Jan. 2011: Destination Unknown with Mark Boyle

Ultimately, it's up to the players

Jan. 31, 2011

Jim O’Brien was fired yesterday, which will excite some of you and disappoint others. But will it make a difference?

Understand this. The NBA is about players, not coaches. Now, this is not to say that a coach can’t make a difference, but I will never forget asking Slick Leonard years ago about the difference a coach can make and getting, “I ain’t yet never seen no jockey carry a horse across the finish line” in response.

Have the Pacers underachieved? Probably, but let’s not make the mistake of thinking that this is a 45-win team that has bumbled around because of the coach. That said, the Eastern Conference is stunningly weak. There’s no reason to think the Pacers incapable of sneaking into the bonus round in April, and it will be interesting to see whether or not the team responds favorably to Frank Vogel.

O’Brien will now be handsomely compensated to do nothing between now and the end of the season, so I don’t expect anyone to feel sorry for him. He no doubt made some mistakes, as we all do, but from the perspective of someone that watched him work at making this team better for 3½ seasons, I can tell you that he expended an awful lot of energy trying to turn this group into a winner. Alas, effort does not always translate into results, and this is a business where virtually no one escapes without getting pink slipped at least once.

Vogel is a good man with a bright basketball mind. Whether or not he succeeds is dependent at least as much on the players as it is on him.

I’m looking forward to seeing what these guys have to offer.

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My proposal for a new and improved NBA

Jan. 30, 2011

The NBA is facing a serious summer, with the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the players and owners set to expire. As is always the case in such negotiations, both sides will dig in and postulate, eventually reaching a compromise that will allow the show to go on.

These are the times that I wish I were in charge, running a benevolent dictatorship that would benefit all and where everyone would prosper. Or at least benefit me and allow me to prosper. With that in mind, I offer the following proposal which, admittedly, has no chance to be considered but would make my life just that much better.

Allow me to introduce The New and Improved 16-Team NBA.

I’m folding 14 teams? Yes. Is it because the league is watered down and the product would become appreciably better with fewer teams? That might be true, but that’s not why I’m doing it. I’m doing it because there aren’t 30 places in this league I want to go to, so I’m narrowing it down to cities I enjoy the most, and I’m structuring the schedule to allow me to enjoy each city to its fullest.

Naturally, Indianapolis has a franchise. I like it here. I break the other 15 cities down as follows:

Cities where the Pacers play, and never on back-to-backs, assuring my maximum enjoyment: Boston, San Francisco, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Oklahoma City, Portland, San Antonio, Phoenix.

Cities where the Pacers play, but always on back-to-backs because there are no places to smoke cigars: Chicago, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Salt Lake City, Seattle (yes, they’re back in under my plan).

If you’re a fan in these cities, I apologize. You’re out: Atlanta, Charlotte, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver (too bad…I like Denver, but there’s only room for 16 teams), Houston, Los Angeles (too spread out), Memphis, New Jersey (back in when they move to Brooklyn, with Oklahoma City out. Sorry), New Orleans, Orlando (too much Disney and tourism. I’m basically anti-social), Sacramento, Toronto (great city, but no cigar places and customs too much of a hassle).

Simple, no? If only Mr. Stern and Mr. Hunter would involve me in these negotiations.

Incidentally, I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Benny the Bull for helping me on Saturday night’s broadcast in Chicago. Some of these mascots are more versatile than others.

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A tip of the cap to "Dick the Knick"

Jan. 27, 2011

Last night’s loss to Orlando was the Pacers sixth in a row. This is the longest losing streak of the season, it was their second straight one sided loss, an opponent shot 50% or better for the fourth time in the last five games, and Indiana is ten games under .500 for the first time this season. All in all, a forgettable night. Except for one thing.

Dick Bavetta.

Faithful visitors to this blog will recall that I sung the praises of Rex Ryan not long ago, and to wax positive about the man that became known to Pacer enthusiasts as “Dick the Knick” during the halcyon days of the bitter rivalry with New York might be perceived as an indicator that I’ve now gone completely around the bend.

