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

Catching up with a successful old friend

Dec. 29, 2010

Though the road can be wearying, particularly in back-to-back situations, there are perks. Today in Washington, for example, I was able to get together for lunch with my old friend David Brody.

David and I worked together at WFAN Radio in New York back in the late ‘80s. It was an exciting time; we were both young and to be in on the ground floor of what, at that time, was a new and innovative concept – an all sports radio format – that eventually had a profound impact on the industry was exhilarating.

In those days, David was a sports producer and I was a pedestrian sports broadcaster. Fast forward nearly a quarter of a century, and we find that David is now an Emmy Award winning news journalist and has appeared regularly on NBC’s Meet the Press, CNN, and Fox News. I, meanwhile, am still a pedestrian sports broadcaster.

So while David sits down and interviews his friends Barack, Hillary, Newt, and Rudy I tag along with guys that live in shorts and sneakers, and spend half my time on buses and planes and in hotels and arenas. David’s job is undoubtedly more important, and the issues he covers impact lives in a way that mine doesn’t.

Guess who has more fun?

Comment on Boyle's blog in the Pacers Fan Forum

What TV wants, TV gets, even on Christmas

Dec. 25, 2010

I admire what Phil Jackson, LeBron James, and Stan Van Gundy have accomplished, and I like two of the three, but is it really necessary to whine about playing on Christmas?

Fellas, in case you didn’t know it, A) the NBA sold its soul to television a long time ago, B) television wants NBA games played on Christmas Day, and C) television pays the NBA copious amounts of lucre, which in turn allows your teams to pay your staggeringly large salaries.

So, unless you’re willing to give back a significant portion of your income in exchange for taking control of the schedule, please shut up.

Thank you.

Sorry to see Larry Brown move on again

Dec. 23, 2010

I was sorry to see Larry Brown run out of town in Charlotte yesterday, though I can’t say I didn’t see it coming.

In my 23 seasons here, I would consider Larry to be among the most fascinating characters to come through Indianapolis. When he got here in 1993, the franchise was mired in mediocrity, but he took the team to the Eastern Conference Finals each of his first two seasons. To the extent somebody that coaches a basketball team for a living can be called a genius, Larry qualifies.

But that’s not what I remember most about him; it always seemed to me that the better the team did, the more miserable he became, which is something that you don’t see every day. Plus, he always wanted to trade the guys he had for somebody else, which is where Donnie Walsh’s patience and savvy came in. Had Larry been running the front office, Reggie Miller, Mark Jackson, Rik Smits, and almost everybody else that played for Larry here would have been shipped out of town under cover of darkness.

He’s a great coach, and even though he’s 70 years old, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he resurfaces sooner rather than later. And I hope he does. He may be eccentric – and believe me, I can relate to that – but he’s a good man and the game is better off when he’s around.

Some nights, the job is a little more fun than others

Dec. 21, 2010

This job is always fun – it certainly beats having a real job – but there are a few times each season where it’s even more enjoyable than usual, and last night was one of those times.

A game-winning basket as time expires is always a challenge. You want to capture the moment, display the appropriate enthusiasm without sounding like a shrieking lunatic, and – and this is the most important part of the equation – you want to get it right.

Take last night’s game winning tip against the Hornets, for example. This was a tough one to call, because both Slick and I thought that Danny Granger’s shot from the top was a 3-pointer (listen to the audio courtesy of WIBC 93 FM). On our broadcasts, three-point shots are Slick’s domain (he’s even copyrighted the phrase “Boom Baby!”), so when a three goes up, I have to wait to see how he’s going to play it.

Normally, that’s not all that difficult, because the ball either goes through or bounces off the rim, but in this case it softly spun all the way around the rim as the clock headed toward zero, so what we got from Slick was some sort of anguished grunt, not unlike the sound you might make if you were stuck with a cattle prod.

By the time he finished, the ball had fallen off the rim and we were behind the play. In fact, the ball had already been tipped by Mike Dunleavy and was falling over the rim and home. I picked up the play as best I could, but we’re upstairs at The Fieldhouse and don’t always have the best view of things, so I wasn’t sure whether Mike or Jeff Foster had actually tipped the ball. I bought a few seconds describing the tip, and by that time the reaction of the other players made it clear to me that it was Mike’s tip in, so I finished the call accordingly.

Did we get it right? I don’t know. Sometimes you get the bear, and sometimes the bear gets you. But one thing I do know.

It was a lot of fun.

