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Grantland article about the Pacers popularity

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  • Grantland article about the Pacers popularity

    http://www.grantland.com/blog/the-tr...ont-the-pacers

    Originally posted by Mark Titus
    With respect to New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and every other place in America that considers itself a “basketball city,” nowhere does the game matter as much as it does in Indiana. Spend a single January day in the state and it won’t take long to realize that watching or playing basketball is the pastime of choice for a majority of Hoosiers, even more so than auto racing, drinking heavily, complaining about the weather, or wondering why they still live in Indiana. This is why 13 of the 14 largest high school gyms in the country are in Indiana. This is why some of the state’s biggest heroes are Larry Bird, Oscar Robertson, Bob Knight, and Josh McRoberts’s knee-high socks. This is why the best sports movie ever made is entitled Hoosiers and not New Yorkers orWhatever the Hell People From Illinois Call Themselves. Simply put, Hoosiers spend so much time obsessing over basketball because the only entertainment alternatives in a state full of corn are to tip over cows or run a meth lab.

    But even though Indiana is the biggest basketball hotbed in America, professional basketball in Indianapolis seems to be dying a slow, sad death. The Pacers are fresh off their best regular season since 2004 and, frankly, one of their best seasons in franchise history, yet they had the second-worst attendance in the NBA this year. This after last year, when the Pacers had the worst attendance in the league despite making the playoffs for the first time in six years. In fact, the unfortunate truth is that the Pacers haven’t been in the top half of the NBA in attendance in each of the past 11 seasons, even though seven of those seasons produced playoff teams and one (2003-04) was the best season of basketball ever played by a Pacers team. Clearly the people of Indiana, while having immense local pride and an innate love for the game, aren’t interested in supporting the Indiana Pacers. Which begs the question: Why not?

    For a lot of Hoosiers, the obvious answer can be found in two words: Ron Artest. After winning 61 games in 2003-04 and advancing to the Eastern Conference finals, the Pacers entered the 2004-05 season as the best team in the NBA. All it took to change this was one November game in Detroit, when Artest attacked a fan in the stands after getting hit with a cup of soda and in the process triggered the darkest moment in NBA history, otherwise known as the Malice at the Palace. This single incident essentially made the franchise start over from scratch, since it was clear that the Pacers would have no choice but to wash their hands of their three best players — Artest, Stephen Jackson, and Jermaine O’Neal, who all played prominent roles in the brawl.

    After that season, Artest, who had been suspended because of his involvement in the brawl, was traded to the Kings and Reggie Miller, who had been the face of the franchise for almost 20 years, retired. At that same time, the Indianapolis Colts were led by one of the most likable guys in the NFL in Peyton Manning and were on their way to becoming one of the best teams in the league. This meant that many people in central Indiana who had only enough discretionary income to support one local sports team had to pick between an elite team with a likable superstar and a team covered in stench from the brawl and didn’t have its franchise player for the first time in almost two decades. The choice was obvious. Indianapolis, where basketball has always flourished, has been a professional football city ever since.

    The Pacers eventually dealt Jackson to the Warriors and traded O’Neal to the Raptors. Since getting rid of those two guys, it’s almost as if the Pacers have made it their focus to never let anything like the brawl with the Pistons happen again, and they figured the easiest way to do that is to fill the team with a bunch of good-but-not-great players so that the locker room won’t be full of egos and the group will be easy for fans to support. The good news is that it’s working. This year’s team, which, with a win against the Magic on Tuesday will claim their first postseason series win since 2005, is very easy to like. They play hard, share the ball, are fundamentally sound, and are led by the most underrated coach in the league in Frank Vogel. In other words, they are everything Hoosiers love to see in their basketball teams.

    The bad news, though, is that by playing unselfish basketball and not having a star on their roster, the Pacers have essentially turned into a college team. This seems like it would be a great thing for a basketball-savvy Midwestern city that favors simplicity over flashiness, but the truth is, most people in Indiana don’t want to cheer on another college team. Pro basketball teams are rarely successful in small markets that are within the vicinity of a college basketball blue blood (see: Kansas City Kings, Kentucky Colonels, Charlotte Hornets, Charlotte Bobcats, etc.), and Indiana is rich with college basketball tradition with schools like Indiana, Purdue, Notre Dame, Butler, and Indiana State in 1979. In other words, most Hoosiers already follow a team that plays unselfish, fundamentally sound basketball, and they don’t have any desire to cheer on another. This is why the Pacers need a star. Not necessarily a LeBron, Kobe, or Durant, but they at least need somebody with a little bit of flash to his game.

