Are you familiar with Indiana? Or do you live in Milwaukee, Tampa, or Syracuse?
College basketball is huge in Indiana. The Pacers can be very popular, but they will never overtake the collective hype of IU/Purdue/Butler.
I'll chime in on the "you been here long?" calls. While the Colts are big, I would venture to say college basketball dwarfs it in Indiana. It isn't as clear because the passion is split between different teams, but I'd bet the vast majority of Colts fans are also huge fans of some Indiana college basketball team.
If nothing else, the ties to Indiana colleges that in some cases go back generations - that's longer than the 45 years the Pacers have been around - make a huge difference.
For a thought experiment, think of the fate of an NFL team in Omaha or compare fandom in Atlanta for the Falcons to Georgia, Georgia Tech, and even Georgia State.
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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...
Larry Bird: Yeah, patience.
Simply IU for example has 10 players from Indiana high schools. Purdue has 12 Indiana high school kids on their roster. This is pretty much standard for the other D1 basketball programs in the state. Easier to root for someone you saw play from your hometown or a neighboring town.
The only reason the Colts are "King", in reality they are probably 3rd or 4th, over the Pacers right now is because of Artest, Tinsley, Stephenson, and JOB. If those players had their heads on straight the Colts would still be playing second fiddle to the Pacers.
Now, show me a region with college teams with the tradition of IU in basketball or Notre Dame in football that isn't more popular in that region than the pro teams? Maybe the Lakers over UCLA, other than that it just doesn't happen. College sports rule over pro-sports, and is hardly unique to Indiana. There is just so much more history and loyalty that goes into a college than a pro team that it isn't even a fair fight. A university is an stable societal institutions, pro-teams are just businesses (and are becoming more and more business like by the year).
Well, as mentioned earlier I was a huge fan up until the brawl, at that point I was absolutely disgusted with the team, and couldnt bring myself to watch them especially with the Colts being such a class act... Eventually decided to come back a couple years before our first playoff run (so I guess around 08, 09?) And gradually fell more and more in love with the team until I became a hardcore fan again after that playoff run... So perhaps others just took longer to come back to the team.
The Lost Season
Larry Bird: Yeah, patience.
From the road game crowds, I've seen a lot more Pacer fans than the last few seasons.
"It's just unfortunate that we've been penalized so much this year and nothing has happened to the Pistons, the Palace or the city of Detroit," he said. "It's almost like it's always our fault. The league knows it. They should be ashamed of themselves to let the security be as lax as it is around here."
----------------- Reggie Miller
I see Lance as a current and future force in generating new fans. He has been getting a lot of love in NBA.com Top 10s, and has established a strong identity in the league this season. He is just so fun to watch, and he represents the largest basketball market in the world.
Ain't that the truth. The Pacers are clearly less popular than IU basketball in this state. Not with me, but more people than who know Paul George is a Pacer.
It's probably like this:
IU > Pacers > Butler > Purdue
In the brawl era and the JOb disaster it was this:
IU > Butler > Purdue > Carmel High School > Pacers
You know it's bad when Victor Oladipo, a year away from IU, is more popular in central Indiana than George Hill.
On the Bandwagon. Paul George has become my 2nd/3rd player ( tied with James Hardin)