Today’s questions

The bj-league’s “professional” actions are often amateurish.

To wit:

Why should Shiga and Kyoto have six hours less rest and recovery time between Games 1 and 2 of their playoff series than Fukuoka and Shimane? How is that fair and reasonable?


In the news

I’m delighted to share this story with you. It’s nice to have the opportunity to write a magazine piece on Japanese hoops for the first time.

It’s good exposure for the sport and hopefully it will help spark greater interest in the bj-league and JBL, and lead to some necessary (progressive) changes for the betterment of the sport.

What’s it like playing the Harlem Globetrotters day after day after day?

It was interesting to gain the perspective from one of the Harlem Globetrotters’ longtime foes.

Nationals don’t mind their role

By Ed Odeven

FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. (March 9, 2001) — The Harlem Globetrotters continue their tricks…. as the New York Nationals continue to be second wheels. But the Nationals players love their jobs.

Minutes after their latest one-sided defeat to the “Ambassadors of Goodwill” on Sunday, the New York Nationals strolled back to their locker room without fan fare or post-game adoration.

To call the Nationals the Rodney Dangerfield of basketball would be an understatement. But that’s to be expected.

Bud Abbott needed Lou Costello as much as Michael Jordan needed Scottie Pippen.

A truly great act relies on role players, those that are willing to accept a supporting role to help the stars shine.

That’s been the plight of the New York Nationals since the early 1950s when Globetrotters’ founder Abe Saperstein and businessman Red Klotz started the club.

Indeed, the Harlem Globetrotters are not expected to lose. It occurs about as often as a convention of urbane yodelers in Walla Walla, Washington. (When they were beaten by the defending NCAA champion Michigan State Spartans in November, the Globetrotters’ 1,270-game-winning streak came to an end. However, that game was a typical showdown between opponents. The Globetrotters customary antics and slapstick comedy were missing in action as they returned to their barnstorming roots for a spirited battle – in a 74-68 loss.)

That trend continued Sunday afternoon in a game at the Fort Huachuca army base’s Barnes Field House in Sierra Vista, Ariz. –a town approximately an hour’s drive from Tucson. The Globetrotters won 87-54.

Unlike the score of competitors who lose their cool after being defeated, Nationals player-coach Troy Pennington offers a different perspective.

“It’s a great job to have,” he said during a post-game interview. “You get to travel all around the world and the country to play a game that you love to play. It’s the best of both worlds. I really enjoy it a lot.”

Who can blame him?

Since joining the Nationals in 1994, Pennington has been to 33 countries and has a lifetime of memories to share with family and friends.

His favorite destinations?

Playing before Nelson Mandela in a post-apartheid South Africa in 1996, he said, adding that a game in Sao Paolo, Brazil in front of 28,000 fans was an experience he’ll never forget.

“I save everything, poster and stuff like that,” he said with a smile, “so when I get my own little place I’ll have a lot of memories and lots of stuff for my kids to see.”

An easy-going bachelor, Pennington starred at Methodist College in Fayetteville, North Carolina, finishing as the team’s second-leading scorer in his senior season of 1994. He contemplated earning a living playing professionally overseas, and while waiting for the opportunity to go to Europe he submitted a resume to the Nationals.

In 1994, Pennington was invited to a tryout in Albany, N.Y. and earned a spot on the roster.

A better option

Although the fame and fortune of the National Basketball Association was beyond his reach, Pennington said he has no regrets – and doesn’t second-guess himself — about becoming a National.

“A lot of our guys looked to go overseas and play, but this is a lot better because overseas you’re gone eight months out of the year,” he said. “(With this team), we’re gone we come home, we’re gone we come home. This is a lot better.”

Still, the Nationals’ schedule is grueling enough (98 games in 102 days this winter/spring).

After departing from Fort Huachuca on Sunday, the Nationals and Globetrotters were headed to Florence, Alabama for a Monday night contest.

Familiar foes

Facing the Globetrotters on a daily basis doesn’t lose its luster, according to Pennington. He says the Nationals are always motivated to sneak up and snatch a victory over their long-time nemesis.

“You want to come out every night and play hard and give 110 percent,” he said. “Some nights the shots fall, some nights they don’t. If we don’t win yesterday, we’ll suit it up (tomorrow) and try it again.”

Give the Nationals credit. They are not the feature attraction, but they come out day in and day out and do what they gotta do within the confines of their limited role.

“The people know whether or not we can play,” Pennington said. “When they see the game they know we have athletes, and the Globetrotters have great athletes. We’re just here to put on a good show…”

Spectators routinely laugh, cheer and roar to the Globetrotters’ dizzying, dazzling display of showmanship. The Nationals grin and bear it.

“They’ve got some trick plays we still haven’t figured out yet. Once we figure them out, maybe we’ll get a victory,” Pennington said.

Easier said than done, eh?

By Ed Odeven
Published: 3/9/2001

Thought of the day

This makes no sense at all: The bj-league had one Best Five team when there were six teams (2005-06) and now there are 16, but still only a single Best Five team.  There will be 20 teams next season and the assumption is this: The league’s awards/honors representation will remain truly inadequate.

Memo to the bj-league’s brain trust (I’m using that term lightly): Reward the players and give the fans something to appreciate by adding a second Best Five team. It’s called progress and it showcases a league’s quality players, giving them motivation to excel, too.

Thought of the day

There will be days when I’m not in a “rip-the-bj-league mood.”

Today is not one of those days.

I see the league stuck in a situation where the leadership vacuum is hurting its ability to gain a respectable following among the media and be able to educate the public about its players, personalities, trends, fans, coaches, all of whom are vital to gaining respectability.

When the league needs to be pro-active and aggressive in gaining new beat writers and hard-core feature writers, it does things at a snail-like pace far too often.

To wit:

The bj-league still has zero media participation for voting for its MVP and other important awards, not even separate awards for the media to choose.

Those at the league office should be ashamed of themselves for not seeing the big picture.

Does the league actually want to be viewed as a legitimate (translation: REAL) pro league? Well, the way it operates, in many ways, provides the opposite definition.

Revisiting a story

Some columns disappear in the back of one’s mind, but when they are read again the smallest details and memories come zooming back.

Such was the case with this one, penned in 2007.

Of the 97 Hoop Scoop columns to date in nearly five years, this was one of the most challenging ones to write. I was blessed to have the opportunity to write it.

The story details the Niigata Albirex BB’s work to help in the earthquake relief efforts in the summer that year.

Thought of the day

Season No. 6 is coming to an end for the bj-league, and there is still no official press association or league-sanctioned writers club. It’s truly pathetic that something that can benefit the league and the sport has not been set up yet, and that the league doesn’t support this kind of project. Again: the league is shooting itself in the foot by taking a passive — foolish — stance toward the media.