Enjoying a cigar increasingly difficult

Dec. 19, 2010

Boston is a great city. It’s got rich history and fabulous restaurants, and – most significantly – it’s home to one of America’s great cigar bars.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find a place to relax and enjoy a cigar in this country. While I understand where the anti-smoking zealots are coming from – smoking is bad, duh – it’s still frustrating that those of us willing to accept the risks that an occasional cigar might bring have so difficult a time finding such a haven on the road.

This place, though, is great. The ambience is terrific, they have unobtrusively placed flat screens for those that would like to sample a hockey game (the Bruins are enormously popular in Boston), the service is wonderful, and all of that makes up for the exorbitantly priced drinks.

Plus, I love the statue out front and would love to figure out a way to steal it and put it in my front yard.

Hunting Jackie Robinson

Dec. 18, 2010

Some people hunt deer. Other more adventurous types go after elk or even big horn sheep, but not me.

I hunt cats.

Don’t alert the SPCA. When I say I hunt cats, I’m not speaking in the traditional sense. I’ve loved cats since I was a kid, so when a stray shows up lurking around The Fortress of Solitude I try to befriend it. Cats are much better than people. They don’t traffic in nonsense, you have to earn their respect and attention, and they don’t require much maintenance, all characteristics that I find very appealing.

This cat I call Jackie Robinson, because as near as I can tell, he’s the first black cat in the neighborhood. Jackie showed several weeks ago, and at first refused to come closer than 100 feet from the food bowl until I closed the door. After countless hours of wheedling and cajoling, I can now get him to come to within about five feet of the front door, and am certain that it won’t be long until Jackie and I are fast friends.

You might think I’m odd, because I’ve lived in The Fortress of Solitude for almost 10 years and have never once invited a neighbor to cross the threshold, but am constantly on the lookout for new feline associates.

You would be correct.

Give Ron-Ron a break, even though he gave me five

Dec. 15, 2010

Ron-Ron with the President. (NBAE/Getty Images)
The Lakers are in town tonight, which means Ron Artest visits Conseco Fieldhouse. At the risk of alienating the vast majority of you, I will state for the record that Ronnie is one of my all-time favorites.

Why, you ask? Didn’t he destroy the franchise while he was here? Isn’t he responsible for global warming? Surely he’s a terrorist in his spare time, no?

Uh, debatable, no, and no.

You might wonder why I hold the man in such high regard when he steamrolled me and broke my back in five places during the infamous brawl between the Pacers and Detroit Pistons back in 2004. While I don’t defend his actions that night, and am not a fan of some of the other stunts he pulled while he was in Indiana, I will say unequivocally that he was one of the nicest men I’ve met in my 23 seasons with the Pacers.

He always had time for everyone, was wonderful around children (I’ve always wondered whether this might be because he saw the world through the eyes of a child himself), and though he didn’t always go about it in a rational way, he had a burning desire to win and a passion for his work that I always admired.

I will say that I doubt I’d feel this way if he had been a teammate. In that case, I’d probably still be angry with him, because I believe that ’04-05 team was the best in the NBA, and if I had been a teammate I would probably feel that his antics cost me a chance to win a championship. But he wasn’t my teammate, he didn’t cost me anything – I’ve always held myself to blame for my back injury, as I stepped in front of him – and I still like him very much.

That doesn’t mean I let him off the hook, though. Every time I see him, I remind him that he nearly killed me and that my attorneys are looking for him. He just laughs, but he’s apologized more than once, and we’ve moved on.

It’s not my place to tell fans what to do, but I do wonder if it might be time for everyone to move on.

Is it ever too late to start believing in Santa?

Dec. 13, 2010

I’ve been logical and cynical for as long as I can remember, and while those characteristics have merit in certain situations, they’re not too useful when you’re a kid around Christmas time.

Specifically, I never remember believing in Santa Claus. I would ask my parents how any one man could deliver all of those gifts to all of those people in such a limited time span. Did his sleigh go a million miles an hour? And even if it did – a dubious concept in my young mind, particularly if you bought into the idea of reindeer pulling the sleigh, which I never did – how could this small sleigh handle that load?

My parents did what they could to answer my questions, but I found their responses preposterous. As a result, I became suspicious of Christmas and all that went with it, which meant that I never really enjoyed the holiday the way most kids did.

But now I think I might have been wrong.

Saturday in Atlanta, I saw this guy in the lobby of the team hotel and did a double take. He was a short little fellow of indeterminate age, wearing a red suit, and people seemed to be gravitating to him a way you rarely see. I grabbed Slick and gave him a hasty tutorial in how to use my iPhone camera, then asked the guy if I could have my picture taken with him. Now, the photo is a bit hazy, which is not surprising given the fact that Slick only recently graduated from rotary phones and appeared to be baffled when I handed him the iPhone, but I’m thinking that this guy might have been Santa Claus.

