March 2011: Destination Unknown Indiana Pacers blog with Mark Boyle


March 30, 2011

Tonight’s game will be my 2,000th NBA broadcast. Taken at face value, that’s nothing special, because all it really means is that I’ve shown up for work for a long time. If the average guy showed up for work every day, assuming he had two weeks vacation every year, that would be eight years worth of work at a real job.

Big deal, right?

So I don’t want to get carried away here, but it is a big deal to me. I’ve been fortunate enough to win a number of awards over the course of my career, but at the risk of sounding ungrateful, none of those mean much to me. They’re subjective, and the reality in our business is that if you work from a large enough platform – let’s say you write for a major newspaper or broadcast games over an extensive network – it’s easy to win awards, even if you’re not very good. But being able to stay in the same place for almost a quarter century in a business that is notoriously fickle requires something more tangible, at least in my estimation.

Even though I was very excited when I was offered this job in 1988, I did have one concern. I had never worked for a team before, and I was uneasy about what appeared to me to be an obvious conflict of interest. It’s always been my belief that the listeners should be treated with respect, and that their intelligence should never be insulted, but not all teams see it that way. They expect a glowingly positive broadcast, regardless of whether or not reality jibes with that approach, and I can’t work that way. When I shared that concern with Donnie Walsh, he told me that as long as I was fair and didn’t get personal, he didn’t care what I said. And in the 20 years I worked for Donnie, he never went back on his word. I will admit that I have had the occasional difference of opinion with the non-basketball side of our front office, but I’ve found that even in those circumstances that there’s been enough mutual respect that we’ve been able to get past the stray rough patch.

My first contract here was for two years, and that’s how long I originally planned to stay. I had already worked in New York, and at major operations in Minneapolis and St. Louis, I was young and had a very healthy regard for my talent, and I was certain that once I got my foot in the door it wouldn’t be long before I found something better. But by the time that first contract neared an end, I had figured out that there wasn’t anything better. I had come to understand that the Simons were fantastic owners and that Donnie was an extremely supportive boss, and by then the fans had welcomed me as though I were a native Hoosier and I could see no reason to leave.

I think everyone knows what a top-flight organization this has been since the Simons took over back in the early ‘80’s, and I’d like to share a story that illustrates the point. A few years ago, my mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer. This was in October (she would eventually pass away in February), and I wanted to spend some time with her, but I also felt an obligation to the franchise. Donnie told me to take all the time I needed, and also said that if I wanted to take an extended leave that not only would the Pacers support that decision, but my job would be waiting for me when I returned, and the team would continue to pay me while I was away. Contrast that with the fate of one of my peers several years ago – his dad passed away, he missed several games as a result, and when his next contract came up, the team he worked for wanted to put in a clause dictating how many games he could miss under similar circumstances in the future without getting docked – and you’ll understand why I’ve always felt fortunate to have landed with such a class organization.

If staying in one place for 23 seasons is an accomplishment, it is not mine alone. Larry Mago, who has since moved up in the world and is now our Grand Poobah in Charge of Something or Other (I think he actually has a more glamorous title than that, but I’ve never really paid much attention to such things), and Greg Jamison, who is now the President of the NHL’s San Jose Sharks, were the ones that convinced Donnie that I was the right man for the job. Clark Kellogg was my original partner, and both he and Slick Leonard have added to the enjoyment of coming to work every night. Kevin Lee, our studio host/sideline guy, and Scott Fenstermaker, our broadcast engineer, are both as good as it gets at what they do, and we’ve all been together for so long now that it just wouldn’t be the same if either of them decided they were tired of my nonsense and moved on. Throw in folks like Media Relations Czar David Benner, who hooked me on cigars and has made life on the road tolerable on more than one evening, and there are days where I’ve wondered if I should be paying the Pacers rather than the other way around.

So for me, 2000 means a lot. It speaks of people that believed in me, and have helped and supported me, and it speaks of a fan base that has invited me into their homes, cars, and places of business with a graciousness that I can only describe as humbling. I guess what I’m really trying to say is that 2000 games is not really just my milestone. It’s ours.

