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Salutations, Area 55ers!* Hey, I know how you feel. Sometimes it isn’t easy being a Pacers fan.* Like me, back when you debased and publicly humiliated yourself to get your free Area 55 tix from our benefactor, Big Roy, I’m sure the sun was shining, birds were chirping, and your dispositions and demeanors were at their radiant zeniths.* Like me, you were probably thinking how fun and interesting it would be to go to Conseco, sit with a nest of other weirdos, and watch a renewed and promising team play a 41 game home-court schedule.. You didn’t remember that there’d be 6-game losing streaks and games like our gang had Wednesday against Orlando.
Nope, it isn’t easy being in Area 55 some nights – chanting ”Here We Go Pacers”; *“Lock Down De-Fense”; *and “Puh-Puh-Puh Pacers!”, when you’re down 17 points; when Dwight Howard is putting on an uncontested slamshow; when Hedo Turkolgu is dancing around high picks unmolested like a dervish and sticking daggers into every feeble attempt your team makes at a rally; when relative non-entities like J. J. Redick and Ryan Anderson are pouring in one three point shot after another into the home court hoops.
Like me, maybe you’ve come to learn that sometimes sitting in Area 55 is surreal absurdity. Sometimes, like Wednesday night, it’s not only not fun but actual pain.* You sit there in your seat chanting and cheering, screaming and praying for good things.* Yet, all the while, on-court realities are assaulting you. It’s like wearing a smile when your tookus is suffering from the pain and itch of hemorrhoidal tissue.
Given all this, sometimes it’s hard to remember that the world really is round, that this too will all pass, and that there really is a tomorrow and that tomorrow really is another day.
Yeah, Orlando handed it to us big time on Wednesday.* I could try to describe it all again for you, analyze it, parse the nuances, go over the stats, critique the individual performances and rotations, or try to be* Panglossian and belch out rosy lines about a young team’s growing pains, adversity building character, and how it’s all for the best. However, I’m not going to do any of those things. *It’s better to just move on.
Instead, tonight I bring you a tiny message of hope.
Friday, at 7:00 P.M. we play the New Jersey Nets.* We can beat New Jersey. And I can think of no better way of curing the Pacers present basketball blues than a game at Conseco with the Nets.
A brief word about our Friday night foes.* The Nets are 14-32.* They are in 4th place in the Eastern Division, 21 games behind Boston.* While 11-11 at home, they have a 3-21 road record.* They are just the tonic our ailing Pacers need in these horrific times..
Just the same, we should not take them too lightly.* Their young center, Brook Lopez, is erratic but capable of great things.* He gave Roy fits last year.* Their point guard Devin Harris is solid and needs to be contained. The Nets have also upgraded their shooting from last year with the acquisitions of starting shooting guard Anthony Morrow, starting small forward Travis Outlaw, and key sub Jordan Farmar.* However, like us, they have had a lot of questions at power forward.* Troy Murphy was expected to start for them but groin and back injuries sidelined him. Kris Humphries is expected to start in that position Friday, with raw rookie Derrick Favors – a kid who supposedly has a lot of physicality and potential — backing him up.
I saw my first robin today.* A robin is always a good omen and a harbinger of spring.* Maybe spring starts tomorrow for the Pacers. Anyway, let’s yellow ourselves up and get our boys back on a winning track. *Enough is enough.
PTO Doings! The Pacers Tailgating Organization was back in action Wednesday night before the Orlando game.* PTO President, the ever unflappable Aaron “Brickyard” Coleman, gave his mid-season “State of the PTO” speech.* It was lauded by partisans and hooted at by detractors. The basic message was that the state of the PTO was intoxicated.* There was general agreement on his analysis.
The PTO’s amorous VP/GM Casey O’Brien was also on hand at the festivities, taking a rare break from criminal court appearances and intense love-making with his sweetie.* O’Brien incinerated numerous logs in the fire-pit and supervised the toasting of brats.* Yes, there was actually a grill present at the conclave for a change, and O’Brien had it going and in action when I tooled into the Anthem lot a little after 6:00 P.M. The hot grub made Brickyard’s mid-season State of the PTO Speech a lot easier to take.
Yours truly supplemented the sizzling tube-steaks with a slab of sauce-slathered ribs purchased fresh from the Bar-B-Q Heaven oven at 25th & Martin Luther King.* As usual, Tony “Duke Dynamite” Laurenzana pounced on the ribs like a zoo lizard in a feeding frenzy.
All in all, the PTO was a rare show of organization and political unity – something that bodes well for the second half of the season. *President Coleman, in his address, was optimistic.* In his speech he alluded to “big things” – including the future possibility of paper plates, a larger grill, and even potato salad and cole slaw.* Hope springs eternal!
We can all dream!
