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Today, as I put these word to pen, the sun is shining, the ice is melting and robins are outside my window chirping. Crocuses are trying to worm their way to the surface near our front door and there are buds evident on our forsythia. Hell, my wife even gave me a Valentine’s Day kiss this morning. But most importantly the Pacers dispatched Milwaukee in short order and that jinx is finally off our backs. We’re on a roll. Life is good.
In case you may have missed it, after waltzing around with our antlered Milwaukee antagonists for 3 full quarters Saturday night, our Indiana Pacers apparently decided a couple of minutes into the 4th that enough was enough. Then they put the hammer down. At the time, with 9:08 remaining, the Bucks had a 78-77 lead.
In the ensuing 6 minutes it was like watching night turn to day. The Bucks proceeded to miss something like 12 straight field goal attempts; failed to even attempt a free throw; were called for palming the ball; committed 3 charges; had a shot blocked; and were forced into a 24-second violation. When the sequence was over we were around 14 points ahead. It was nothing less than awesome.
In that same pivotal 4th Quarter, Danny Granger took over. He scored 14 of his game high 30. And DC2 tossed in 8 of his 22.
And by the way, our man Roy Hibbert thoroughly outplayed his old nemesis, Andrew Bogut, netting himself in the process 13 points, 8 boards and a career high 6 assists. When it was all over, we won 103-97. As a result, Frank Vogel’s NBA coaching record stands at 7 out of 8; we now have a full 2-game lead over Charlotte for the 8th place playoff berth; and the Bucks and their anguished followers were left in a state closely akin to despair.
And now we get a rematch with the Miami troika of James, Wade, and Bosh. A couple of weeks ago I wouldn’t have given us a snowball’s chance in hell in a game with the Heat. Now I’m ready to say “Bring it on!” We can play with Miami. Hell, we can beat Miami.
I’m not predicting victory here. But I think it’s going to be a real tune up for the playoffs. I think Area 55 needs to treat it the same way. Let’s greet LeBron and all his bandwagon fans appropriately Tuesday night.
Get Well Marjorie! I just got the bad news that Area 55’s red-headed mainstay, Marjorie Shackelford, recently fell in her home and broke her hip. That’s why we haven’t see her and her daughter, Bobbie Kidwell, for the past few game doing their usual shimmying in Area 55. Bobbie tells me that her mom has been getting used to using a walker and plans on trying to make it to Tuesday night’s contest with the Heat. She mentioned too that she would like to get Roy and some of his buddies to sign her walker. For those of you who don’t know her, Marjorie’s a real nice lady. I know I speak for everyone in wishing her speedy recovery. My guess is that Majorie will use some of her down time to write Roy more poetry.
If she does manage to make it to the Miami game as planned, let’s all give her a memorable get-well chant. How many 73 year old women do you know that would use a walker to get to a professional basketball game after breaking a hip bone? It says something about the esteem that some of the fans in Indy hold for our Pacers.
The Milwaukee Odyssey: At this point in the Newsletter I usually talk about PTO doings or slide into a few fun facts about the opposing team. However, my recent road trip to Milwaukee to see our boys handle the Bucks causes me to part from the standard format. A lot of people have been telling me they want to hear the particulars on what happened. Accordingly, here’s the poop. Read further at your peril!
The impetus that caused 13 devoted Pacers Tailgating Organization and Area 55 members to embark on an impromptu trip to the city of Laverne and Shirley began immediately after our win over the Bobcats. At that time, Kyle “Kielbeze” Brumback (flush with a home victory and doubtlessly inspired by beer) hatched a boozy plan with El Pacero to organize a quickie caravan to Milwaukee for the Pacers’ road game with the Bucks. I learned something was afoot just before the end of the Charlotte game. After Dahntay Jones had unloaded the last of his 19 points on the Bobcats, I looked down and saw Kielbeze directing his bear-like body upwards from the lower echelons of Row 6 of Section 101 and ambling toward where I was sitting in the rarefied air of Row 9.
I could tell that whatever he had in mind was going to be trouble. In Brumback’s case beer and thought always make for a dangerous combination.
Anyway, Kielbeze advised we 3 Row 9ers (i.e., yours truly, Brian “Pacers4Ever” Koller, and Colin “Paint Your Face” Lott) that a trip to Wisconsin was in the works. Then, without giving any of us much time to say anything about this one way or the other, he firmly advised us that we didn’t have much say in the matter and that he had decided that we would be going. It went something like this:
“El Pacero will talk to Rob Laycock and nail us some tickets,” said Kielbeze. “And you, IndyHoya, will be one of the drivers!”
Yeah, it was on pretty short notice. And true, I can’t say I was extremely enthusiastic at first. After all, Kielbeze had more to drink at the PTO than I did. However, drunk or sober, Kielbeze is a persuasive guy. You can’t work as a collection agent for Sallie Mae without picking up some people skills.