Thank you.

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Another round of incoherence

March 25, 2011

Hello, Americans. It’s Friday.

Remember Paul Harvey? I used to listen to him all the time, and that’s how he always started his Friday morning broadcast. Remember the late Larry King? Another icon from the same era. He’s not dead? Oh. Sorry.

Anyway, Larry used to write a column for the Sporting News about 25 years ago or so. It was a bunch of random thoughts, strung together by dots, a rambling, stream of consciousness type column that I always thought was vapid. Still, I liked the concept, so here goes.

I like Butler, but I was bummed by last night’s win over Wisconsin. Three of Wisconsin’s five starters were from Minnesota, and we Minnesotans always stick together…Speaking of Wisconsin, I will admit that I didn’t know that their hockey team had an easier time scoring than their basketball team does…The guy who designed Sacramento’s road uniforms is my arch enemy. I’m slightly colorblind, we sit way up at Conseco, and black numbers on purple jerseys is a killer. Don’t be surprised if Pervis Ellison and Mitch Richmond are in the Kings lineup during tonight’s radio broadcast…Opening Day is next week. Baseball, by the way, is the only sports that can legitimately use capital letters for this event…How does Ryan Seacrest keep finding work?...The Indianapolis Star might be a mediocre newspaper, but Phil Richards, Bob Kravitz, and Mike Wells could write for any newspaper in America…Is it really necessary that these local weather broadcasters treat every drop of rain and flake of snow like Armageddon is on the horizon?...I still like the old Pacer uniforms better than the ones that the team wears now…What’s wrong with these NFL players? Who wouldn’t want to risk brain damage in exchange for a non-guaranteed contract?...Am I the only one watching that gets a migraine from all of the useless graphics that are now a routine part of televised sports?...The two best arenas in sports are Conseco Fieldhouse and the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul…If I’m not mistaken, Brad Stevens will be old enough to vote soon…Does it make me a bad guy if I smile every time Pitino and Krzyzewski lose?...Why haven’t any of the networks picked up Pacers Crate yet? Maybe because Denari looks good on TV, but Brunner and I frighten children.

UPDATE: There are twelve teams still standing in the NCAA Semi-Pro Tournament. Six of them are still bouncing around on my bracket, but I lost one of my Final Four teams when Duke spit the bit last night. My chances of winning appear to be about as bright as the Christians outlook was against the lions.

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Isn’t winter over?

March 21, 2011

How can it be snowing in New Jersey? Isn’t winter over?

We spend a lot of time on the road, and it’s not uncommon – at least for me – to wake up uncertain as to which city we’re in and/or what day it is. There’s a monotony to the process, but there are a few places we stay that offer quirks that I look forward to.

This is a picture of the lobby fountain at The Peabody Hotel in Memphis. We always stay in nice places, but there’s a certain homogenous feel to most of these places. Not The Peabody. This place has been around forever, and these ducks have the run of the place. They march to and from the lobby at 11 AM and 5 PM, a tradition that dates back to the 1930’s, and they just hang out the rest of the day. Very cool

UPDATE: My dip into the NCAA Semi-Pro Tournament Pool continues to go badly. Of the 16 teams advancing to the regional finals (believing it’s only a matter of time before some addle-brained dufus slams the term Thrilling Thirty-Two onto the first round winners, I refuse to use clichéd terms like Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight), nine have my name on them. In other words, I’ve been sent home without so much as a consolation prize. Still, since everyone else seems so invested in this event, I have decided to pick a team to get behind, and I’ve selected Wisconsin. Like me, their two best players are Minnesota boys, which seems as good a reason as any to get behind them. Plus, as you may recall from an earlier blog entry, my fake son, Brett Bennett, is on the hockey team there.

Go Badgers!

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The Drowning Pool

March 18, 2011

I kept a watchful eye on the games yesterday, though not in the way you might think. I am definitely interested in the results, though I have no interest at all in the actual games themselves. Sort of like watching a stock ticker without really caring what goes on at Johnson and Johnson or AT&T.

