Nov. 2010: Destination Unknown Indiana Pacers blog with Mark Boyle

A tasty spin during The Great Mascot Adventure

Nov. 30, 2010

My Great Mascot Adventure continued Tuesday night in Sacramento, and under ordinary circumstances meeting my new friend Slamson would have been the highlight of our stay in Northern California.

But not this time.

Sometimes a deficiency turns into an asset. Specifically, I was wandering around Sacramento, trying to find this place I had been to before, but I have always been directionally challenged and I never did find the place.

But I did find Spin Burger.

This place is nothing special aesthetically, but if you’re ever in Sacramento do yourself a favor and stop in. Spin Burger offers a spectacular burger, which you can then turn into a custom feast by adding one of more of the countless toppings available. I went with cheddar cheese and Russian dressing, then slammed down some shoestring fries and a root beer float for good measure.

Not the most nutritional meal, I know. But as a well know philosopher (me) once noted “The road of life ends in death. Why take the trip if you’re not willing to indulge in a few vices?”

Salt Lake City awaits.

Tanter shows there's no need to scream

November 29, 2010

Although NBA arenas differ dramatically – and Conseco Fieldhouse is still the finest basketball building on the planet – there’s a certain homogenous feel to these venues once the game starts. The music tends to be very similar, the starting lineups are all introduced to generic fanfare, the halftime acts travel from city to city, and all in all there’s not much difference between a game in Philadelphia and one in Sacramento.

But there’s one man that can make a difference. The PA announcer sets the tone in these buildings, and the unfortunate reality is that most of these guys are nothing more than annoying screamers that lack any sense of creativity. But there are two notable exceptions, and we had the pleasure of being serenaded by one of them last night in Los Angeles.

Lawrence Tanter is old school. He has a rich baritone voice, and he knows how to use it. Screaming is anathema to this man; he simply tells you who does what, and he does it in a way that leaves no room for doubt. The next time you either watch or listen to a Laker game, pay attention to Mr. Tanter. It’s a treat to listen to this gentleman ply his craft. If only the marketing types that make these decision in other NBA cities could find their own Lawrence Tanters, game night would be so much the better for it.

You’ll note that I mentioned that there were two exceptions to the rule. I’ll get to the other one later this season … meanwhile, it’s off to Sacramento.

So the Jazz don't stay at campgrounds?

November 28, 2010

Beautiful day in Marina Del Rey, with the Pacers set for the first game of a four game road trip tonight.

Counting the 2000 NBA Finals, the Pacers have lost to the Lakers 14 straight times in Los Angeles. Bill Clinton was President, Justin Bieber was 4-years old, and I had hair the last time the Pacers took the Lakers to school in California.

The Utah Jazz are in our hotel. They’re playing the Clippers this afternoon at Staples, with the Lakers and Pacers to follow. I was surprised to see them; I had always assumed that Jerry Sloan coached teams stayed at campgrounds on the road.

Area 55ers make me feel almost normal

November 25, 2010

For years, I’ve hoped to experience at least one occasion where I wasn’t the strangest guy in the room. As the years have gone by, I’d become increasingly convinced that there was little or no chance that this would actually happen.

Ah, but then came Area 55.

Area 55 is the brainchild of Pacers center Roy Hibbert. Roy’s idea was to establish a group of fans that would bring passion, zeal, and enthusiasm to a building that has been disturbingly lifeless in recent years, and he somehow managed to find the biggest group of kooks assembled in one space since Randall P. McMurtry and the Chief oversaw the cast of misfits in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”.

Now, don’t misunderstand. I say this in the most flattering way possible.

Too often, NBA arenas have become havens for corporate stuffed shirts who cheer – if at all – only when directed to by either a screeching PA announcer or a big, bold demand flashing on a scoreboard. Not in Area 55. The 55ers are an amalgamation of face painters, jersey wearing zealots, people in costumes that would have them arrested in other countries, and other square pegs that would never fit into round holes.