Congratulations and Condolences. Congratulations to Area 55er Vikki Koontz, who won a free television in a Pacers sponsored promotion Wednesday night.* Vikki told me that this stroke of fortune makes hers a 4-TV household.* She is presently uncertain whether it will be placed in a lavatory or on a bedroom ceiling.* We are all extremely jealous!
Condolences are hereby conveyed to Brian “Pacers4Ever” Koller, whose beloved Bears lost in the NFC Playoffs to the Packers.* Koller reacted to the loss in his customary radical fashion – scrapping his elvish Chicago Bears stocking cap for a Pacers ball cap and taking a scissors to most of underlying his top-hair. *We were all too polite to ask if his depilations ended there.
The always morose Koller was in an even *more depressed state than usual at the game Wednesday.* It was painful to watch a young shaver like him having to deal with the emotional double whammy of the Bears loss and the Pacer’s flatulent response to Orlando.
A hat is being passed around for Koller.* The hope is that a gift of an autographed picture of Jim O’Brien will restore him to his usual cheerful spirits.
Secret Information on Area 55 Seating Revealed! The Area 55 Newsletter, turning to unnamed, but reliable sources positioned deeply within the bowels of the PS&E organization has learned the shocking secret of how Area 55’s coveted game seating gets awarded!
Have you, like me, ever wondered how those strangers in Lakers or Celtic jerseys occasionally get seated in A55?* Have you noticed how, usually about 5 minutes into a game, a throng of dazed and confused strangers wanders into 101 and 102, then parks their rumps and then, if we’re lucky, sits their like Mount Rushmore for the rest of the game?
Well, according to our source it happens this way:* When Section 101 tix go unsold and the seats there are unoccupied at tipoff time, the Loud Crowd cruises the upper decks of Conseco and then offers a chosen few fans that are parked there the opportunity to move down into Area 55 and fill in the empty spots in 101 and 102.* That’s partially why we regulars always seem to see different faces every game in 101 and102; why some of the strangers spill beer on us or tell us regulars to “sit down”; and why we get occasional bandwagoning types wearing Celtic or Laker jerseys in 101 and 102.* True, sometimes these aliens have been the recipients of ticket largesse from Area 55 regulars. **Sometimes, however, they are strangers encouraged to migrate by the Loud Crowd.* Now you know!
Shared Thoughts on NBA Halftime Shows: Wednesday’s brutal loss to Orlando pointed up to me the importance of some of the other diversions that make for a general NBA spectacle.* Let’s face it.* Lots of times when you go to an NBA game, on-court excitement doesn’t happen.* Your team may get blown out, leaving you miserable, angry or dyspeptic. Or, your team may blow the other team away, leaving you fairly euphoric, full of unused adrenalin, and generally bored.* Either way, when this happens, a true funseeker starts looking around for other avenues of entertainment.
Hence the importance of the NBA Halftime Show!
In the past, this Newsletter has tried to alert readers to some of the intriguing non-game aspects of the Conseco Fieldhouse Pacers game experience.* We’ve supplied you with the results of the Dunkin Donut Races.* We’ve reported Larry Bird sightings. We’ve regaled you with Pacers4Ever’s informative explanations of the nuances of NBA esoterica.
However, our Newsletter has been sadly remiss in failing to provide critical reviews of the halftime entertainment at Pacer games. *Mostly, this deficiency is attributable to the author’s halftime adjournments for nachos or hot dogs at the elite Blue Flame Grill.* However, henceforth this oversight will be addressed.
Anyway, by way of compensation, I’ve provided below what I regard as a short *compendium of top NBA Halftime Spectacles.* Some of these acts have already found their way to Conseco for the amusement of the masses and some haven’t.* Vide!
#1 – Escape Artists and Magicians Extraordinaire!
The woman’s name is Kristen Johnson. She’s a professional escape artist whose métier is bravely escaping — normally*without dying — from a giant tube of water after first being chained and handcuffed. In the video, she attempted this feat at the halftime of a Thunders-Pistons game that occurred on January 16, 2009 game in Oklahoma City.
Everything was going great — fans were cheering, children were laughing, puppies were frolicking — until Kristen took a little too long to, you know, to escape from the tube. She then suffered*cerebral hypoxia (the deprivation of oxygen supply to her brain tissue), went into a seizure, and had to be rescued from what would otherwise have been a watery demise.
I don’t know if PS&E has booked Ridgeway & Johnson yet. If not, a cautionary word to the Suits:* Make sure you have an iron-clad liability waiver and plenty of insurance coverage.
#2 – The Dancing Trombonist! What moves a bored basketball mob most when the home team is behind at halftime by 17 points?* Answer:* Music and dance!* And you get both with Jonathan Arons, the Dancing Trombonist!*
#3 – Watch Girls Skipping Rope! If your team’s threes aren’t going in, and your opponent’s are, maybe resigning yourself to a loss and looking for an alternative means of entertainment is the order of the day.* Apparently, a lot of people must think that watching a floor-full of otherwise ordinary women making nifty geometric patterns while simultaneously skipping ropes is good NBA family fun.* Different strokes for different folks.
