If there are two things that are universal, it’s humor and basketball. So the Harlem Globetrotters have all angles covered.
The venerable touring jugglers/ball handlers glided into Israel last week for three shows – two in Tel Aviv and one in Jerusalem. An international institution since 1926, the Globetrotters have showcased their iconic talents in 120 countries on six continents.
I saw them a few times growing up in New England, with the legendary team featuring Meadowlark Lemon and Curly Neal. So I was psyched to take my 11-year-old basketball-loving son to see them in Jerusalem.
And happily, aside from a few more showbiz hip-hop moments, the general premise was still intact – some amazing magicianship with the ball, tons of laughs, incredible baskets, and good, clean fun.
The names had changed – Hi-Lite was the Meadowlark funnyman-frontman, and Flip Atkins was the limber gymnast flipping around the court like he was on coils. But the game remained the same, down to the bucket of water chasing around the court during the break skit that ended up with confetti on the adoring crowd.
One ‘only in Israel’ moment occurred when Hi-Lite went into the crowd and came back with a women’s purse for some cross-dressing fun. He then asked the owner of the purse, Dina, to come to mid-court to regain her possession It turned out that, like much of the audience, she was religiously observant, wearing a head covering and a skirt.
She was a good sport, dancing with Hi-Lite and playing the straight woman to his Groucho Marx. However, when he thanked Dina and told her to give him a kiss, that’s where she drew the line.
“I can’t,” she said.
“Why not,” asked Hi-Lite.
“I can only kiss my husband.”
“Your husband? Is he here? Show him to me.”
They walked back to the stand and he shook hands with the husband, and turned back to Dina. “That’s your husband? Good luck to you!” And he gave her big hug, and returned to the court for the resumption of the game.
Of course, the Globetrotters won the game handily, against their worthy but hand picked opponents. And by the looks on the children, and adults leaving Malha auditorium, everyone went away happy. Even Dina and her husband.