    Then again, there’s a chance that that wouldn’t even be enough. I grew up on the west side of Indianapolis during the Pacers’ heyday, when Reggie Miller led the way with his obnoxious flopping and his deadly 3-point shooting, Rik Smits had one of the best mullets in NBA history, Antonio and Dale Davis were rebounding machines, Chris Mullin showed why he is the best player on the original NBA JAM, Travis Best was hated by every Pacers fan in existence, and Mark Jackson dropped dimes like a cashier in an earthquake. And even then, despite having two Hall of Famers in Miller and Mullin, the guy with the third-most assists in NBA history in Jackson, and reaching the Eastern Conference finals five times from 1994-2000, the Pacers weren’t as big of a deal in central Indiana as they probably should have been. Sure, there were die-hard fans, and sure, all the cool kids in my school owned a Miller jersey and mimicked his jump shot at recess by using the thumb of their offhand to help push the ball. But the fact was that the Pacers still weren’t selling out games all that often because many fans didn’t care until the playoffs rolled around.

    This is why I have my doubts as to whether the Pacers will ever be a huge deal in central Indiana. Maybe winning their first NBA title will change things. Maybe all it will take is a few consecutive years of deep playoff runs, since even though they weren’t selling out a ton of games at their peak in the '90s, they were at least consistently getting large crowds. Maybe the Colts returning to the NFL cellar and facing a rebuilding process that will likely take at least a half decade will open the door for the Pacers to reclaim the sports throne of Indianapolis. Or maybe they’ll always play second fiddle to the Colts and the state's college basketball teams, and their only hope of putting butts in seats is to land a star.
    Whatever the case, the fact remains that right now in the most basketball-crazed state in America there is a professional basketball team that is good enough to win a championship in the next month or so, yet very few of the locals seem to notice or care.
    I really like Mark Titus's stuff. Really looking forward to reading his book.
    Last edited by Pig Nash; 05-08-2012, 11:52 PM. Reason: formatting
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  • #2
    Re: Grantland article about the Pacers popularity

    His book is fantastic. I did go to the same high school as him, so it probably was funnier to me. But overall it was very very funny.
    DG for 3

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    • #3
      Re: Grantland article about the Pacers popularity

      I don't know what the attendance was tonight, but the crowd that was there was terrific. LOUD, fired up, and totally rocked that 4th Quarter.

      I think Peyton Manning's offense trained Indy sports fans to be quiet, but the Pacers are pulling the noise out of them again. Hopefully a couple of good home games (WINS!!!) against the "superstars" of Miami will really get seats sold and a new generation of die-hard fans.
      It's a new day for Pacers Basketball.

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      • #4
        Re: Grantland article about the Pacers popularity

        Yeah, it wasn't just that the casuals left to root for the Colts, it's that they learned to not cheer on offense. Getting better, and people were even standing for extended period of time at the end of the game!
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        • #5
          Re: Grantland article about the Pacers popularity

          Kinda irrelevant with the article but i want to mention it.A week ago,i was watching an NBA playoffs game with the Greek commentary on.Someone e-mailed a question to the announcer about what's the best NBA arena he's ever been to regarding how comfortably you can watch a match and for the 'basketball feeling' that it provides.Without thinking twice,he said it was the Pacers Arena and also mentioned that Indiana's people are so knowledgeable when it comes to basketball,that half of the attendance could be head coaches in Greece and in Europe.
          Never forget

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          • #6
            Re: Grantland article about the Pacers popularity

            Originally posted by Johanvil View Post
            Without thinking twice,he said it was the Pacers Arena and also mentioned that Indiana's people are so knowledgeable when it comes to basketball,that half of the attendance could be head coaches in Greece and in Europe.
            I know a lot of us were joking (in some cases not ) about volunteering to take over for JOB last year before he got canned, but I'm not so sure half our building could be good head coaches overseas.
            "Nobody wants to play against Tyler Hansbrough NO BODY!" ~ Frank Vogel

            "And David put his hand in the bag and took out a stone and slung it. And it struck the Philistine on the head and he fell to the ground. Amen. "

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            • #7
              Re: Grantland article about the Pacers popularity

              Hahaha.Yeah,he clearly over exaggerated just to show how people of Indiana love basketball and know their stuff.
              Never forget

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              • #8
                Re: Grantland article about the Pacers popularity

                Great article even though it has that sort of self-disdain people seem to feel is required if they spent any time (or still live) in Indiana. Never understood that, when I left the state I couldn't wait to get back.

                Originally posted by Pig Nash View Post
                Yeah, it wasn't just that the casuals left to root for the Colts, it's that they learned to not cheer on offense. Getting better, and people were even standing for extended period of time at the end of the game!
                Don't rewrite history. One of the things I loved about games in MSA was how it was always very quiet on offense at the beginning of the game - not because people were on their phones or talking to their neighbors but because they were actually watching what happened on the court. The noise started as the first half wound down, then the concentration came back in the third and noise started building through the 4th.

