Contestants pull out all the stops for final Area 55 auditions

By Sam Rogian
Pacers.com

INDIANAPOLIS (June 21, 2011)—Mark Brandt smiled widely behind his straggly, gray beard as he gleefully bounced through the crowd of Pacers fans at Conseco Fieldhouse.

“I got a golden ticket,” he bellowed at the top of his voice.

Brandt celebrated winning a spot Tuesday night in the second season of Area 55; the section sponsored by Pacers center Roy Hibbert and reserved for die-hard Pacers fans.

The top 110 contestants auditioned for the final time before Hibbert and guest judges Michael Grady of local ESPN Radio affiliate 1070 the Fan, outspoken Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee, and Pacers radio broadcaster Mark Boyle.

“It was fun out there,” Brandt said of the experience. “Granted, it was a little pressure, but it felt fine. I just love to entertain.”

Brandt used custom-made signs and hat, and gave Hibbert a Wheaties box bearing his own image. Though Brandt will be new to Area 55, he looks forward to contributing in a major way next season.

“You’re gonna’ see these giant letters and numbers all over the place out there,” Brandt said. “It’s going to be rockin’.”

Before the auditions began, Grady said he wasn’t sure what to expect but was looking for enthusiastic fans.

“They’ve got to be really loud because we’re relying on them during games at Conseco to be loud, (and) to be in to it,” he said. “I’m expecting a lot of energy, a little bit of craziness.

“We may arrest a couple of people, but we’ll get a good group of 55 in the section, though.”

Known for his eccentric personality, Boyle looked forward to the colorful contestants.

“I am delighted for one of the few times in my years here (with the Pacers) to be something less than the resident wacko in the group,” Boyle said. “I expect to see quite a few people who are even more abnormal than I am.”

Most fans will learn via telephone call from Hibbert himself if they won a spot. But, 10 fans like Brandt were immediately rewarded golden tickets, assuring their spots next season.

The Favorites

Renowned Indianapolis sports fanatic Superfan was the first to earn the golden piece of paper.

Superfan once again performed in his famous Pacers-patterned clothing alongside faithful sidekick Blue Bell, and was quite boisterous afterwards.

“I got the Golden Ticket,” he proclaimed. “I feel like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I just been whipped, dipped and tripped in blue and gold, baby. Put your mind on fold, ‘cause it’s time to take control.

“We’re showing them all that we’re solid, baby-- 14 K on the way. Can you feel me baby?”

El Pacero, self-proclaimed womens wrestling champion of the world, performed along with his own theme song played over a large boom box stereo.

In the middle of his audition, El Pacero seemed to have hurt his neck while rolling on the ground. He arose with a neck brace already in place.

In true El Pacero fashion, the Lucha-Libre wrestler vented afterwards.

“You’re going to expect to hear from my lawyers,” he said with a grimace. “Pacers Sports & Entertainment promised me more than one time, on numerous occasions, that they would have a mat for me.

“I do my patented somersault flip, and I think I broke my neck.”

Newbies

Local Indianapolis youth minister Paul Corlew impressed Hibbert with his extreme desire to be a part of Area 55 and received a golden ticket.

“In case you didn’t know, I ate some worms straight from the garden just for big Roy,” Corlew said. “I’ve got one still in my mouth.”

Corlew confirmed the experience was a bit nerve-racking and doesn’t anticipate getting much rest after the adrenaline-induced performance.

“Nervous? Sure, yeah,” he said. “Auditioning, NBA players, Pat McAfee—you know, I looked ridiculous. But, occasionally, I guess I’m good at being ridiculous.

“Who knows if I’ll sleep? I’m taking the youth group on a missions trip this week to the Bahamas, and I’m not going to sleep until we leave.”

Annie Cline’s online audition, in which she promoted her cereal Area 55fiber, caused a bit of a buzz heading into the evening. She was also rewarded a golden ticket.

Her husband Scott Cline said the short clips featured on comedy show Saturday Night Live inspired the video.

“We watch a lot of funny shows and we came up with that together,” he said.

Annie said people in her life enjoyed the video.

“My friends love it,” she said. “They’ve watched it multiple times.”

Scott auditioned after his wife, but did not receive a coveted golden ticket.

“I’m not in yet,” he said. “We’ll wait and see, but I’m hoping.”

He said the couple would make arrangements if he were denied.

“We’d have to split the ticket half the season, probably,” he explained.

Aftermath

Hibbert leaned back in his chair and smiled after the auditions.

“This year’s been great,” Hibbert said. “There was so much competition in terms of who is going to get in.

“I have a lot of respect for season one people, but season two-- the newcomers, the new bloods-- they brought it today. It’s going to be a tough decision.”

Hibbert admitted he was most impressed by an audition performed in a tiger suit.

“(He) jumped and did a backflip off the table,” the Pacers center said. “He was great. I was impressed all the way-- thoroughly impressed.”