Anyway, Kielbeze pooh-poohed all my perfectly reasonable excuses for not going – clients, work, a sense of responsibility, the wife etc. etc. After all, the Bear was farting off his own job in order to make the trip. Given that, he rightly pointed out that I’d be a total lamer if I didn’t do exactly the same thing. That almost persuaded me, but then he hit me with his most compelling argument – a succinct reminder of how Squad 6 had humiliated us in its visit to Conseco. That memory, of course, rankled. When I heard it, I decided that come hell or high water I would be driving my Toyota to Cheeseville..
In an ensuing post-game organizational conclave held in the Anthem parking lot, Kielbeze used his skills to dragoon two additional drivers – Justin Dumbrosky and Markus Beresford. And by 9:00 A.M. the next morning fully 13 would-be Argonauts had signed on for the expedition. Who were these intrepid soldiers-of-fortune? Well, as mentioned, there was moi, Joe Murphy, the lovable IndyHoya. There was Justin “The Polish Pacer” Dombrosky, and there was Indianapolis Markus. We were designated as the flotilla’s helmsmen chiefly because we owned functioning automobiles. It certainly wasn’t because of our bubbly and effervescent personalities. Our passengers – helping out with moral support and gas money – were Dave “Day-V” Dearing, the inimitable El Pacero, Colin Lott – a 19 year old psychotic, Big John the Phony Canadian Professional Wrestler, Bryon “BPump33” Pumphrey, our 18-year old NBA savant, Brian “Pacers4Ever” Koller , Zach “Red Foster” Brown, Rob “SuperFan” Greenway, Chris “PacersChants” Goff, and, of course, the main ursine instigator, Kielbeze. Not a bad crew given the short notice. I would have preferred a topless dancer or two, but space was limited. The trip was underway.
Accordingly, Saturday morning at noon, we rendezvoused at a northwest side location that shall continue to remain nameless. On my arrival with Koller in tow, I immediately noticed that there was this new, strange-looking dude among our number that I hadn’t really seen before. I figured he was somebody’s friend. But after I gunned my engine and set out, BPump told me the guy was none other than El Pacero – only sans mask.
See the prospects of four and a half hours of mask sweat caused Pacero to doff his cover. I won’t describe the visage I saw in too much detail. If you want an image of what I saw, segue to that horrible scene from The Phantom of the Opera when the hero pulls his cover off!!! Aaargh!!! The disfiguring scars! The acid burns! The horrible contorted features!!!). Well, maybe I’m exaggerating a little here for literary effect.
Anyway, owing to his sharing us with the unmasking, all of us fellow-travelers were sworn to the highest degree of secrecy. I will therefore say little here about what we all saw. Being fellow 55ers and buddies of Pacero, we all understood the need to preserve his well-earned aura of mystery. Accordingly, I will say nothing here to endanger his secret identity. However, the next time you order a pizza from Donato’s, scrutinize the features of your delivery guy carefully and tip him well. No, I’m not saying that El Pacero’s alter ego delivers pizzas for a living. I’m only saying that there’s a good chance that he does (*wink* *nudge* *hint*).
I will also say little about my actual trip from Point X to Milwaukee other than this. I was a the wheel of my noble 1998 Toyota Rav4 the entire time and Brian “Pacers4Ever” Koller served as my navigator. Traveling under these circumstances greatly intensified the excitement already inherent in the adventure. I have to say that Koller did his level best to keep me on the right roads during the trip. However, assigning important map work to a person suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder like Koller proved, in hindsight, to be something of a mistake. Yup, despite a detailed Yahoo Map I had printed off beforehand, and my ruthlessly steady hand at the wheel, with Koller navigating we managed to be lost approximately 70% of the time on the way to Milwaukee. To be fair, besides his ADD, Koller had only had around 2 hours of sleep before we embarked. Also, for some reason, he had swilled down a couple of dozen bottles of “Arnold Palmer Iced Tea” (golfer Koller’s favorite brand) before setting out.
Koller’s tea drinking did unfortunately foreseeable things to his young bladder. As a result, our northward progress was sluggish. It seemed like whenever we were about to make some good time, Koller would start hinting about having to whiz on my Toyota’s s front seat upholstery. I don’t know how many unplanned stops we had to make. But I think we visited every McDonald’s john between Lafayette and Fowler.
Originally I was supposed to lead the assembled cars on our long odyssey, However, owing to Koller’s finicky bladder our expedition devolved quickly into a Ray Charles leading Stevie Wonder sort of thing. After the first 10 or 15 minutes of the trip, what with Koller’s navigating and urinating, we soon lost track of the one another. When it was all said and done, every vehicle was pretty much forced to fend for itself.
