Hello everyone! It's good to have some extra time to write again, it's been a couple of weeks I think. Today I have some disjointed, random topics I want to express my views on, since I haven't done much writing lately. Maybe some of it will be new to you, and maybe some it will be old. Nevertheless, these are the things on my mind as September nears its end.
Like most small towns in Indiana, the town I work in has a festival each fall. I'm sure many of you know the types of events I'm talking about....carnival rides, cotton candy, tenderloin sandwiches, homecoming parades, local music performances, lots of booths, etc etc. Managing the second oldest and largest business in this town, I'm involved in lots of little projects and stuff for this festival, just to help out. Like most every other festival, just about every small business has a booth set up for people to come by and see your products and services, and you have little drawings and such to run as promotions. It's good, wholesome, traditional fellowship that many of the small cities and towns in Indiana have help for decades or longer. Maybe growing up here gives me a different perspective, but I love all of these events, as it brings old friends together, different generations together, and its for the coomon good of the people and the town. It also to me is a sign of fall, and shorter days, and a time for basketball to be beginning. In my town, it is, as we had biddy basketball signups last weekend too....basketball is back again!
Why these festivals are on my mind is this: New to our festival this year were a couple of different things. First, Coach Sampson from IU donated some stuff for my business to auction off last week for charity, and I can tell you that the IU coaches involvement in such things brings alot of goodwill to his program, one fan at a time. Coach didnt do this for publicity or to become more popular, but those are by products of knowing who you are trying to reach, and doing things necessary to make a positive impression for your group, in this case the IU basketball program.
But mainly this is on my mind because the Colts brought out their "Colts in motion" wagon, manned with games, tshirts, posters, footballs for the kids to throw, schedules, and two of their cheerleaders. I stood back in the street and watched for a while, as their appearance was the hit of the first festival night. Crowds lined up to get a look at the animation of the upcoming Lucas Oil Stadium, to get autographs from the cheerleaders, and to buy Colts merchandise. Who really knows how many towns and how many festivals the Colts reach each fall, and how many future fans they are building relationships with, but I can tell you that this type of stuff is marketing at its finest, with a "hoosier touch" to it. Retail merchandising at it's finest, from a forward thinking, well ran football team deep in the heart of southern Indiana basketball country. I took a step back and looked at all the 18 jerseys, at all the Colts hats being sold, and said to myself: "This is a great idea, I wonder why my Pacers don't ever think like this?"
If anyone has an answer, or a solution, or any input, I'd love to know the answer to that question. All it would take is some vision, some imagination, and some gas money along with some time and determination. This area used to be basketball country, and in many ways it still is. But there is a disconnect between loving and playing basketball and being identified with the Indiana Pacers, which basically might as well change their name to the "Indianapolis Pacers of Marion County", since they appear to not be inclined to try and reach new fans, or build up a new generation of young Pacer fans from outside Hwy 465.
On to another topic: the Pacers upcoming fanjam. Of course, because it hasnt been really advertised, we are all as far as I know just guessing we will have one. Why you wouldn't I don't know, but this is the tone deaf Pacer organization we are talking about here.
Maybe I'm old fashioned at my age of 33, but instead of a singing contest and a half hearted scrimmage, I'd like to see a scene like Jim O'Brien coming out, with the entire spotlight on him and Larry Bird in the middle of the floor, and Coach O'Brien taking the mike and saying something like this:
"Pacers fans, my name is Jim O'Brien, and I'm here to try and turn our Pacer franchise into a franchise that you can be proud of, so we can begin to build a new generation of fans, and so we can hang championship banners inside these great walls."
"Building a championship level team may take some time, but we will do not what is easy, but what is hard, and we will do what is necessary to make you proud to be Pacer fans again."
"Today, I do not promise a championship for this team yet. But here is what I do promise to you: We will have the following goals, the following principles, on which Indiana Pacer basketball, and the great tradition of basketball in this ENTIRE state, and we will achieve these goals by whatever means necessary."
"1. We will play HARDER than our opponents every night, for all 82 games. We will ESPECIALLY do that in all 41 games in front of you, and for the individuals that violate that standard, we will find them new fans to play in front of."
"2. We will play SMARTER than our opponents. We will play intelligently, we will follow our plan, and we will be more committed and better coached than we ever have been here."
"3. We will play TOGETHER. This will be expressed in every huddle, every timeout, and in every practice. Our team and our organization is committed to playing the right way, winning the right way, with the right people, and for the right people, the citizens of Pacer Nation. We will play for each other, not for ourselves. We will play for the city of Indianapolis, and the state of Indiana, and we know that if we do this, that you will be behind us as well. This is our committment to you, and to each other."
"4. We will HAVE FUN, AND BE FUN. We will be a happy team that enjoys the interaction, enjoys playing the game, enjoys each other, and enjoys winning the right way. We will be fun to watch not for our style, but for how incredibily passionate we are going to play....not for Jim O'Brien, not for Larry Bird, but for each other and for you. We are going to attack the opponent, we are going to swarm them with our intensity and enthusiasm and effort, and we are going to enjoy every minute of it."
"Those are our overreaching goals, Pacer fans. Please hold us accountable to them. I don't want us just to win, I want us to be WORTHY OF WINNING! And I know that with the support of hundreds of thousands of Pacer fans, and with the deep committment of 15 strong committed and together players, that we can get this done!"
"Get onboard Pacer fans....the era of the past is over. A new period of greatness for us is beginning, and it all starts RIGHT NOW!"
Then instead of some lazy grabass basketball, Id like to see a real, physical, and intense hour or so of drill work, with a really competitive scrimmage at the end of it.
After the scrimmage is over, I'd like to see a short, classy speech from Larry Bird, building enthusiasm and promising there is more where that came from, and announcing that he truly now is in charge, and that the buck stops with him.
After that, as the fans start to exit, I'd have all the Pacer players, front office, cheerleaders, dance team, mascots, and even ownership all standing out in the veranda wearing the "TOGETHER, WE ATTACK", or whatever slogan I'd chose to be our mantra. I'd have Slick and Mark out there, I'd have Denari, Buckner, and Kellogg there too, except I'd have them selling tickets. I'd have the print media ready to write, and invited personally to come, not just from the Star but from every local paper in every corner of the state. I'd be having those papers start a "biggest Pacer fan" contest, and the winners would get free courtside tickets, a limo ride to and from the game, dinner somewhere with Bird or Walsh or Reggie or whomever, etc etc. I'd also start providing transportation to and from the games from each of these counties, maybe in a Pacers welcome ________ county promotion. Open up your imagination on how many ways the Pacers could build more fans, and then think of what is really happening. Open Pacer practices barnstorming tour to Bloomington, Terre Haute, Washington, Evansville, Anderson, New Castle, South Bend, Richmond, Lafayette, Bedford, Loogootee, Salem, Elkhart, Muncie, Fort Wayne, Clarksville, Seymour, Linton, etc etc.
Maybe you couldn't do it all, but you could do some of it.
Jim O'Brien should have as many conference calls as he can with statewide media outlets, he should have a weekly tv show, and if he doesnt have time then Larry Bird should (like Bill Polian does).
The Pacers need to do something to build up some good will early in the season, because if they don't, and the fans attention turns to the Colts while the Pacers flounder, attendance figures could get ugly around Conseco.
Next time I write something, I'll try and get back to my normal coaching background and write about the game itself some more. But I needed to get some of that off my chest today.
Go Cubs, Go Hoosiers, Go Colts, and Go Pacers!
As always, the above is just my opinion.....