#4 – See the Human Slinkee! Now this act is intriguing!* All of us used to have a Slinkee, the mysterious coiled wire toy that would walk down stairs and that you could shift effortlessly from hand to hand.* Here we have the Human Halftime Slinkee that you can watch make strange caterpillar-like moves while chewing on your Blue Flame popcorn.* Pan et circenses, folks.* *Suits, listen up!* I for one want to see the Human Slinkee!
If the Romans had the Human Slinkee for amusement, they probably wouldn’t have been throwing all those Christians to the lions in the Coliseum.
#5 -Victor the Wrestling Bear! When researching NBA halftime shows, I was sort of wondering what passed for amusement in days of yore when the Pacers used to be in the ABA and the need for entertainment draws to attract attendance for the infant league was really compelling.* That’s how I ran across Victor the Wrestling Bear.
In its old ABA days, the Indiana Pacers had a lot of interesting halftime events –including, among others, fan sock hops and cow-milking contests. But maybe the Pacers’ most entertaining halftime feature came in April 1975, when Pacers unveiled a special halftime show featuring Victor the Wrestling Bear.* The game program stated:
“Victor will be at the game to take on such noted wrestlers as Chet Coppock, sports director at WISH-TV, Reb Porter at WIFE radio, and several other special opponents. If time permits, Victor will also wrestle a couple of fans.”
Sadly, no video seems to exist memorializing this event.* I for one, however, would like to see it reprised. *How about a tag team with El Pacero and erstwhile Human Bowling Ball Mark Doyle in wrestling tights coming to grips with an ursine foe?
Alas, times have changed.* The Indiana Department of Natural Resources and PETA might have objections.* So much fun has gone out of life.
AND NOW FOR SOME NEW JERSEY NETS FUN FACTS!
Meet Famous Jersey Celebs at Nets Game! One of the nice things about going to an NBA game are all the glamorous celebrities one is apt to encounter.* At a Nets game, you’re liable to run into the likes of Kim Kardashian and Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi!* Both are apparently big Nets fans.* At least they were recently spotted together at the Nets’ most recent game with the Mavericks.* Here’s a photo for your edification:
Of course, there’s nothing more New Jersey than Snooki.* And Kim’s (like her sneaker-sniffing sister, Khloé – who’s married to Laker Lamar Odom) been dating Net’s forward, Kris Humphries. It was almost foreordained that Kim and Kris would be a number.* Kris, it turns out, has two sisters, Krystal and Kaela. Like Kim Kardashian, Kris comes from a Family of Ks.* Kim’s mom is named Kris too and she has sisters Khloé, Kourtney, Kendall and Kylie, Humphries told People magazine that the letter ‘K’ plays an important role in his family, as well. “I think my parents thought that it was cool or trendy at the time, Parents try to distinguish their kids sometimes.”** How Kute!
Humphries, by the way, is currently in his sixth NBA season.* He holds career averages of 4.3 ppg and 3.1 rpg in 313 games in prior seasons with Utah, Toronto and Dallas.*The Nets picked him up in January 2010.* Somehow, despite these awful stats, he’s the guy that bumped Troy Murphy out of the Nets rotation after Murphy was first sidelined by his injuries.* If Troy let Kris bump him like that, I’m with Pacers4Ever.* We do NOT want him back.* Pacers Chants, you’re wrong.* Koller may be dyslexic, but he knows his basketball.
Meet Sly, the Nets’ Mascot! The Nets’ lovable mascot is “Sly the Silver Fox” (as in “Sly Fox”.* Get it?).* Why the Nets mascot is a “silver fox” is unexplained.* There is probably a reason, but it is lost in the antediluvian ABA Net past.
Sly also has a buddy (possibly a dancing midget) named Mini Sly.* You can see both cavorting and doing their lovable mascot things in this video. *Enjoy!
Before his Kim Kardashian days, Kris Humphries reportedly used Nets mascot Sly Fox to set him up with Nets Cheerleaders. I located his quote:
”My ex-girlfriend is a Nets dancer, she looks VERY similar to Kim Kardashian, [Humphries] used Sly the Nets’ mascot to get her info and lastly his constant pursuit caused me to break up with her. I don’t have any hard feelings towards her, so I don’t want to get her in any trouble or cause her any bad attention, but thought you should know what kind of guy he is.”
Kris is such a Kinky Kut-up!* I wonder if he’s a Ku Klux Klan member?