                Yeah, a loud atmosphere is cool, but the reason I have front of the section seats is so I can watch the game even when other people want to just stand up and scream. Good for them, but not why I attend the game - I enjoy it a lot more when I can watch the game my way and still get a kick out of other people watching it their way.
                BillS

                A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
                Or throw in a first-round pick and flip it for a max-level point guard...

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                • #9
                  Re: Grantland article about the Pacers popularity

                  1) Up until 2000, Indiana was *crazy* about the Pacers. I don't know what this guy was getting at by saying that Indiana never really supported them "fully". That's some incorrect information, right there. Anyone that went to MSA during the Reggie playoff years knows that it was the loudest arena in the league.

                  2) Indiana fans have gone through an event that no other fanbase has ---- the worst incident in NBA history. The team culture also became something that Hoosiers couldn't be proud of. Off-court incidents, arrests, bad behavior. I mean come on. The Pacers, between 2001 and 2005, did almost everything they could to unravel all the good they did between 1987 and 2000. Of course we're snake-bitten. Of course it's going to take some time to get back to those days.

                  BUT.... they're doing it. The way they are going about things now, they'll get their fans back. They just need to stick to what they're doing now. It's not going to happen in 1 good season, which is essentially about all they're really given the state of Indiana up until this point. A good, deep playoff run will go a long way towards that, though.
                  There are two types of quarterbacks in the league: Those whom over time, the league figures out ... and those who figure out the league.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Grantland article about the Pacers popularity

                    I really hope the Pacers are able to make the Miami series a close one from the tip off of Game 1. I mean of course I will hope they kill them. But I just don't want to see them come out and get killed like the first 2 Miami games this season. As we'll have a whole another crop of folks saying "SEE I TOLD YOU! THIS TEAM SUCKS! Why should I come watch this!"
                    You can't get champagne from a garden hose.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Grantland article about the Pacers popularity

                      Originally posted by Kid Minneapolis View Post
                      1) Up until 2000, Indiana was *crazy* about the Pacers. I don't know what this guy was getting at by saying that Indiana never really supported them "fully". That's some incorrect information, right there. Anyone that went to MSA during the Reggie playoff years knows that it was the loudest arena in the league.
                      Funny that we still weren't above middle-of-the-league in attendance during the season with all that "crazy". Yeah, fans were excited during the playoffs, but it didn't take very long for the first round to become "meh" as people waited to show up until the "important" games later in the playoffs.

                      Don't confuse the memories of those playoff series wins with the reality of butts in the seats the rest of the time.
                      BillS

                      A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
                      Or throw in a first-round pick and flip it for a max-level point guard...

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Grantland article about the Pacers popularity

                        Originally posted by graphic-er View Post
                        As we'll have a whole another crop of folks saying "SEE I TOLD YOU! THIS TEAM SUCKS! Why should I come watch this!"
                        Which is always something that ticks me off - either you can beat everyone or else you suck. There's no "good but not the best" any more.

                        I blame class basketball
                        BillS

                        A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
                        Or throw in a first-round pick and flip it for a max-level point guard...

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Grantland article about the Pacers popularity

                          Originally posted by BillS View Post
                          Funny that we still weren't above middle-of-the-league in attendance during the season with all that "crazy". Yeah, fans were excited during the playoffs, but it didn't take very long for the first round to become "meh" as people waited to show up until the "important" games later in the playoffs.

                          Don't confuse the memories of those playoff series wins with the reality of butts in the seats the rest of the time.
                          I don't know if I buy that line, what is "middle of the road"? The total # of tickets sold? Wouldn't that depend on the size of the arena, and MSA was like the smallest arena, so even if we sold out, of course we'd be "middle of the road" compared to The Palace.
                          There are two types of quarterbacks in the league: Those whom over time, the league figures out ... and those who figure out the league.

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                          • #14
                            Re: Grantland article about the Pacers popularity

                            Originally posted by Kid Minneapolis View Post
                            I don't know if I buy that line, what is "middle of the road"? The total # of tickets sold? Wouldn't that depend on the size of the arena, and MSA was like the smallest arena, so even if we sold out, of course we'd be "middle of the road" compared to The Palace.
                            The list I remember seeing most recently was based on % of capacity, if I recall correctly. Someone with better Google-fu might be able to track that down.
                            BillS

                            A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
                            Or throw in a first-round pick and flip it for a max-level point guard...

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Grantland article about the Pacers popularity

                              Seems like attendance is usually reported in total seats, whenever I've seen it, but I could be wrong.
                              There are two types of quarterbacks in the league: Those whom over time, the league figures out ... and those who figure out the league.

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