My trusty Rav4 did manage to make it to Milwaukee without any serious mishaps (no thanks to Koller). However, when we made our approach we all (that is, me, BPump, Colin, and Koller) somehow managed to miss Exit 73A, the designated downtown Milwaukee entry point. As a result, we got to needlessly see where the Milwaukee Brewers play their baseball, view the exit for the town’s Zoo, and the scan the get-off point for the famous Potawatomi Casino (which, judging from all the signs advertising it, is the principal basis of Milwaukee’s booming economy).
At long last, after finding ourselves in a strange place called Waukeesha (another town doubtlessly either founded or owned by Potawatomis), we all concluded that we were hopelessly lost and that we would have to do the extremely unmasculine thing of asking someone for directions. Accordingly on Colin Lott’s particular insistence, we turned into a seedy-looking Waukeesha gas station to take stock and seek guidance.
I am ashamed to say that I wound up having to ask an effeminate-looking guy (possibly a Potawatomi) that was using a squeegee to wipe muddy water stains from his car windows (a popular local pastime in Milwaukee) for directional help. Our informant pointed a limp wrist toward a nearby highway, provided additional useful information and, as a result, we managed to double back to the mysterious 73A exit that we so successfully blew by in the first place.
Anyway, we then wound up taking a random downtown exit (it might have said Kilbourne Street, by that time I was hallucinating and can’t now be sure), passed the Marquette University campus (which took us all of about 30 seconds), found Fourth Street, and then took a decisive left. Then we had a “Eureka” moment. There it was! Looming out of the snow squalls and afternoon greyness that typifies Milwaukee in February (and most other months as well) — a big, black, ugly mother of a building that bore the fabled name: “Bradley Center.”
Hallelujah! We had scaled the mountain! We had made it to Milwaukee!
Our timing was good. We reached Brew Town just about 3 hours before tip-off time. Dombrosky and Markus had beaten me there, of course. They had already parked their vehicles in a fetid $20 lot surrounded by piles of blackened reminders of Milwaukee’s last snowstorm. After making sure of the fact that all of us had actually arrived intact and in one piece, we sucked on beer Kielbeze had brought along with him from Indianapolis while waiting for Pacero and Greenway to don their standard Area 55 garb.
We then hiked a block or two over to our next major checkpoint – “The Old German Beer Hall” a/k/a “The Hofbrauhaus.”
The Old German Beer Hall is located on “North Old World Third Street” (or something like that). Just an aside here, but it occurs to me now, as I write this, that practically everything is old and German in Milwaukee except possibly the Potawatomi Tribe’s spanking new Casino). Whatever, it’s just a couple of blocks from the Bradley Center. I had previously visited Milwaukee on an earlier gray February to view a Georgetown-Marquette game and had stumbled into the Beer Hall by accident. That was one of the few good things that had happened to me on that trip. Anyway, I talked it up as a potential watering hole. No one else had any alternatives in mind, so we beat a path to it in fairly good order.
If you want to retrace our intrepid steps someday, here ya go:
The Old German Beer Hall proved to be a good choice. Once there, we decided to forego any further sightseeing or Milwaukee tourist attractions. The beer (I had a frothy pitcher of “Amber”) was pretty tasty. After determining that the money we had brought with us was not counterfeit and that some of us actually did possess good credit, the bosomy young serving maids treated us pretty good. A representative portrait of the Beer Hall’s serving wenches is faithfully depicted below:
Big Jon was probably the one of us most awed by the Beer Hall’s waitresses. To paraphrase his comments at the time, there is just something endearing and welcoming about seeing a waitress, thusly attired, bouncing and jiggling her way towards you, while simultaneously hoisting 4 or 5 mammoth steins of genuine German beer. It’s about the closest thing to Valhalla one can experience without actually dying first in battle.
Anyway, after seating ourselves on the benches at the Beer Hall, most of us immediately loaded up on beer, mammoth pretzels, and wurst. We were all, of course, rigged out in our standard Area 55 Pacers gear and as we drank and caroused the locals in the place (who appeared to be of either German or Potawatomi ethnicity) were all eyeing us sort of warily.
We did our best to cozy up to the locals — explaining the noble purpose of our mission and cheerily chanting “Roy, Roy, Roy” at appropriate times as the Hall’s German dance music was playing.
This is where things turned a bit weird. Towards the back of the Beer Hall, close to where we were doing our drinking, some of the more manly of the locals were involved in a strange sort of game that entailed driving nails into a sawed-off tree trunk with a hammer.
It seemed a sort of silly pastime to me, however, mindful that we were, indeed, good will ambassadors from far off Indy, we kept most of our commentary to ourselves so as not to be any more offensive than we already were. Indeed, when a couple of the locals challenged our manhood and invited us to a nail-hitting competition, a few of our number rose from our benches to face the opposition.
