By Peter Schwartz
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There are so many memories that I will always cherish from the 43-year run of the old Nassau Coliseum.
Whether it was Islanders hockey, concerts, family shows, arena football or indoor soccer, “the old barn” will always hold a special place in my heart.
When you think about it, there were many wonderful traditions that were passed down from generation to generation inside that building.
Including the Harlem Globetrotters.
“One of the things that has kept the Globetrotters around so long is being able to bridge the gap between generations,” Globetrotters guard “Flight Time” Lang recently told WFAN.com.
My dad took me to see the Globetrotters many times at the coliseum and it was always a great time. I took my older son, Bradley, for the first time when he was younger and now my wife and I will get to take our younger son, Jared, for the first time.
The new Nassau Coliseum opens for business next Wednesday with a Billy Joel concert and the Globetrotters will play there for the first time on Friday April 14.
“I’m familiar with the old arena because we always used to play doubleheaders out there,” said Lang, now in his 18th season with the Globetrotters. “I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what the new arena looks like. It’s always a lot of fun out there on Long Island and I hope the fans will come out and, hopefully, we can break that building in correctly with some great basketball.”
There are many people who wondered why the coliseum even needed to be renovated or kept open in any way without the Islanders, who relocated to Barclays Center in Brooklyn prior to the 2015-16 season. But hockey was just a part of the coliseum’s history and while the building was being renovated, Long Island residents had to travel elsewhere for other events that were regularly held in Uniondale.
While the coliseum was closed, my family and I went to see the circus at Prudential Center, Disney on Ice at Barclays Center, and the Globetrotters at Hofstra University. Now that the coliseum is back in business, there will still be plenty of events for people of all ages to enjoy and that includes the Globetrotters, who will be the first team to break in the coliseum’s new basketball court.
“There’s been quite a few arenas that we’ve had a chance to open up around the United States,” said Lang, who played collegiately at Centenary College. “Hopefully, we’ll get a good turnout and have a great time and continue to come back in the future.”
While the names have changed over the years, the Globetrotters have been able to maintain many of their fun and entertaining traditions, like putting the basketball on hold to play a little football, having some fun at the referee’s expense, and sneaking up to pull down an opposing player’s shorts while he’s getting ready for a free throw.
The Globetrotters have also been innovators throughout their history and this year is no different. They have four female players on their roster and they are introducing a new 4-point line after featuring a 4-point shot from four spots on the court.
They visit city after city, but the routine never seems to get old.
“It’s different because every night there’s a different audience and a different crowd,” Lang said. “We’re entertaining, but at the same time we have a chance to be entertained as well because you never know how people are going to respond, especially the kids.”
Interacting with the crowd is a big part of what the Globetrotters are all about. Whether it’s picking out a fan for a funny bit or the half hour post-game autograph session down on the court, going to a Globetrotters game is all about having a great time and seeing some great basketball skills and tricks.
Speaking of those skills, I’ve always wondered what would happen if the Globetrotters decided to take a step up in competition. Could they compete — or even beat — an NBA team?
“We have some of the best athletes in the world so anything can happen on a given night,” Lang said.
On any given night, the Globetrotters put on a great show for fans of all ages. It’s a couple of hours of entertainment that families and friends have shared with each other for 91 years. For 43 years, the old Nassau Coliseum was a part of that tradition and now, after a two year absence due to the renovations, the Globetrotters are back.
“For myself, it has been more than a dream come true to be part of this team and to be able to go back out to Long Island and open up the new arena,” Lang said. “We’re looking forward to it.”
And so are Harlem Globetrotters fans all over Long Island.
Don’t forget to follow Pete on Twitter at @pschwartzcbsfan. You can also follow the Harlem Globetrotters @Globies and Flight Time Lang @Datrotte4