Is it ever really too late to believe?

More Bango for the Bucks

Dec. 9, 2010

This is Andrew Bogut after last night’s game in Milwaukee:

"We've actually run that play in practice about 100 times. More important than my tip was the pass. If that ball is off one or two centimeters, it's very hard to get a clean tip at it. Obviously Brandon Jennings' screen, too. For a little guy, he got into Jeff Foster and got me open."

That’s how precisely Milwaukee executed the play that won last night’s game with the Pacers as time expired, and it was hard not to admire it. I think fans sometimes buy into the myth that the NBA consists of a bunch of superior athletes that wander out onto the court and run around for 48 minutes, relying solely on their physical gifts. True, those physical gifts are considerable, and there are players that never figure out that those skills alone are not enough. But the game at this level is about much more than physical skill, and last night was another example of that.

Incidentally, I met Bango last night before the game. Of all the mascots in the NBA, Bango was the one I most wanted to meet, primarily because of the mind boggling dunk he threw down off the top of a ladder last season in Milwaukee. This has become the standard by which all other mascots are now judged. Check it out.

Another birthday on the road

Dec. 8, 2010

Today is my birthday, and I’m spending it in Milwaukee.

Since I’ve been with the Pacers, I’ve spent my birthday in Indianapolis, Boston, New York, Milwaukee, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, East Rutherford, Philadelphia, and Oakland.

It just occurred to me. For someone who just turned 30, I’ve really been around.

Paying the price for victory

Dec. 7, 2010

(From top) Lining up, contact, victory! (Jessica Hoffman/Pacers)
A few years ago, I became intrigued by those giant sumo wrestler suits and talked our game operations people into letting me wear one at halftime so I could shoot baskets in a competition against a fan wearing a similar getup. I don’t remember whether I won or lost, but I do remember Donnie Walsh sitting in a chair under the basket and heckling me mercilessly as I flailed away shooting layups. Something about being a disgrace to the franchise, though the exact verbiage has been lost in the haze of my increasingly inefficient memory.

Until last night, that was my last foray into halftime frivolity. During one of our early season games, I was fascinated by something called slingshot bowling and badgered the game operations folks until they agreed to let me participate in the next competition, which occurred at halftime of last night’s game with Toronto. The concept is simple. You sit in this little contraption with wheels, and you’re launched from one baseline to the other, where several giant bowling pins await. The idea is to knock down as many pins as possible, with bragging rights going to the participant that knocks down the most pins.

So I’m matched up against a Pacemate – sorry, young lady, I didn’t get your name – former Pacer Darnell Hillman, and Michael Grady, our PA announcer. The Pacemate goes first, but she doesn’t have the proper competitive spirit, and rolls meekly into the pins, spilling just a few of them. Darnell is next, but he’s too big for the cart, and falls face first to the floor about 10 feet from the pins. Reminded me a bit of Humpty Dumpty falling off the wall, though Darnell appeared to be fine and there was no need for a visit from either all the king’s horses or all the king’s men.

Now it’s my turn, and I’m determined to nail all of the pins, no matter the cost. The release is smooth (thanks, Boomer) and the approach looks good, until the cart begins to betray me and starts to turn sideways. By the time I get to the pins, I’ve spun 180 degrees and can’t see the target, but no matter. I spread my arms wide in an effort to do as much damage as possible, and as I feel contact I launch myself out of the cart. Sailing through the pins, I can see that I’ve knocked them all down – mission accomplished – and am feeling pretty good, until I slam neck first into the basket support at what feels like 200 miles per hour.

Being old school, I ignore the pain and leap into the air, celebrating my victory with great gusto. This morning, I discover that I can’t turn my head side to side, my neck is killing me, and I have a splitting headache, but this is a small price to pay for one of the more thrilling performances in Conseco Fieldhouse history.

I’m now thinking of trying to talk Boomer into letting me rappel from the rafters with him sometime later this season. Stay tuned.

The good and bad of Salt Lake City

Dec. 1, 2010

Things I Like About Salt Lake City:

    - Jerry Sloan. The best coach in the NBA.

    - The Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

    - Deron Williams. The best point guard in the NBA. Period.

    - My new friend the Bear. As you can see, we hit it off beautifully.

    - The Wasatch Mountains.

Things I Don’t Like About Salt Lake City:

    - The cold

    - Our broadcast location at Energy Solutions Arena. See how high up we are? This would be OK, if I had the Hubble Telescope.

    - The snow.

    - The Jazz are too good. They always pound the Pacers here.

    - Did I mention the cold?

Time to go to Phoenix.