As mentioned, this odd Milwaukee sport entailed picking up a heavy hammer (that, for some reason, was chained to the sawed-off tree trunk – possibly to prevent theft. Who the hell knows.), and then using it to try to drive a nail into the top of the tree trunk with as few hammer-strokes as possible. Anyway, three of our baker’s dozen, uncowed and determined, faced the challenge. Their names shall be preserved in the annals of Area 55: Dombrosky, Big Jon, and Indianapolis Markus.
Dombrosky was first, and his attempt to heft the hammer and hit the nail got things off to a controversial start. He lifted the mallet and smashed it down pretty hard but his stroke didn’t entirely hit his objective – a nail that had been lightly started in the tree trunk. Rather, Dombrosky kind of grazed the nail, causing it to fly off the trunk crazily and ping violently against the glass cover of a framed picture of one of the notable German dignitaries (maybe it was Otto von Bismark or Kaiser Wilhelm, none of us were totally sure) that adorned a nearby wall. Anyway, Dombrosky’s stroke, and all the resulting smashed glass, added a sort of Hunnic festivity to the mood of the competition.
The establishment’s owners, learning of the damage to their memorabilia took the unanticipated damage reasonably well. I don’t think they even demanded that we pay for it. At any rate, Dombrosky, perhaps remembering the 1939 Nazi invasion of Poland, offered no apologies.
Big Jon the Wrestler was the next PTOer to heft the heavy hammer. And he hit his nail pretty squarely, driving it about three-quarters of the way into the tree trunk at one stroke. The smarmy locals that had invited him to participate were suitably awed. Indeed, none of their strokes matched his.
But the real hero of the day proved to be Indianapolis Markus, who somehow, some way, on his very first blow drove the nail down to its very head into the cellulose bowels of the tree trunk.
The locals who had challenged us to the competition in the first place appeared greatly chagrined. Following Markus’ Meisterstroke, we heard no more invites to test our manhood in Milwaukee nail smiting. Indeed, all remarks about us being invading “Hoosiers” petered into a hushed silence. Markus had beaten the locals at their own game! Anyway, after Markus smashed his nail all the way in in a single blow, our detractors sort of slunk away into some of the more obscure areas of the Beer Hall. We didn’t hear any more crap from them for the rest of the evening.
The rest of us spent the remaining two hours swilling beer and ordering pretzels for no real reason other than to see our serving wenches come jiggling out to our table carrying them. After a while, a musician attired in lederhosen appeared and began playing a lot of Teutonic drinking songs. We chimed in with lusty choruses of “Hib-Hib-Hooroy” and “Sick-a-sycka, Sick-a- sycka, Roy, Roy, Roy!” (all of which sounded a lot better there at the Beer Hall while we were drinking and singing than it does now here where I put these lyrics to pen).
Kielbeze, always a good time sort of guy, even got our musician to pull out his huge Swiss Ricola Horn. Hence we were all treated to a couple of bass hoots from that thing from the musician in return for our giving him money for tips. However, all fun must end. When game time approached, it was a lucky thing that Zach “Red Foster” Brown was there to ride herd on us. Otherwise, we would never have computed the proper amount of money that we needed to throw on the table to settle our bill. Trusting souls that we were, we basically kept throwing money down on the table until Red held up his hands and said: “Enough!” Then we then bade our dirndled serving frauleins a fond “Auf Wiedersehen” and staggered out into Old Third Street (or wherever the hell it was that we were). Only the tea-totallers among us – Koller and Lott were feeling no pain. For his part, Lott had spent most of the two hours we spent in the Old Beer Hall in the establishment’s rest room painting up his face. When finished, it was a fearsome thing to behold.
From the Beer Hall we then meandered our way through the Old Streets towards the arena, chanting “Pay-Pay-Pay Pacers” and slapping palms with the many friendly Milwaukeans we encountered along the way. Most of the locals we met either just grinned at us or responded with amiable calls of “Pacers Suck!”
At this point in our narrative another small aside is appropriate. If any of you attempt to retrace the heroic path we blazed, and seek to visit the Bradley Center yourselves, be forewarned. Bring a strong flashlight and an ample stock of batteries. It’s darker than ****** in there.
When we groped our way into the Center, someone immediately thrust a box containing a goofy looking bobble-head designed in the likeness of Milwaukee’s former Hall of Famer and demi-legend, Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Somehow or other Koller got his mitts on two or three of these suckers. When I asked him his intentions, he muttered something about knowing where he could unload them in the near future for $35 apiece. On hearing that, I grasped my own Jabbar a tad more firmly.
We then advanced, Argonauts together, into the darkish, cavernous interior of the Bradley Center. Fortified with beer, none of us trembled. “Bring it on!” I thought. Whatever awaited – Götterdammerung, the taunts of hostile Milwaukeans, or an encounter with their antlered mascot, “Bango the Deer” – all of us felt ready.