Anyway, this is how my day went as I periodically checked in on the results as I got some stuff done around The Fortress of Solitude:

12:00 PM: I’m flipping through the dial, planning to see what’s on The Biography Channel – William Shatner, it turns out, is really a good interviewer – when I come across some show on ESPN where the talking heads are complaining because some of the games are on TruTV. Unlike these guys, I know about TruTV – though I was unaware that the games were being shown there - and this upsets me. I figure semi-pro ball on that network all day diminished the chances that I’ll be able to find one of the serial killer documentaries that I find so fascinating.

3:00 PM: Thinking that some of these games must be over by now, I go back to the computer to see how my teams are faring. I immediately stumble upon bad news, as I discover that Butler has beaten Old Dominion on a last minute tip-in. I like Butler, but I had ODU in this game. Just goes to show that the only Howard that can be trusted is Moe from The Three Stooges.

4:02 PM: I’m out of the gate at 1-3, with only West Virginia coming through for me. The Louisville loss doesn’t bother me, though. When I worked in New York and spent some time covering the Knicks, Rick Pitino was the coach. I found him smug and self-important than, and I consider him even less likeable now.

7:12 PM: More bad news. Vanderbilt coughed up a fur ball, and I had them going to the third round. This whole experience is less than eight hours old, and I’m already feeling like I did when I regularly rang up C-‘s on my seventh grade biology tests.

10:04 PM: Michigan State joins Penn State on the train to Loserville. Save me a seat in coach, boys. I should have known better that to pick teams from a conference that can’t even get it together long enough to figure out how many teams it has.

12:16 AM: Hey, St. John’s….thanks for putting the cherry on top of my sundae. 9-7 on the first day. That’s a .563 percentage, which might be more than enough to make the Eastern Conference playoffs, but in this world it invites ridicule.

Maybe I’ll do better today. I could hardly do any worse.

Everybody into the Pool

March 17, 2011

I consider myself to be of reasonably sound mind, and I rarely venture into areas that I don’t have at least some level of expertise. Why, then, would I submit an entry in the annual Pacers NCAA Semi-Pro Tournament pool?

EDITOR’s NOTE (not really…this is my note…but EDITOR in capital letters somehow seems more authoritative): Please be aware, Commissioner Stern and others, that this is a recreational competition. Bragging rights, and nothing more, are on the line here. No need to send your minions (Stan Van Gundy’s words, not mine) after me or anyone else involved.

Here is a partial list of people that follow the semi-pro game more closely than I do:

  1. 94.3% of the male population in this country
  2. Jimmy Hoffa
  3. Any Tibetan Sherpa

This presents a problem. Anyone knows that Kansas is good. The same goes for North Carolina. But what are the merits of Michigan? Or Washington? Does Oakland refer to California or Michigan? I couldn’t tell you the difference between George Mason and George Costanza, yet I’m diving head first into the pool.

For one thing, this is an area that gives us common ground from a competition standpoint. If I were to step into their world, the players would destroy me. I can’t beat them at horse, in one-on-one, or any other basketball related competition. Conversely, I’m quite certain that none of them could walk into my world and leave unscathed. I would dominate a debate with any of these guys, and I’m certain that I could bring any of them to their knees in a game of chess.

Well, except maybe for the guys from Duke.

Stay tuned. I’ll keep you posted.

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I'm Here to Help

March 16, 2011

Dr. Bobby Fong
Butler University
Indianapolis, IN 46208

Dear Dr. Fong:

This is my cat, BIG. She’s my best friend, too, but outside of the fact that this puts me rather high on the Lose-O-Meter, that’s neither here nor there.

It is my understanding that the NCAA has banned your mascot, Blue II, from appearing at the NCAA Tournament, and I would like to volunteer BIG’s services. I’m not clear on the NCAA’s reasoning in this matter, though based on past history I assume that it’s petty, capricious, and ill conceived. Are they concerned that Blue II might have an accident on one of their expensive arena floors? No worries. BIG has long been trained to use a cat box. Do they fear an attack on an unsuspecting fan? Again, no issues. Not only has BIG had all of her regular shots, she also sleeps 23 hours a day, and unless some fan comes disguised as a bowl of cat food, there is little or no chance of an attack.

