Sorry I've taken so long to write this. Been busy.
So, sis and I went to the season ticket holder luncheon on Wednesday. We had no details on what it was going to be, just got a card in the mail that said it was 11:30-1, $20 per.
Well, we get there, and they're herding people to the elevators. They just checked my name, so I could have brought 20 people and they wouldn't have known. I think for a moment that we're actually eating in the Varsity Club cause of the elevator, but no, the girl hits the 'B' button. Pepsi Square here we come!
That said, Pepsi Square cleans up nice. They had a podium with backdrop in the corner, and 15-20 banquet tables circling out from it, fine linen and all. Ended up ~150 people there. A fair number of Pacers brass, and other PS&E employees, including a nice woman from ticket sales who sat with us. She said everyone there was so excited about Stern coming, it was like a visit from the President. She'd only been here two years, so of course she hadn't been around for the Finals or anything, when I'm sure Stern being there would just be an afterthought.
One interesting note I got from her. Ron was supposed to miss 6 weeks, and management was much more worried about him coming back so soon then they let on.
Lunch was pretty good for $20, but not really our speed. You had a choice of regular or sparkling water (I didn't see one person get sparkling), and you could get iced tea (people at the next table sent their's back, saying it was "horrible.") Seafood salad followed by a good 8oz cut of filet on top of a cheesy, hashbrowns type thing. Good, but the beef, while cooked well, was really too tender, something I've never experienced before. Dessert was a rasberry creme tart thing. Our PS&E girl pointed out their head chef, and raved about him.
After food was cleared, Mark Boyle introduced Larry, who'd eaten at the head table with Stern, Donnie, the Simons and the other grand poohbah muckity mucks. Larry said he'd gotten David to promise that Ronnie wouldn't be fined until at least July. "He can suspend him all summer if he wants. I also got him to promise there'd be no 4-point plays in the playoffs." Talks about 20 years ago when Stern was a rookie when he was a vet, then introduces him.
Stern comes up and says that Larry was so nice and didn't say a thing when they ate, then gets up and gives him a hard time in front of everyone. He retorts by saying he thought he was gonna have lunch with Eddie (Larry's brother) and what a nice guy he is and how disappointed he was he got Larry instead. Someone at the head table took exception to that, and Stern said that no, he knows Eddie, yadda yadda yadda.
Stern then went into his trademark, cookie cutter, blue print "Two America's" stump speech (oh, sorry, that's John Edwards.) I'm not gonna waste our time going over it. If you've heard or read him at all the last two years, you know what he said. Just look up his last State of the NBA speech.
Before he opened it up to questions, he said he knew we'd slam him on officiating. So, he sympathized, talked about how hard it is, all the stuff they do, evaluations and so on, and they're improving. He said refs get 94% of the calls right, but of course it's the 6% everyone always concentrates on. (I noted later that night against Dallas that Ronnie Garretson was fitting in his 6% for the year all in one game.) Then he opened it up to questions.
First guy talked about the fans getting screwed when players get suspended, like when Shaq was suspended for the game here. Why not having suspensions served only at home, so fans who come out to see teams on the road don't pay for it.
Stern sympathized, but said he sees it as an IQ test, a theme he'd come back to time and time again, boiling down that the players need to know the situation and check themselves. He also noted when Jordan bumped a ref during his final year (which one, I don't know), and got suspended for a game at Phoenix. Well, the Suns were furious, cause it was his last game at America West, he was their biggest draw, and so on. But, there's no room for negotiation in disciplinary matters.
I then got up and said I had read about a couple proposals for the upcoming CBA and wanted his thoughts on them. First is the idea of a progressive rookie-scale, where high schoolers can come in, but they get a 7-year rookie deal, while those who stay in school for 4 years only have a 3-year deal. Right there he interrupts me and says, "Let me stop you right there. I don't want you to give my whole game plan away."
He went on to say that if they can't have a strict age limit, they had to come up with more creative ways to deal with the issue. Not only with that, but also setting up a farm system so the Tyson Chandlers, Eddie Currys and Kwame Browns could get some playing time. He could tell by my reaction that that was my second question, and so I added that he'd talked about Europe, and asked if they'd considered as part of ramping up to that having farm teams over there, instead of going straight for the pro franchises.
He said no, in regards to Europe, they're either gonna go big or stay home. He then started what I thought was his standard defense of the NBDL, but then he veered off into something surprising. He noted guys who have come up from the DL, name dropping Anthony Johnson among others, and then said what they need to do is expand it. "In fact, if there's anyone who wants to own a franchise, come see me afterwards. No, I'm serious." He said the current DL will become just one region of what they're planning, and what they want to do is add a group of teams in the midwest, and eventually, there'd be a "midwest pod, southeast pod, and a west pod." Of course, by then I was so geeked out I practically fainted.
The next guy asked how happy they were with the new TV deal, and very pointedly asked why we're never on national tv. Stern said you get on by having the kind of season we're having right now, and alluded that we'd obviously be on more next year.
Going back to the tv deal in general, he talked about how broadcast ratings are way down across the board, they wanted to move more towards on-demand services that cable provides, but, he is a traditionalist that'd prefer more games on ABC. He then caught himself, saying that he can't say anything bad about auto racing considering where he was, but he indicated he'd rather they were on instead of IRL. He also got off on a tangent concerning the NFL and tv negotiations, which basically boiled down to the NFL was the only sport who could make a go of it on broadcast tv only, and they'd accepted that.
Next was a long, rambling question that basically boiled down to if Stern felt that the reputation of a player like Artest can color a ref's perceptions to the point he expects trouble and jumps the gun on calling something that really didn't happen.
Stern - "Yes."
After a long pause, he continued in refering back to his IQ test thing, and that the responsibility ultimately falls on the player. He conceded that they give refs scouting reports before games, telling them stuff to look for, like (pointing to Bird) "Larry keeps holding his man's jersey when he thinks nobody's looking."
As for Ron in particular, his reputation is a shame because "he's such a nice young man, such a caring person." But, once again, it comes down to personal responsibility.
The last questioner echoed the last guy about Ron not getting a fair shake, then went on to give a diatribe on Reggie not getting the respect he deserves, that people outside of Indy thinks he's a thug, and he doesn't get nearly the media attention he deserves.
Stern disagreed, saying that Reggie gets a ton of attention, especially in New York, deservedly so. He said in the 90's you couldn't turn around without seeing some shot he hit against the Knicks. He closed in saying that there's not a knowledgeable fan of basketball alive who doesn't know Reggie Miller is a sure-fire Hall-of-Famer.
That's it. One note. Somewhere in there while discussing officiating, he talked about how much he hates technicals. Basketball is the only sport where a team gives up points (noting it's a free throw), and it makes him sick. So of course, the game he attended that night had a record number of T's, which was ironically enough attributed to the refs wanting to keep a lid on the game because Stern was in attendance.
Also, Peck, if you're reading, I found your Dream Girl. There was a woman sitting at our table that got all excited when she saw Donnie Walsh. She said she wanted to go "bow at his feet and say how much I worship him." When Stern talked about what a great exec Donnie is and that he was the class of the NBA, I thought her head was gonna explode. I think my sister remembers her name. Say the word, Peck, and we'll try to get her number for you.