The entryway to the Bradley Center had a carpet (I think it was black. Damned near everything in the Bradley Center is black) and stepping on it gave us momentary pause. Being used to bright and cheery Conseco, entering Bradley was quite a contrast. The entryway looked a lot more like an antiquated Holiday Inn lobby than a basketball arena. It was Day-V, I think it was who mused: “Where are the bellhops, the a sign-in Desk, and the directions to the businessmen’s sauna?”
As we penetrated even further into the Bradley Center’s murkiness, our eyes were drawn to a smidgeon of dim light thrown outwards from some of the Center’s kiosks. Straining our eyes, numbers with arrows indicating directions to seating gradually came into focus. We eyeballed our tickets, looked again into the ebony murk, and realized that our seats were not together. Rather, we were an expedition divided, with our seating located in various and sundry sections of the arena. On closer examination we learned that some of us were seated in various parts of an area called “205.” The rest of us were placed on the opposite side of the Center in a region known as “216.”
Owing to the fact that the expedition to Wisconsin was on such short notice, the 205 and 216 tix Rob Laycock had scrounged up for us were about the best he could do. It meant, however, that we were being scattered and divided. We decided to see if there was some way we could manage to sit together – the numbers on our tickets notwithstanding.
We opted first to peruse the assigned seating in 216. The plan was to reconnoiter, and then take stock. Maybe a friendly usher could be persuaded to let us all sit somewhere together in the arena if we promised to be well-behaved. We learned quickly, however, that friendly ushers in the Bradley Center are about as rare as a rose in a Wisconsin February.
When we got to 216 and stuck our noses in its entryway the National Anthem was being played. As we stood to attention, I for one, felt reassured hearing the notes of the Star Spangled Banner. I guess I didn’t know what to expect. Milwaukee’s a pretty German town. If I had heard “Deutschland, Deutschland Über Alles” being played, it wouldn’t have surprised me one bit.
After the Anthem, we all squeezed into some empty seats in 216. Locals gawked, not really knowing what to make of us. Mothers hugged their infants closer to their bosoms. Fathers and sons, initially stunned by our invasion, began to taunt and jeer. We loved it. I began to understand the rush that Big Jon must feel as a professional wrestling villain. There’s definitely something enervating about being despised by everyone around you.
Pacero and Greenway, of course, were both in their typical Area 55 finery. We all had Hibbert shirts and Pacers gear on. Seeing the enemy like that up close can be a little staggering for anyone on first view. While the locals gaped and clucked at us, we then encountered the first of our troubles with the Bradley Center’s corps of ushers.
Given the fact that there were no locals sitting within the rows of seating in 216 that we occupied, and with the game about to get underway, we figured no one would mind our bunching up together. If a ticketed seat owner showed up, obviously we’d have given them their seat and moved elsewhere. We figured that this would be okay with the ushers. We figured wrong.
Almost immediately after all of us sat down in 216, two uniformed ushers came up to us. One of them with a goatee pointed at Greenway, Chants, and Pacero and started yelling that they weren’t sitting in their properly ticketed seats. The other usher, a black guy, then told us that those three would have to move. Then he kept repeating that we would all have to sit in the seats that were tied to our tickets.
After trying to look dumb (which wasn’t hard for any of us) and pretending that there must have been some kind of mistake, the three offenders finally got up to go. Kielbeze and I didn’t have the right tickets for 216 either, but, for some reason, the ushers didn’t seem to have any problems with our staying there. We were grinning a bit at that much of a coup when, suddenly, Chris Denari came bouncing up to us out of the Bradley Center’s shadows, merrily shaking our hands, and holding the camera on his cell phone towards us so as to take our photos.
We obligingly crowded together for pictures and chanted a few loud “Hib Hib Hooroys!” for Denari. Denari seemed genuinely pleased to see us. (It occurred to me that he was probably happy just to see anything at all in the murky pervasive blackness that is the Bradley Center).
After Denari’s welcome, some of the locals sitting in adjoining seats must have figured that we celebrities or that something special was going on. Two or three of them started jumping out of their seats, ambling over to us, pulling out their cell phones, and then asking us to repeat our cheering so that they could get us digitalized too. Pacero and Greenway were the principal attractions, but the locals seemed to regard all of us as a sort of welcome novelty. “Poor fools,” I thought. “We are Pacers fans, and we have come to bury you!”
Anyway, we chanted, huddled together, and mugged for the locals until they seemed to have had enough of us. Then, as the photo-loving locals abated, our usher – the same black guy that was previously telling Goff, Greenway, and Pacero that they would have to move – actually pulled out his cell phone and began asking us to huddle together for a personal photo. Thinking that maybe he had warmed up to our natural Indiana charm, we posed, let loose with a few more partisan Pacer chants, and watched Mr. Usher snap photo after photo of us.
When Mr. Usher finally finished capturing us in pixels and bytes, he then put his cell phone back into his pocket and, as if nothing previously had happened, again started demanding that those of us without the proper tickets for 216 would have to leave.
