Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

November 18, 2013

Pacers black sheep no more

Brent Glasgow
Hendricks County Flyer

— When I woke up Saturday morning, I gave a customary online scan of Friday’s sports, mainly for a recap of the Pacers’ home game against Milwaukee.

While their 27-point win and Roy Hibbert’s near triple-double were impressive enough, it was this quote from the Pacers center that really struck me:

“Some guys on this team before were just trying to get a paycheck and go home, and then chilling on the beach and sipping mojitos or something like that. That’s not us.”

With those 32 words, Hibbert provided the catharsis I needed to finally get back on board with the organization — and perhaps the NBA as a whole — for the first time in nearly a decade.

I lived and died with the Pacers during the Reggie Miller era, from pounding on upper walls of Market Square Arena during that magical playoff run of 1994, through the crushing end against Detroit 11 years later following the Malice at the Palace. Because of the unparalleled entertainment value No. 31 provided, I knew my interest would lessen when he walked away, but the many halfwits that populated the locker room in the subsequent years reduced my attentiveness to nothing.

I moved away from this area in 2008, and returned in August, so I missed the Pacers’ resurgence the last few years. With the start of this season, I wondered how into the team locals really were, and had that answered this week.

First, I went to last Monday’s game against Memphis, which the Pacers won handily for their eighth straight win. It was a good, enthusiastic turnout, especially in the hilariously wound-up Area 55 and G2 Zone.

During the week, I saw a good amount of Pacers gear at various spots on the west side of town, including a dude with maybe the coolest Pacers hat ever at Sidelines in Avon.

On Saturday night, I went to a show at the Phoenix Theater downtown. Throughout the two-hour production, a woman in her 50s in front of me consistently checked her phone for updates from the Pacers/Bulls game, which ended up being their first loss of the season.

After the brawl in Detroit and the idiot festival that ensued thereafter, it’s great to see Indy re-engaged with the Pacers, who put the city on the national sports stage for the first time in the 1990s. It deserves a winner, and this team is easy to like.

Paul George is an MVP candidate. Hibbert has improved at a meteoric rate. David West is an absolute beast. Lance Stephenson has channeled his raw emotion and talent remarkably well. George Hill is the hard-working hometown kid made good. The bench is skilled and motivated.

The Pacers might never have a rivalry like that with the Knicks back in the day, but Miami and Chicago are suitable villains. Hate takes time to build, and can only be forged through playoff drama. It was present in Pacers/Knicks, and Colts/Patriots. If the team and the city are to truly become one again, that hate for an enemy is necessary.

The Miller and Peyton Manning eras did overlap, but only in a couple of years were both teams title contenders at the same time. With George and Andrew Luck now leading the way, we could be entering a Golden Age of Indy pro sports.

One thing is certain — the Pacers are back, as are longtime fans like myself, who turned into hardened cynics and took their money elsewhere for a decade.

Reunited, and it feels so good.

Brent Glasgow is a sports writer for the Hendricks County Flyer. He may be reached by e-mailing to brent.glasgow@flyergroup.com or by calling 272-5800 ext. 173. Follow him on Twitter @Bglasgow37.