Two-Handed Popcorn Grabs, No-Handed Dinosaurs, and a Complete Disregard for the Rules: Four Quarters with the Harlem Globetrotters

PopcornMy 2-year-old Audrey had never been to a live sporting event until this past weekend.

The Harlem Globetrotters were in town and her soon-to-be 3-year-old friend Max was going, so the timing seemed right to put aside my fears of putting her in such an environment and introduce her to the magical world of live basketball.

Because, how much trouble could a toddler get into after all?  Not much, right?  Right?

Pregame

The game was being held in Boston’s TD Garden so naturally our first step was to get Audrey into the big city.  We parked at my wife’s employer’s parking garage and made the fifteen-minute walk to the arena, along which we saw two items of great import to a 2-year-old:

  1. Duck Boats:  Cars that can turn into boats and then back into cars again?  AMAZING.  Audrey has always been fascinated by vehicles, and boats and cars are no exception.  But I can confirm the melding of the two into some bizarre hybrid super transport machine is capable of completely blowing the mind of a toddler.  It took some effort to move her along to the game after seeing these marvels of modern engineering.
  2. T-Rex’s Tiny Little Hands:  Our walk took us alongside the Museum of Science, outside of which is a towering statue of a T-Rex.  Naturally we drew Audrey’s attention to it.  It’s a dinosaur.  But we didn’t expect her to say this:  “No hands.”  I explained that T-Rex did have hands, albeit tiny ones, but what I got back was another “No hands.”

Okay then.  Let’s move on.

Upon arriving at the Garden we met Max and his parents.  Max was decked out in a bright yellow sporty jumpsuit and headband.  He was clearly ready to party.  So was Audrey, and seconds later the two were running around the concourse, communicating in a shrill dolphin-like manner, and basically just going bananas.

And this was all before the game even began.

First Quarter

The interior of a modern day arena is brimming with sensory delights.  Thousands of people are all crammed together, music is being blasted, and, in this case at least, there’s an MC on the court getting everyone all riled up for a basketball game that celebrates the blatant disregard for rules and regulations.  But none of that mattered to Audrey.  What mattered was:

THE BIGGEST, MOST AMAZING TELEVISION SCREEN IN THE ENTIRE WORLD.

Zombie-like is the best way to describe my daughter’s personality upon bathing in its hypnotic light.  It didn’t matter that she could watch the same thing on the court live in front of her.  No, she was going to watch that big, beautiful, bright television screen.  Nothing else mattered.  Which was a shame because I was busy trying to figure out where the heck the Washington Generals were.  In the weeks preceding the game I was telling everyone I could that I thought the Generals were finally due for a win, and that I was going to witness it in person.  But I didn’t get the Generals.  Instead I got a team called the Global Select.

It appears that in an attempt to go more international the “Globies” have abandoned their longtime nemeses for a team just as inept as they were.  My excitement had been tempered.  Just a bit though.  After all, you don’t go to these games to watch the losers.  You go to see the winners.

Or the biggest television screen in the world.

Second Quarter

The Globetrotters were tossing in some crazy rules in this game and in the second quarter all points were doubled.  This resulted in a preposterous halftime score of 94 to 81.  All that scoring was pretty exciting, but it didn’t hold a candle to good ol’ sodium-rich arena popcorn.

Audrey’s unbroken focus on the television screen was shattered the moment Max’s folks showed up with a box of popcorn.  Max, being a sophisticated older gentlemen handled himself well, but Audrey?  A nitro-fueled, two-handed popcorn blitzkrieg.  I have never seen my daughter eat with such vim and vigor, and frankly it was a bit terrifying.  It was like watching a pack of starving lions descend on a gazelle and rip it apart.  She was an animal.  A wild, popcorn-hunting carnivore.

Popcorn 1

Scary.

Third Quarter

As we all know from the song, buses have wheels.  And, as it is said, sometimes those wheels do fall off.  It was in the third quarter that this happened to us.  The Globetrotters started the quarter playing with two basketballs—TWO BASKETBALLS—but it didn’t matter to Audrey.  With all that fat and sodium in her system, what mattered to Audrey was:

  • Playing with Max’s “Thomas the Train” toys.  Did you know that it’s fun to roll a toy train’s wheels over the back of the innocent bystander that had the bad luck of paying for seats in front of two popcorn-addled children?
  • Knocking a stranger’s purse onto the floor.  Those poor folks in front of us.  Not only were they getting the Thomas the Train Treatment, their purses were interfered with as well.  No one actually reached into the purse, but I was embarrassed nonetheless.  Thankfully they had a young child as well, and I think there was an unspoken understanding between us that kids will be kids.  Yep, they will.
  • Flopping on the floor.  Trying to keep your overstimulated daughter from starting World War III with some folks just trying to be entertained leads to a lot of frustration.  And Audrey didn’t like to be held back from getting into more trouble.  This led to Tantrum Time.  Thank god it was loud in there at least.

Fourth Quarter

Back to Zombieville.  Audrey’s reservoir of energy had run out and the god-like television had her in its grasp yet again.  This time, however, I was okay with it.  We were all tired and it was nice to be past the ordeal of the third quarter.

The Globetrotters also won the game.  Imagine that.

Postgame

When the game was over we said our goodbyes to Max and his parents and made the walk back to the car.  Audrey had found her second (third?) wind by this point and wanted me to pick her up and chase after cars.  After much consideration I decided not to run out into the busy road with my daughter and pursue them.  Instead we focused on the no-handed T-Rex again and some more duck boats.

The rest of the day involved a lot of blank stares, very little talking, and a little something called “Lady and the Tramp”.  We were all bushed and it was nice to let the rest of the day play out peacefully.

On the whole it was a good day.  Much fun was had despite the intermittent frustrations.  But I can’t help but think about the great divide in what constitutes fun and entertainment between the old and the young.  Audrey didn’t need a big expensive day out at the Garden to have fun.  All she needed was a friend.  And maybe some popcorn.  That was it.  But that was enough to make it a special day.  That was all she needed to be entertained.  And while I certainly do not regret going to see the Globetrotters, I will use this day as an example of the different values toddlers hold in regards to entertainment.

As adults we’ve already seen so many movies, shows, events, etc. that it takes more and more to make us happy.  But a 2-year-old?  It doesn’t take much at all.  Everything is so new and fresh in the world that even a box of popcorn can provide endless happiness.

And I can’t help but feel a bit jealous about that.  A child’s sense of wonder is something we all could use a little more of, I think.

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