They called themselves the Delicate Archers.
But with an average age that was a number closer to the day’s high temperature than the age of prime athletes, the ragamuffin crew that called itself a basketball team was more like a case of fallen arches against the Harlem Wizards on Monday, Feb. 12 at Grand County High School.
The high temperature, by the way, was 46 degrees. The team roster was 28 names long.
“They are brought to you by AARP,” joked loudspeaker announcer and Wizards’ event manager Joe “Big Show” Anteri, introducing the home team in the gymnasium known colloquially as “The Devil’s Den.”
The game was a joke — literally. But that was pretty much the idea.
“For a couple of hours, you forget all your troubles and just have fun with us,” Anteri said at the end of the night, explaining what the traveling Wizards do.
“Fun” was the key word, and the event sure put the fun in a fundraiser game — between the super showy Wizards and the local volunteer players. It was more comedy than competition, though equally athletic (at least on the Wizards’ part), as it was entertaining.
If there was any notion that the game was going to have any seriousness, the Delicate Archers players were disabused of the notion right from the start. During a pregame locker-room meeting with the home team, Anteri told Delicate Archers player Jayson Cluff to just make sure he got the tip-off to another Delicate Archer — any other Delicate Archer.
“You mean, I might actually win the tip?” Cluff asked.
“Oh, you are going to win the tip,” Anteri replied, with the unmistakable implication that the Wizards were going to let it happen (it was to set up one of the game’s first jokes).
The fun — and making-fun — just got better from there.
Patrick Flynn of the Archers, early in the first quarter, missed what should have been an easy layup, especially given the “gimme” defense the Wizards conceded on the shot.
“What in the hell was that?” Anteri asked through the loudspeaker in a manner that felt like the repartee a rodeo announcer has with a rodeo clown.
The Wizards gave Flynn another two free retries. “There’s a hole in it,” Anteri instructed after Flynn’s second try missed.
The antic-playing, showboating, hang-timing Wizards (“Hang-Time” being the nickname of Wizard Jordan Hoose, who spent a good part of the game in the air at rim level), poked fun at Moab’s hoopster wannabes — and themselves — in front of stands packed with a laughing and delighted audience.
In one bit, a Wizard took a backpack from an audience member, then gave it back as an excuse to engage in further antics with its owner, a woman whose husband was elsewhere in the arena — a Utah Highway Patrol officer in uniform as security support to the event — all the better to play around with, as far as the Wizards were concerned. A baseball game broke out in the middle of the basketball game’s third quarter, and then a scene from the movie Dirty Dancing broke out in the middle of the baseball game.
A Wizard then scoped out what probably was the oldest married couple in the stands, went to them, announced to the crowd that they were his parents and had taught him all he knew about dancing, and then got the elderly pair to bust a move to prove it. It was an obviously routine bit, but still so hilarious that other Wizards busted a gut laughing.
“It was fun. It was exciting,” said Rick Lopez, who at 59 was one of the Delicate Archers’ eldest of elders.
Lopez, an assistant coach for the Grand County High School girls’ basketball team, joined his two daughters on the floor. He said it was a little different playing a game that was more theater than athletics.
“You’re not sure what to do. It’s a little confusing,” he said, but one could see he enjoyed it immensely. “It was fun to play with my daughters.
In that, the real goal of the Wizards was met: “To … put smiles on your faces,” Anteri had said, and to raise a few bucks for high school sports. In the end, more than $3,000 was raised to support GCHS athletics, according to activities director Ron Dolphin.
Oh, and just in case anyone at this point is still wondering about the actual final score, the Wizards won, 82-73.