Slick and I had the pleasure of broadcasting Tuesday’s game with Cleveland from this mosh pit, and after sitting up there for two hours listening to the screaming, yelling, clever chanting, and ceaseless enthusiasm, and I have just one question:

Can we please come back and do it again?

This rock band playing out of tune

November 23, 2010

Interesting night in Miami. The Pacers dominated a team that was supposed to be invincible, and all concerned seemed to enjoy taking their talents to South Beach.

There’s definitely a buzz down there, and with James, Wade, and Bosh, this team has become a rock band. Can’t vouch for the veracity of this story, but I was told that a guy that held a couple of season tickets two rows off the court sold them for the home opener and made enough money to pay for the tickets for the rest of the season.

Off topic, but interesting: the security guard stationed at the end of the corridor near the Pacers locker room had what appeared to be a mouth full of solid gold teeth. Most 250-pound women can’t pull that off, but she came close.

Made another new friend last night as my tour of Mascot Land continued. Burnie was the first mascot I’ve met that stayed true to the code and refused to speak. Turns out that these mascots, as a group, are a chatty bunch.

Cleveland in town tonight, and we’re broadcasting the game from Area 55. I suspect that this will either be a disaster, a blast, or both.

Life on the road losing its luster

November 22, 2010

When I first came to the Pacers in 1988, I looked forward to road trips.

It was a chance to see parts of the country that I’d never seen – and on the company dime, no less – and as a history buff, I was fascinated by places like the Smithsonian in Washington and the endless history that places like Boston and Philadelphia offered.

But that was a long time ago. Now, as I continue my inevitable path to dementia and physical inertia, I fantasize about finding a team that plays 82 home games.

But that’s not likely to happen, and I like this job to much to give it up just because I became tired of the road years ago.

Still, there are worse ways to spend a Sunday night than with a cigar on an outdoor patio in Miami.

A knot-so-simple pleasure

November 19, 2010

Last February, I received a bow tie as a gift. I was very excited (it doesn’t take much to get me going sometimes) and was looking forward to wearing it to a game, just to change things up a bit.

If only I could have figured out how to tie it.

I tried. Believe me I tried. I went to the Internet, downloaded diagrams, watched videos, and spent literally hours in front of the mirror, all to no avail. For some reason, I just couldn’t get it, and the rest of the season elapsed without the bow tie making an appearance. From time to time over the course of the summer I would take another run at it, but the bow tie became Moby Dick to my Captain Ahab.

Finally, in desperation, I reached out to Kathy Jordan. Kathy was with the Pacers for many years, and among her many contributions was helping young guys with everything young guys need to know, and in exchange for lunch (a small price to pay) she taught me how to tie the bow tie.

It still takes me 15 to 20 minutes to get it done, but I am nothing if not determined, and I plan on mixing bow ties in maybe once or twice a month just for variety.

Whoever said that life’s simple pleasures are the best really had it figured out.

A little perspective for the holiday

November 18, 2010

Last night, the Pacers held their annual “Come to Our House” Thanksgiving dinner.

Chef Boyle with Chef Jerry Harkness

T.J. Ford and Dahntay Jones helped sponsor a dinner for more than 600 men, women and children from Indianapolis area missions and shelters at The Fieldhouse, and while in an ideal world this wouldn’t be necessary, it’s always gratifying to be involved in something that helps so many people.

We’ve done this for the last several years, and I always find myself thinking that I could easily be among those who find themselves going through the buffet line at this dinner.

I consider myself a savant, good at only one thing, and if there were no play-by-play jobs the combination of my unwillingness to work in a structured environment – unless I set the structure – and my inability to suffer fools gracefully would almost certainly make me unemployable.

Ever vigilant in the quest for inside info

November 16, 2010

"By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail." -- Benjamin Franklin.

I’m a big believer in Mr. Franklin’s words, which is why I spent time with Atlanta Hawks broadcaster Steve Holman and some of the other Atlanta types downtown last night.

You’d be surprised what you can learn about a team by hanging around with their support personnel. You can’t always use all of it, but even the stuff you can’t use puts the other stuff into perspective.