By this time, our former protector, Denari, had left. Meanwhile, Mr. Usher, all smiles when Denari had been around, was becoming nastier and nastier with us, continuing to insist that those of us that didn’t have 216 tickets would have to leave.
El Pacero cogently pointed out to Mr. Usher the incongruity between the friendliness he had shown us just minutes before when Denari was talking to us and his present hostility. But incongruity didn’t bother Mr. Usher at all.
I tried talking to him too, pointing out that when Squad 6 had visited Conseco, they had been treated kindly. Indeed, in their visit to Indiana, Squad 6 had been allotted a bloc of over 40+ tickets – with all Squad 6 members thus being permitted to sit together. I told Mr. Usher that we were only asking to be shown similar courtesy. Unfortunately I didn’t get anywhere with him either. Reciprocity wasn’t in Mr. Usher’s playbook.
Accordingly, rather than provoke any further trouble, those of us without 216 tickets decided to hike over to the other side of the arena and move into our correct seats.
Chants, Greenway, and I traveled together to 205. Unfortunately this safari was only the start of a long nomadic sequence that lasted for most of the first and second quarters of the game.
After roving (or rather groping – the Bradley Center is as dark as a witch’s heart) our way through the Bradley Center and ultimately getting to its other side where 205 was located, the three of us then took our assigned seating watched warily by a new unsmiling usher.
We politely told the locals in the seats adjoining ours that it was an old Area 55 custom to stand up and cheer throughout a game and that we did not wish to disturb them any more than necessary. We therefore told those behind us that, if they wished, we would be happy switch our seats in front of them with theirs so their view of the game would not be disturbed by our standing. A guy and his date, whose view we would otherwise have blocked, amiably took us up on this offer and we exchanged seats.
Some of the locals ensconced in seating proximate to ours seemed to be generally amused by our chanting. Others, however, didn’t seem to like it at all. One guy across an aisle from me seemed to be a collector of filthy hand gestures and he eagerly shared with me his entire repetoire. I have seen nothing similar other than, perhaps once, when on a visit to Rome, I witnessed two Italian cab drivers gesticulating angrily after their hacks had collided with one another near the Coliseum.
After settling into our seats in 205 for around 5 minutes or so, who should appear but Bango the Deer, the Bucks’ pathetic excuse for a mascot!
Yup, Bango seemed to be wandering aimlessly around in the section above ours. Goff, Greenway and I greeted him with a few “Smear the Deer” and “Roadkill” chants. Bango seemed surprised and taken aback at our presence. Our chanting actually had even a few of the locals chuckling. After finally figuring out that we were hostiles, Bango then tried to slide down a railing to get a closer look at us. I respectfully cautioned Bango to be careful sliding down railed banisters, reminding him of his unfortunate All Star Game accident where he had clumsily fallen through a basketball rim, had strained his groin muscles, and had torn an ACL in his knee. Bango seemed irritated by my reminder. He stared at me when I was talking to him as if trying to figure out what he could do. Goff and I “ROADKILLED” him some more and then he left.
Around this time, Kielbeze came by our seats and instructed us to come with him. We figured he had finally found us some collective seating and we gladly left after first taking leave of all the nice friends we had made in 205.
Out in the dark passageway leading from 205 to the circulation area of the arena, Kielbeze was standing, chatting with a guy in Bucks gear that told us he was a Squad 6 member. When we asked them, he and his similarly-attired girl friend also claimed to be buddies of Chuckles Love, our Bucks Pacers Digest acquaintance whom we had come to know after Squad 6’s visit to Conseco. When we explained that we had been unable to find a way to sit together, the guy apologized and told us to come with him, promising that he would find us some otherwise vacant seating in Squad 6. We thanked him for his courtesy and followed him over to Squad 6’s area in the arena.
Most of us clung to one another’s sleeves as we followed. By using this buddy system, none of us got lost in the Bradley Center blackness. It was a little like being in a darkened movie theater without those little lights they have on the aisle seats.
On arrival in Squad 6, our pathfinder promptly stuck us in seats in various parts of Squad 6. We weren’t together, as he had promised. Nevertheless, we tried to get situated. It was at right at this point, thinking that sitting in Squad 6 wasn’t much better than sitting in 216 and 205, that I realized I had left my valuable Kareem Abdul Jabbar bobble-head under my last seat back in 205.
“Damn!” I thought. “I could have had Koller sell the sucker and split the take, thus netting me a cool $17.” Unfortunately, this realization was only the first of my misfortunes in the Squad 6 seating area.
On parking in the empty seating indicated by our benefactor, Greenway, Chants, and I then basically were so tired from walking around the arena that we basically just started trying to watch the game. By this time, it was late in the first quarter and the score was pretty close.
