It's the Little Sport that Could: Basketball! Once a second-tier game with a minor following, basketball is about to hit the big time!
With the growth of the new American Basketball League, this lesser-known American sport, invented a while back in the Midwest by Dr. James Naismith, is getting a new influx of money and a new surge of interest outside of the small gymnasiums, churches, and college circuits.
For those who haven't seen the game, the goal (no pun intended) is to get a round ball into a small basket atop a pole. It's more challenging than it looks, particularly with some six-foot behemoth between it and you.
Those who have seen it, particularly those of us who have followed New York City's amazing Original Celtics [pictured, no relation to the Boston team; image from nbahoopsonline.com] know what an exciting game it can be, particularly in the last few minutes of a close game.
Watching Nat Holman in action is like watching basketball personified. He's like "Mr. Basketball". But he's not alone: this Original Celtics squad alone features talents like big Joe Lapchick, John Beckman (the "Babe Ruth of Basketball"), George "Horse" Haggerty, and speedy Davey Banks.
And with this new American League things may very well pick up. Now dozens of teams proliferate across the country, from the Baltimore Orioles to the Washington Palace Five. A score of new talents is taking to the court for a non-stop scramble of an event requiring as level of strategy and coordination you'd never have assumed for such a small playing area (hardly much larger than a tennis court!).
Yet once again the best talents may be the ones you won't see. Our Colored brothers in Harlem have taken to the sport and love the game like no one else as a wholesome alternative to the scandal-ridden, gambling-tied sports of baseball and football.
Starting in church basements, the sport has spread like wildfire there and produced incredible talents. I'd venture the best in the world! Even the mighty Original Celtics have fallen to the Negro powerhouse known as the New York Renaissance, or "Rens" [pictured; image from digitalharlemblog.wordpress.com].
The Rens can barnstorm with the best of 'em, out of Harlem and across the nation to show off the unrivaled talent of Clarence "Fats" Jenkins, Pappy Ricks, Eyre Saitch, Charles "Tarzan" Cooper, Bill Yancey, and "Wee" Willie Smith.
And I'm happy to say that the sport's small venues and dim spotlight have allowed the White and Black teams to mix and mingle. Unlike Baseball, where we will never know if Satchel can ever strike out the Bambino, we know exactly what happens when the Rens face off against the Original Celtics. This may deprive the future generations of the ancient art of debating what historical team was best without inconvenient things like facts to disrupt a good gut argument, but for us lucky few here today it means outstanding sports!
Yes, basketball; it may be a small sport, but it has some egalitarian quality to it that I like. Not only have we seen some integrated play, but we even have women's leagues! Not to mention it is an inherently team-based sport with no obvious front man or big swinger. If you can't learn to pass the ball, you'll never win even if you were able to somehow jump high enough to just stuff the ball into the hoop.
I wish it the best.
Note: some of the "facts" in this video are wrong; see if you can guess which ones!
And it's time to bid you all adieu, folks. I'm off to watch a game with a talented young Harlem team that just relocated here from Chicago called the Globe Trotters. Sweet Georgia Brown those boys have talent! And I have no idea why the song Sweet Georgia Brown always goes through my head when I watch them.
Anyhoo, today's cocktail is another great "highball", the Snowball. Good for summer or winter alike.
[image from in-the-spirit.co.uk]
Shake Brandy, Simple Syrup, and Egg vigorously over ice and strain into a highball or Collins glass. Top with Ginger Ale.
And here's Sweet Georgia Brown (you might recognize this song from somewhere). Rare original movie recording with Ben Bernie and the world's first recorded sax solo!
And once more with Satchmo, because, damn, listen to this!