There is no team in organized sports that deserves your respect more than the Washington Generals. The presumed loser of games every time they walk onto a basketball court, over thousands of games. Tortured for decades by indefensible backdoor cuts, alley-oop dunks and confetti-in-the bucket gags, loss after loss, they maintain effort and showmanship through a streak that renders the Cavaliers 26-game losing streak from the 2010-11 season a pittance by comparison.
The NBA owned New Orleans Hornets attempt to trade superstar point guard Chris Paul to the Lakers Thursday this week was thwarted when NBA Comissioner David Stern nullified the trade, citing “basketball reasons”. After the trade was cancelled, Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert sent an email to Stern and several other owners, arguing that the trade was unfair to the league owned franchise. This email leaked from an unknown source to the media.
Many in the media, most notably large market apologist and ESPN NBA writer Bill Simmons, suggested that Comissioner Stern’s decision to stop the trade of Chris Paul was influenced by Gilbert’s email. This, despite the fact that the timestamp on the email was hours after Stern’s decision was made.
Mr. Gilbert was vilified for criticism of the proposed trade and also for his mocking of the threat of a growing lack of parity in the NBA, stating specifically:
“When will we just change the name of 25 of the 30 teams to the Washington Generals?”
The very mention of the Washinton Generals, the touring every game opponent to the touring legendary Harlem Globetrotters, is perhaps the ultimate expression of sports futility, moreso even than reference to the reconstructed post-1999 Cleveland Browns.
Historically, The Generals, named for former President Dwight Eisenhower, have won exactly one game, a January 5, 1971 affair in which the showtime Globetrotters famously lost track of the score, losing 100-99 and ending a 2,495 game winning streak. But in losing by playing fundamentally sound foil to the comic Globetrotters, the Generals, who’s efforts and players are chronicled at http://washingtongeneralsfan.blogspot.com/, play an important role.
The Generals, who are independently owned from the Globetrotters, have never been asked to lose. According to a 2000 interview with the New York Times, Red Klotz, the owner of the Washington Generals was called decades ago by Abe Saperstein, the owner of the Globetrotters:
And the prospect of winning:
“Can we win again?” Klotz said. “If they turn around instead of doing some of the routines, we’d have a chance. You know what I mean. But those routines are what people want to see. They’re giving the audience what they want to see.”
Saturday, and in anticipation of the possibility of complete collapse of NBA parity under the newly ratified NBA Collective Bargining Agreement, Chris Grantland contacted Washington Generals GM, and son-in-law of the Generals owner, John Ferrari. While Klotz, the entrepreneur, himself invited Mr. Gilbert to coach the Washington Generals during upcoming Cleveland Generals-Globetrotters games, General Manager Ferrari’s reaction to Gilbert was magnanimous:
“We’re aware of Mr. Gilbert’s reference to the Generals. We prefer not to think of the team’s losing legacy in terms of a number differential, but in perseverance and effort”.
To be sure, Ferrari added:
“In no way am I being disparaging of the Cavs. I always pull for the underdog. We have all had to push that boulder uphill at times”.
As we stand, in the wake of the lockout, at the foot, staring up at the precipice of a shortened but likely losing season for the Cavaliers, a season in which we may reasonably suspect that there is a likelihood that as many as 50 of the scheduled 66 games will end in a result the Washington Generals are most familiar with. The Cavaliers challenge, the challenge of Head Coach Byron Scott and rookie point guard Kyrie Irving, is to maintain perserverence and effort through what are sure to be the difficulties of this oncoming season. To push for achievable non-Sisyphean goals and for the levelest of playing fields on which to accomplish them.