For your prurient viewing I show here Sly with some of the New Jersey Dancers.* Can you pick the one that is VERY similar to Kim.:
A New Marketing Gimmick –Reversible Jerseys! Many fans and corporate peers alike were startled last fall when the Nets began promoting their “Reversible Jersey” Plan.* *Per the Plan, fans willing to buy tickets to 10 Nets games could select a jersey bearing the name and number of *a featured superstar from an opposing team — such as the Cavaliers’ LeBron James or the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant. The reverse side of the jersey featured a Nets player’s name and number.* Most takers of the offer were reportedly doing so to get the non-Nets jersey.* Nets Marketing Chief Bret Yormark was unapologetic:
“We cater to the casual fan,” Yormark said. “It’s very tough for a fan in Jersey to get truly invested in us right now, knowing that we’re going to move [to Brooklyn]. We wanted to reach out to people who might never have been a Nets fan, or might never even have been to the arena. Fans that like those stars got the jersey, while at the same time we’re promoting our players on the other side.”
Diehard Nets fans were not amused at Yormark’s Plan.* As one blogger noted:
“It’s just a marketing ploy, but it seems so disloyal. To get fans to buy 10-game packages, the Nets are offering five reversible NBA jerseys–one side is a Nets jersey, the other a team they’ll be playing in those games. Devin Harris turns into Dwyane Wade, Courtney Lee into Kobe Bryant, Brook Lopez into Dwight Howard, etc. It’s as if the Nets are saying: if our team is embarrassing you, just switch sides!”
Yormark is known around the league for his zany marketing innovations.* When last year some fans showed up wearing paper bags over their heads as an expression of shame at the Nets dismal 2009-2010 record, Yormark offered any fan who put a paper bag on his head during a game a nylon Nets bag containing a poster, a pack of player trading cards and a printed note from Yormark that said: “Thanks for letting us see your face. We hope to see it more often at Nets’ games.”* Two people reportedly accepted the exchange offer.
Among Yormark’s other promotions were giving away tickets to unemployed New Jersey workers along with free career advice.* Another was a tax-related promotion in which New Jersey residents 18 years or older who attended an Orlando game would get a coupon redeemable at a Roni Deutch Tax Center where they could get their New Jersey state income tax return prepared free.
Let’s Listen to Avery Johnson’s Cool Voice! Nets coach Avery Johnson is known for his high-pitched voice.* Because of its pitch, he’s probably the most imitated coach in the NBA.
Here’s Nets guard Devin Harris imitating his coach:
Why I Like Avery Johnson. Ignore Avery’s cartoon-character voice.* He’s still a damned good coach.* There’s nothing subtle or diplomatic about him – why some NBA teams have reportedly steered clear of him.* The major knock on him has always been that he comes on too strong, alienates too many people, wants to control everything, and doesn’t listen to anybody. *However, these were the very reasons Nets management hired him to bring the Nets back from 2009-2010. The whole point was to cleanse the Nets of their mind-bogglingly awful ways.* Johnson hasn’t accomplished this feat yet, but he’s working on it.
“You obviously have too many guys who are soft-type players when you win 12 games,” Nets GM Rod Thorn said when hiring Johnson for the 2009-2010 season. “You need somebody who will hold people accountable, and Avery holds people accountable.”
Johnson inherited his abrasive style from Gregg Popovich, who won his first title in San Antonio with Johnson as his point guard. Popovich is another prickly personality, another last-place finisher in a Mr. Popularity contest, and another guy with a proven track record for winning NBA games.
Johnson got his first coaching gig at Dallas under Mark Cuban. He then grabbed the entertaining but Charmin-soft Mavericks by their throats, throttled them until they played defense, and then led them to a 2-0 lead in the 2006 NBA Finals before the whistles started blowing Dwyane Wade’s way.
Johnson won 67 games the next season, only to be upset by Golden State in the first round of the playoffs. His Mavs lost another first-round series (to New Orleans) before Cuban decided to clean house and Johnson lost his job. He then spent some time with ESPN as an analyst before being hired by New Jersey.
At New Jersey, Johnson has been tasked with making the Nets a winner by the time they are due to move to Brooklyn in 2012 or 2013 (when they are slated to become the “Brooklyn Nets”). The franchise already has league approval for the move, a new arena being built, a lot of *salary cap space freed up, some draft picks in its coffers, and an engaged Russian zillionaire owner psyched to make winning happen.* In Johnson the Nets have a coach who demands excellence from players that are not inclined to reach for it and someone who isn’t afraid to be a jerk when his team’s effort requires him to be one.
Going into the 2010-2011 season, he owned the best regular-season winning percentage in NBA history at 194-70 (.735). *Squeaky voice or not, I like Avery Johnson.
Well, that’s enough for tonight, 55ers.* Let’s not let the Nets hang loss #7 on us.* Show up early and bring your lungs.* Maybe something good will happen Friday.* We certainly need a win.