Unfortunately, we didn’t even have time to do a “Let’s Go Pacers” before another uniformed usher was up on us demanding to know if we had tickets. Taking him for a stupid lackey, I got all lawyerly with him (being a lawyer, it was easy). I told Mr. Lackey that we had been escorted to our seating with the blessing of Squad 6. I said it firmly. I could tell he was a moron because he seemed to repeat what I said a couple of times. “They told you it was OK?” “Yes sir, they did. It’s perfectly OK for us to sit here.” Chastened, he left muttering an “OK, I guess it’ll be all right then.” I again smiled firmly and courteously and he seemed to retreat off into more of the Bradley blackness. He eventually disappeared into the noir. All seemed well.
Approximately three minutes after my chat with Lackey #1, a new uniformed Bradley Center lackey, Lackey #2 — a tall gangly sort that reminded me of an elongated Barney Fife, only with a more officious manner – came up to us, again demanding to see our tickets.
I tried the same, “Squad 6 said it was OK” argument on Lackey #2, but again it was to no avail. So, one by one, like a herd of exiled cattle, the 13 of us were again ousted from the proximity of Squad 6 and ordered to return to our ticketed seating. A few if the Squad 6ers hooted at us, but we left chanting our stuff.
Squad 6, by the way, for all the people in it, sure wasn’t very impressive. They were all attired in red and white shirts, but I think the way their team was playing may have deflated them. Most of them were just sitting around watching the Bucks fail. It reminded me a little of our Laker game back in the now happily remote O’Brien era at Conseco. We later were told that some of the older Squad 6ers had resigned, owing to “political” conflicts with newer members. Whatever the case, their product now did not look all that good.
Once again banished, one of us got the bright idea to give up on our expensive lower-level seating and try our luck in the cheaper upper reaches of the Center. This area, known as “400”, is a strange area accessible only to mountain goats with infra-red vision. Still, there were lots of vacant seats up there in NoseBleedLand. Moving there en masse seemed a possibility. We elected to go for it. Sure we’d be far away from things. But what the hell, at least we’d be together.
Propelled by the thought that we gypsies might actually find a home in 400, where the only occupants seemed to be similarly ostracized ne’er-do-wells we started climbing bank after bank of stairs. As I climbed I speculated on what sort of animals I would find seated up there. I figured that they were probably felons, occupying the dark upper reaches of the BC as a punishment for some heinous, and unnamed crime. Surely, I thought, no one, not even the uniformed usher/lackeys would care if we parked our rumps in 400 with only alpacas, llamas, mountain goats, and failed Alpinists for company. Section 400 was clearly some sort of sports purgatory.
Again we were wrong.
After groping our way through even more squid-ink blackness and two or three flights of unlit stairs, we eventually emerged at a dimly lit entryway manned by another coated Bradley goon. This one too told us that we couldn’t sit, even in 400, if we weren’t ticketed to be there.
Resignedly, we again retraced our steps…stumbling and trudging morosely, down, down, and down again, until once more we found ourselves in the lower reaches of the BC. Here there was perhaps more oxygen to breathe, but only a tad bit more light.
It was all so Fellini-esque, the goofy ushers, the coal black passageways, the strange Bucks fans with their assorted “you sucks” and “kiss my asses”. Like a scene from Sartre’s play, “No Exit” — where the characters wander about forever, chatting aimlessly about nothing, and essentially, doing and accomplishing nothing.
By the time we got back down to the Level 200 (home of 205 and 216), the game’s second quarter was well underway. The three of us – Greenway, Goff, and I elected to give up on sitting together with the other 10 of our number. Yes, the Bradley Center had defeated us. The ushers had won. Resigned to our fates, we trudged back to our real seats in 205.
When I reverted to my former seat, I groped around under it, trying to find my lost Jabbar bobble-head. Of course, it was now gone.
It was an interesting period piece, that lost bobble-head. As depicted, Jabbar had sideburns that our old coach, Jim O’Brien, would certainly have envied. I felt keen pangs of loss.
After taking my seat in 205, again friendless and now bobble-headless, I took the opportunity to wave a cheery hello to my old friend, the guy with the repertoire of filthy Italian hand-gestures. He stood up and amicably grasped his groin. It must have had some sort of meaning, but I didn’t bother to ask for an explanation. Instead, I parked my rump again in my assigned seating, determined at last to savor more of Commissioner David Stern’s wholesome, family-oriented, cheerful NBA basketball experience.
But then who should appear again but Bango the Deer!
In this second chance encounter, Goff and I pointed out to Bango that our home mascot, Boomer the Pacer Panther, had never managed to fall through a basketball rim and injure his groin. Bango ignored this observation and started spraying from a can with gooey strands of some kind of silly-putty like substance. This greatly amused the benighted Teutons surrounding us. Cheap thrills for the masses, I suppose.