Think about it, though. This guy is 71 years old and still gets up and down the court with men less than half his age, he manages a game as well as anyone, and he does it with a passion that remains unquenched in his 36th season in the league. Plus, he still dares to be a bit of a showman in an era where the men behind the curtain at the league office are doing what they can to turn these guys into automatons. How can you not admire that?

A tip of the proverbial cap to you, sir. May we all reach our 70’s as remarkably as you have.

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Meet the (Washington) General of Scrabble

Jan. 23, 2011

Portland was no different than Oakland or Los Angeles. Well, except that I got to meet Blaze, another of my new mascot friends.

The Pacers had the lead in the fourth quarter in all three games, but failed to finish. That makes it twelve times in 24 losses that the Pacers have led in either the fourth quarter or overtime, and while that may not remind anyone of the Bubonic Plague it certainly meets the criteria for being called an epidemic.

In other news, I have been humiliated (or am in the process of same) by Mr. Windle, Mr. Wennington, and now Mike Dunleavy in Scrabble. I now have no alternative but to consider myself the Scrabble equivalent of the Washington Generals.

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Phasing out an old friend, phasing in yellow toes

Jan. 21, 2011

An old friend was phased out today.

Every year when we hit Portland, we head for the Nike Store in Beaverton. This year, I picked up a pair of bright yellow pair of Nikes, which you can see in this photo. You may also note the battered pair of plain, white K-Swiss next to the Nikes; this is the old friend I refer to.

Last summer, I walked over 500 miles around the state of Indiana to raise money for the Indiana Children’s Wish Fund, and the K-Swiss were there, literally, every step of the way. They were also there in the months I spent training for the project, and they’re still with me today, which means that we’ve traveled almost 2,000 miles together.

K-Swiss never complains, and I’m sure I could get more mileage out of my old friend, but it’s time. The stitching is starting to fray, the backs are getting close to being blown out, and then there’s the matter of respect. In short, I don’t want my friend K-Swiss to become the Willie Mays or Brett Favre of shoes, a once great icon that becomes nothing more than a punch line during the twilight of a career.

So welcome, Yellow Toes. I look forward to a long and fruitful relationship. But K-Swiss is a giant that will never be forgotten.

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On closing (or not), superfans and logo lust

Jan. 20, 2011

Tough loss for the lads last night. That’s 23 losses, and the Pacers have had the lead in the fourth quarter or overtime in 11 of them. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that they just can’t close. Perhaps they should sign Kyra Sedgwick to a ten-day contract.

Saw the guy in this photo on the baseline about an hour before the game. Says he comes to two NBA games a season: the Pacers-Golden State game in Oakland, and the Pacers-Kings game in Sacramento. Always nice to see a friendly face far from home.

Incidentally, I am enamored with Golden State’s new uniforms and logo. Don’t tell anyone, but I actually picked up a black Warriors cap with the logo artfully stitched to the front. Does that qualify as an act of treason?

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Joe D. supporting the Giants? Say it ain't so

Jan. 18, 2011

Saw this on the wall at Joe DiMaggio’s restaurant when I was walking back to the hotel from Fisherman’s Wharf Tuesday afternoon and was immediately suspicious.

Joe DiMaggio was from San Francisco but played for the Yankees, not the Giants.

In fact, DiMaggio’s Yankees beat the Giants three times in the World Series, which would make the Giants a prime DiMaggio rival.

Does McDonald’s cheer for Burger King? Was Al Capone a fan of Elliot Ness? Do you think Goliath secretly rooted for David?

No, no, and no. And there’s no way Joe DiMaggio would ever have pulled for the Giants.

Update: I am now trailing both Windle and Wennington in Scrabble. I make my living using words. They don’t. Losing to these people in a word game would be like Usain Bolt failing in a race against Fat Joe. I will not let this happen.

