic (1999)

The nationals name listed up top. Where it belongs!
I was going through my old VHS tapes and found a surprise. It was an old tape of the New York Nationals taking on the Harlem Globetrotters at the Wide World of Sports Complex.

I decided to play it for old times sake, and so it wasn't a complete time killer I figured I would do a review of it as well. Nothing like vintage Generals (or Nationals in this case) to make me feel nostalgic.

The special was copy written 2002 but I assume it is a replay being it was on ESPN classic, because the game was most definitley from their 1999 tour.

As has been well covered on this blog, for 12 years the Washington Generals changed their name to the New York Nationals while still continuing to chase their illusive seventh win against the Globetrotters.

Among the players for the Nationals in this game were future Globetrotter Elijah Hobley, Kevin Thibodeaux, and team captain and long time National Doug Stewart.
They went up against a Globetrotters team that included both of the teams Showmen, Paul Gaffney and Matt Jackson. Both of whom sported the nickname "Showbiz", Glad Big Easy and Special K didn't continue that silly tradition. Clearly for the telecast they combined the Globetrotter touring teams. Gaffney played in the first and last quarter, and Jackson playing the second and third quarter.

I will be honest, this was not one of the Nationals best games. They fell behind by 10 points early and never could bridge the gap enough to really give a contest. The final score being 69-91 Globetrotters. 

Now don't get me wrong, them losing course not a surprise of course, but losing by over 20 points... they are able to keep the game closer than that. This clearly was not a good night for them. 

Both teams did play well this game though, and in fact there was a lot of "legitimate" basketball. Using the older formula as they played mostly straight ball in the beginning and didn't really begin the high jinks until near the end of the first quarter. 

The Nationals played their common solid offence, their defense was better then usual but as always was lackluster by design. The Trotters indecently were on fire with their own defense, the main reason for such a large win. 

A lot of the classic bits were there. With Curly "Boo" Johnson (one of the best dribblers the Trotters have ever had.) did his ream of keep away dribbling, with the Generals all doing their part in the bit perfectly. The weave was also in effect and both teams performed their part in it perfectly. It seemed like they used it less than usual, but it is possibly my nostalgic memory is just thinking it was done more than it actually was.

They also did their reams with the kids, both bringing a little girl out to spin the ball on her finger and a little boy out to shoot a basket. The boy almost stole the show away from Gaffney. It is also surreal to watch it now realizing that those two kids are now in their 20's. I bet they still remember that day fondly.

One disappointing thing, there was no pantsing! It is even a Washignton Generals vs Globetrotter game without the pantsing? I don't know if we just didn't see it, but if the fans in the crowd didn't get to watch a National get his pants pulled down they should consider asking for their money back.

One thing I really liked about this game is that they had a scoreboard on the side of the screen through most of the game. This is something not done enough on Globetrotter telecast. I know it's because most of them are edited after the fact, but it gives the illusion of watching a "real" basketball game a lot more when the score is taken into account.

In fact, I don't know if the game was originally broadcast live but the whole thing definitley felt more like watching a game as it happned, instead of the slick and clearly edited version ESPN2 is currently re-running of the Generals current tour.

The announcers, Sam Smith and Reggie Theus, were not shy to mention the New York Nationals by name when covering the game. A big contrast to the current ESPN2 broadcast that never mention the Washington Generals by name. It adds a lot of credibility to the broadcast by treating them like a team, and not like they came in knowing who would win. It also gives some credit where it's due.

After all, the programs for the Generals/Nationals Games against the Globetrotters may give them just a group shot, instead of the one page per player the Trotters get. But it also mentions the Generals players by name.

All in all it was a good game. I will say I think the current ones on ESPN have been better games though. That being said, I liked the way this one was covered more in that it was treated more like they were covering a sport and the broadcast team seemed to be having a blast.

I do think as a whole the New York National's era of the franchise was definitley a time when the games were in a rut. Not really the playing which was good on both sides, it just felt like they were phoning it in a lot of the time. And while I agree with the Globetrotters approach of "if it isn't broke, don't fix it" on a lot of their reams, I do like that the current team is also willing to try new things in addition to the classic bits.

But as a stand alone broadcast this was a solid and good piece of Washington Generals nostalgia. 

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