I have to admit that Bango got Goff and me pretty good with his gooey strands. However his general aim was surprisingly bad and he managed to gunk up not only us, but also the hair and sweater of a foxy-looking blond that was sitting immediately in front of us. Finally Bango left, probably to visit a salt lick or something. When he was gone, Goff and I spent the next 5 minutes of so removing the gooey strands from our clothing. I politely pointed out to the blond (who really was pretty hot) where the remnants were that were still stuck in the back of her hair. Then, it was half-time.
By pre-arrangement, Goff and I then started trudging back to the other side of the arena to rendezvous with the guys that were situated in 216. Once more we plunged into the dank blackness of the labyrinthine passageways of the Bradley Center. As we trekked, from inside and around the court we heard the sound of locals celebrating the triumph of the Packers. There was much Teutonic cheering and snorting. I began thinking how Koller, a diehard Bears fan, must have been taking this. For my own part, I began developing an incipient dislike for Green Bay.
Feeling once again like Ferdinand Magellan and his lonely crew, Chants, Greenway, and I started out again to 216. This entailed yet another circumnavigation of the arena. As we walked, Chants started doing what he does best – chanting. Plainly he had never read Dale Carnegie’s book “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” As he chanted, I discovered more and more people, like my friend in 205, that were familiar with filthy Italian hand gestures.
Chants and I were about half-way to 216 when we ran into a strange female usherette that stopped us and asked if we were satisfied with our seats now. I was about to unload on her but noticed that she was actually being serious. In talking further to her, we learned that the guys we were looking for in 216 had been routed by her to the Bradley Center’s Ticketing Czar. Apparently, after doing the proper obeisances and kissing the hem of his ermine robe, the Czar had allowed them, in an act of heartfelt generosity, to move to the 400 Level after all. Yes, we actually had been permitted to sit together at long last – albeit with bats, goats and Sherpas.
Getting to the 400 Level again meant another spate of blind groping and stair climbing. However, Goff, Greenway and I did finally get to a portion of the upper deck where, to our surprise, we discovered that around 8 or 9 of our fellow 55ers had actually been seated. We joined the soiree.
It was a strange, desolate area where we were finally seated, located immediately behind the Bucks’ 2nd Half basket. But if you strained your eyes, you could see the Pacer bench silhouetted in the faint overhead lights from the court. It was here – at long last together — that we parked our fannies and watched the entire second half of the game.
Our usherette in this area was actually friendly. Plainly she had not received the general Bradley message to treat us like dirt. In chatting with her, she told us that so few people are seated in her section that she always felt glad when someone actually came up there. She told us, “I like it. It makes the time go faster when I feel like I have something to do. Nobody ever comes up here. Sit wherever you want.”
As mentioned, we pitched our tents and proceeded to finally watch the game. Squad 6 was in view, but really didn’t resonate. We couldn’t hear them at all.
And in the 4th Quarter, when the Bucks went 6 minutes without scoring and the Pacers built their decisive14 point lead, Squad 6 was particularly quiescent. It was then that we really started our chanting.
The locals in the BC, by this time, were so depressed that there was a lot of thankful silence in the arena. As we looked down while chanting, we could see that some of the Pacers actually were hearing us. It was an amazing thing. Brandon Rush and Paul George were nudging one another and pointing up at us. Then Roy looked up at us and waved. It’s a strange thing to say, but that really made the whole ordeal worth it to us.
With 3 minutes or so to go, the Milwaukeeites started giving up. They began filing out of the Bradley Center dejectedly, like stockbrokers who have just seen the DOW drop around 200 points.
I started yelling: “Hey! Where are you going? Hey, there’s still time! Hey! You’re team’s still in this! You’re only down 14! Don’t leave now!”
Then it was over. We started plummeting downward, down again along the long twisting flights of dark stairs – I felt again like a coal miner coming up from the ground and heading home at the end of a day. I began to feel a strange sort of brotherhood with all those Chileans guys that had been trapped so long in their mine. The Bradley Center experience is a lot like that.
As we were leaving our seats in 400, a small balding guy and his date (who looked a lot like him) told us:
“Why don’t you guys grow up?”
I was tempted to show him a few of the filthy Italian hand-gestures I had assimilated from my friend down in 205 but remembering our representative capacity, I resisted the temptation. Instead, I simply said, “Hey, come visit us in Indy! We’re going to the Playoffs!”
Our trip back to Indy was a long, generally uneventful 4 ½ hour drive. But it was fun. We were all half dead. But our boys had won. Area 55’s honor had been avenged from the Squad 6 visit. We had done about all 13 Pacers fans could do.
On the way home, Roy tweeted us:
“Big ups to Area55 members for coming to a road game. It’s messed up they moved y’all.”
Well, that’s probably way too much. I’m too tired to talk much about Miami. Just be there Tuesday night amigos! I want a piece of LaBron!