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There are some benefits to day games

Jan. 17, 2011

This trip started with a day game, which means I rolled out at 5:30 a.m. to finish my pre-game preparation for a 12:30 p.m. tip.

Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of these early day games on the road, though there is one thing about them that I do like. We have a team meal in such circumstances rather than a shootaround, which means I can pocket my per diem and stash it. Every little bit helps, as I continue to save for my retirement home on Cigar Island.

By the way, I’ve just discovered an iPhone app that allows me to play scrabble against other folks with either iPhones or iPads. So far, I’ve got two games going…I’m pounding Pacers strength and conditioning guru Shawn Windle, and am trailing ex-NBA center Bill Wennington, though I’ve got him in my sights.

Oh. Did I mention the Clipper game? No? Well, in a nutshell, it came down to this: Blake Griffin is pretty good.

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As road trips go, this one not so bad

Jan. 16, 2011

This is the view from the balcony of my hotel room in Los Angeles, where the Pacers start their last western swing of the season with a game against the Clippers tomorrow afternoon.

Theoretically, this trip presents the Pacers with an opportunity to enjoy some success. Los Angeles and Golden State have losing records, Portland has been deprived of its best player (Brandon Roy), and by the time we get to Denver the Nuggets could be in total disarray if they finally clean house and pull the trigger on one of the many rumored Carmelo Anthony trades.

Plus, as road trips go, this one plays out nicely, with multiple nights off in San Francisco and Portland, two of my favorite NBA stops.

Incidentally, the bathroom in my room is equipped with a light that turns on automatically when you enter. That’s of no real consequence now, but if I stay around a few more years and run into prostate issues that seem inevitable with old age, it could really be an asset on those 3 a.m. forays to the bathroom.

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If you can't find me, start the search at Holt's

Jan. 11, 2011

I consider myself very fortunate, in that I have a job that I enjoy and never really feel like I’m working. But there will come a day when the Pacers weary of me, or maybe I get too old to weather the grind that comes with an 82-game season, and I think I know what I want to do when that happens.

About 15 years ago, I started smoking cigars. In the years since, I have come to appreciate a good cigar and look forward to any opportunity to enjoy one. There’s a place in Philadelphia called Holt's that I try and frequent when we’re here, and every time I go in I notice how much the guys that work there seem to enjoy their jobs.

And why wouldn’t they? They sit around helping folks select cigars, all the while enjoying the vast selection that the store offers. Why couldn’t I do that? I have experience assisting customers, having worked at Hubbard and Cravens as recently as two summers ago. True, coffee is not cigars, but I’ve acquired a certain level of expertise over the years, and I’m quite certain I could pick up whatever else I need to know on the fly.

One day an NBA season will start, and you’ll tune in the broadcast and realize that I’m not there any more. When that happens, if you want to find me, start at 1522 Walnut in Philadelphia. I’ll be the guy in jeans and an outlandish shirt, enjoying a Cohiba.

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Off-day ruminations in Philly

Jan. 10, 2011

Off day in Philadelphia. No practice to attend, no plane to catch, and no game to broadcast. This gives me plenty of time to sit around and ruminate, and it reminds me that there are so many things that I have trouble understanding.

Let’s see.

The NCAA won’t let this kid at Kentucky – I can’t remember his name – play basketball because his family got $33,000 from a club team in Turkey when the kid was 16, but it’s OK for Cam Newton to play while his dad (agent?) tries to coax almost $200K from Mississippi State in exchange for his son’s services?

Along those same lines, I don’t know enough about it to know whether those kids from Ohio State’s football team should have been suspended for five games, but I do know this: if what they did warranted a suspension, the NCAA should have had the stones to start that suspension with the Sugar Bowl.

When will the Lakers and Jazz get around to changing their nicknames? Are there any lakes in Los Angeles? And when I think of jazz, Salt Lake City is not exactly the first place that comes to mind.

How come more people don’t understand that it’s legal, in most instances, to turn right on a red light in Indiana?