So, over shrimp cocktails and a few beverages, I learned the following about the Hawks that I didn’t already know:


However, it is worth noting that the shrimp cocktail at St. Elmo’s is still spectacular. And someone as resourceful as I am is going to find a way to write the evening off on my taxes.

Shooting for the Moondog

November 14, 2010

Would you think that I’m slightly off center if I told you that my singular goal this season is to have my picture taken with every mascot in the NBA?

I’m assuming that most of you, given the unfettered access to players, coaches, and other Association types that this job provides would seek to have your picture taken with LeBron James, Phil Jackson, or even David Stern given a similar opportunity. Instead, I’m after pictures with Crunch, Moon Dog, Griz, and their associates.

I’ve always liked mascots, going back to the time when I was growing up in Minneapolis and wondered what it would be like to be inside the Gopher gear at a University of Minnesota basketball game. In fact, when I was working at a radio station in Dubuque, Iowa, back in the early '80’s, our station was involved in a promotion with the Iowa Egg Council and I managed to talk the guy wearing the egg costume into letting me fill in for an hour at the mall where the promotion took place.

It was cool; the costume had a little fan in it, which allowed me to stay relatively comfortable, plus I was able to use the anonymity the costume provided to terrorize little kids that had been foolish enough to stray from their attention-deficit-afflicted parents.

Maybe I shouldn’t have shared that. Anyway, the attached picture is from Saturday night’s game in Cleveland. You’ll note that Moon Dog does not appear to be the least bit dismayed by LeBron’s abdication, but then dogs have always been more resilient than humans.

Things I thought I'd see before 54 in a quarter

November 11, 2010

When you’ve been in one place long enough, there inevitably comes a time where you figure that you’ve probably seen everything that there is to see.

This is my 23rd season with the Pacers, and I’d figured that I had reached that point here. I’ve seen a team that started 0-9 and a team that made the NBA Finals. I’ve seen a team play with just six men. I’ve seen a brawl. I’ve seen a game delayed by a bomb threat. In other words, I thought that I’d seen it all.

But that was before Tuesday night.

Before the Pacers scored 54 points in a quarter, which averages out to 4½ points a minute. Before Mike Dunleavy scored 24 points in one quarter on 7-for-7 shooting, including 5-for-5 from 3-point range. And before the Pacers hit 20 straight shots to start the quarter, missing an unprecedented perfect quarter from the floor only because Josh McRoberts fired up a misguided three-point shot on the final possession of the quarter with the Pacers holding a 37-point lead.

I’ve been around the block in this league, working nearly 2,000 games, and I never thought I’d ever see what I saw Tuesday night. In fact, before Tuesday I would have considered any of the following to be more likely occurrences than what we saw in that one stupendous quarter:

  • Rush Limbaugh campaigning for Barack Obama’s re-election.

  • Amelia Earhart landing at the Indianapolis International Airport.

  • Bill Belichik doing standup comedy.

  • Isiah Thomas admitting he was wrong. About anything. Ever.

  • Any of the Kardashian sisters winning an Emmy.

  • Terrell Owens taking a vow of silence.

  • Donald Trump taking a vow of poverty.

  • Earl Boykins dunking over Yao Ming.

  • Wile E. Coyote enjoying a delicious meal of broiled road runner.

  • Brett Favre retiring. And staying retired.

  • Keith Olbermann vacationing with Glenn Beck.

That third quarter the other night ranks right up there with Reggie Miller’s eight points in 8.9 seconds against the Knicks in the ’95 playoffs and the Pacers doubling up the Trail Blazers (124-59) in ’98 on the list of most amazing things I’ve seen since I’ve been in the saddle.

I’d say that it’s something we’ll never see again, but since it’s something I never thought we’d see in the first place, maybe I’ll stop just short of such an absolute statement.

Oh, and Josh? It might not happen again anytime soon, but every once in a while there comes a time - trust me on this, I’ve been around longer than you have - where it might be OK to let the clock run out without shooting the ball.