Remember the old black and white Superman television series? How it was that Superman could stop bullets with his chest, but always ducked when one of the crooks threw a gun at him?

Why don’t women like The Three Stooges?

If Roger Goodell is serious about his crusade to limit injuries to NFL players, why does he think it’s such a good idea to add two more games for those same players to beat the hell out of each other?

Why would anyone like dogs better than cats? And, speaking of cats, why hasn’t some enterprising company come up with a mouse flavored cat food?

Why can’t I find something better to do than compile a list like this on an off day?

Ryan awakens rooting interest in NFL

Jan. 4, 2011

Though I’ve enjoyed sports and have considered myself an observer my entire life, I haven’t really been what I’d term a sports fan since I was very young. To be specific, since I was about nine or 10 years old, I’ve never been able to really invest myself emotionally in a game unless I personally know someone involved.

I’m aware that this runs counter to the way most people watch sports – are you really surprised that I’m on the outside, looking in, when it comes to the conventional approach to anything by now? – but I still enjoy the games. I can definitely admire and appreciate the skill and commitment involved to excel at the elite level, I just rarely care about the outcome.

Certainly, there have been exceptions. When I was a teenager, I became captivated by both Muhammad Ali and Wilt Chamberlain, because both were bigger than life and I found them compelling even though I knew neither one, and as a result I always rooted hard for both to succeed. But those two represented the exception to the rule for me, and in recent years I haven’t found anyone interesting enough to cheer for from afar.

Ah, but then Rex Ryan burst onto the scene.

Loud and profane, he says what’s on his mind regardless of what anyone else thinks, which must make the stuffed shirts at NFL HQ cringe. This, after all, is an organization that has left no stone unturned in an effort to homogenize an entire league. Individuality is frowned upon, displays of emotion are penalized, and anyone that dares test this philosophy is subject to a slap with the ruler and an invitation to sit in the corner.

Now, you might consider Rex Ryan a loudmouthed buffoon, particularly in light of his comments leading into this weekend’s playoff game with The Local Heroes in Blue, and I completely understand that point of view. But for those of us who have a hard time finding a reason to get emotionally involved in the outcome of a competition involving total strangers, there’s only one thing to say:

J-E-T-S. Jets….Jets….Jets.

Sartorial slipup? Or sign of senility?

Jan. 2, 2011

Do I look professional in this picture? No? Well, that’s because I cleverly forgot my suitcase and am left, literally, with the clothes on my back in New York.

I did remember to bring the stuff I need to prepare for and broadcast the game, most notably my computer and my other notes and information, but for some reason left the suitcase with my clothes and so forth at The Fortress of Solitude.

Since Sunday’s game is a 1 p.m. affair, I won’t even have time to hit the local clothiers and come up with something suitably professional – not to mention criminally overpriced – to wear to the Garden. I’m hoping that I won’t be mistaken for a homeless man and will be permitted inside to do the broadcast.

I’m starting to suspect that there’s not much difference between eccentricity and idiocy.

Resolving to make the NBA better

Date:Jan. 1, 2011
To: David Stern
From: Mark Boyle
RE: Resolutions for 2011 That Would Benefit the NBA


Had several thoughts that might benefit the league if implemented at the start of the new year. In no particular order:

  • Permanent ban on players participating in anything even remotely resembling “The Decision”.
  • If you’re really serious about cutting costs, a maximum of two assistant coaches per team.
  • Running time any time a team falls behind by 20 or more points in the fourth quarter.
  • Dissolution of the three man booth on all NBA telecasts.
  • Teams that employ Stan Van Gundy, Phil Jackson, and LeBron James will always play on Christmas.
  • Tip ins by anyone under 6-3 count for four points, as will shots from outside the three-point arc by anyone over 7-0.
  • In the event of a lockout, salaries that would have gone to players will now be donated to charity. Or team broadcasters. Or both.

I have more, but let’s start with these. Feel free to take credit for any or all of these concepts. I prefer to work behind the scenes.