I understand that a lazy old gray cat is probably a poor substitute for an enthusiastic young bulldog, but time is of the essence here and you’re really not in a position to be too choosy. It is my feeling that those of us that live in Indianapolis should back each other whenever possible, and BIG and I would be proud to be of service. Call me at 317_______ and we’ll make the appropriate arrangements.

Go Bulldogs!

Mark J. Boyle

P.S.: If the NCAA balks at this suggestion, tell them BIG went to Ohio State. She didn’t, but they seem more than willing to accommodate that school whenever possible.

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March 15, 2011

Normally, I’m a glass half empty kind of guy.

But today, my glass is half full, because although he’s sick, my friend and long time partner Slick Leonard is getting better.

Most of you know that Slick had a heart attack following our game in New York Sunday night, and that he’s on the road to recover following the insertion of a pair of stents and will be home soon. What you might not know is that he very nearly left all of our glasses empty. I don’t think there’s any real need to get into specific detail, and I’m not a medical professional by any stretch of the imagination, but I can tell you that as we all stood outside the team bus where Slick had the attack many of us assumed the worst. And though they would never tell you this themselves, I think it should be mentioned that without the work done under extraordinarily stressful conditions by our trainers Josh Corbeil and Carl Eaton, this whole story would almost certainly have had a very different ending.

I remember when Slick and I were first partnered. I had worked with Clark Kellogg my first season and had gone solo for several seasons after that. Slick joined me for the 1994 playoffs, and when the Pacers made a run to the Eastern Conference Finals we really seemed to click. That summer, the Pacers decided to make the pairing permanent and we’ve been together ever since.

At first I was apprehensive about this, which says more about me than it does about Slick. I had know Slick for several years by then and really liked him, but I was young and trying to establish myself, I was even more full of myself than I am now, and I feared that carrying this guy 82 nights a year would make it difficult to do that.

And I can’t tell you that it hasn’t been difficult. A lot of the time Slick doesn’t listen to me during the broadcast, which results in dialogue that can only be described as bizarre. He has a tendency to blurt out things that boggle the mind and have no relevance to anything, he often mangles opponents names beyond recognition, and I sometimes wonder if people listening think that Slick has come to the conclusion that NBA officials are responsible for everything from global warming to the crime rate.

So, yes, it can be difficult, and even frustrating. But it’s also been a unique experience, one I wouldn’t have missed for anything, and it’s been the highlight of my career. I’ve learned a lot from him, and much of it has nothing to do with basketball. I’m not a particularly warm or friendly person – surprise! – but I think I’ve gotten a little better at connecting with people because of him. The man relates to folks in a way that continually amazes me. He has a knack for making total strangers feel like brothers, and anybody that comes into contact with him inevitably leaves feeling like they’ve made a new friend. He’s always upbeat, although he’s never hesitated to criticize players (even, on occasion, his favorites) when warranted, and I’ve always thought that was one of the reasons that our broadcast resonates with fans.

I’m looking forward to the day he returns to the broadcast, though that’s far from important right now, and I hope you’ll welcome Austin Croshere in the meantime. More than that, I’m excited that he’ll be home later this week and is well on the road to recovery. It’s strange, really. I think back to 1994 and marvel that I ever thought I’d have to carry this man.

Turns out he’s been carrying me the whole time.

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A New York State of Mind

March 13, 2011

New York may not be for everyone, but in my view it’s the best city in America.

Sure, there are some issues there. I worked there for a year and felt safe the entire time, but I realize that some people feel threatened in the city. It is expensive. Traffic can be a nightmare in Manhattan, and if our friend in the photo is to be believed, not all of the hotels are tourist utopias.

On the other hand, everything you would ever want is here. Broadway, fabulous restaurants, museums, six major league sports teams (seven if you count the Mets), Central Park, a great subway system, Shakespeare in the Park, and ethnic diversity are all part of the fabric of this city.

Saturday, we had a day off here, and I spent the morning reading four daily newspapers, enjoyed lunch at the classic Brooklyn Diner, spent the afternoon wandering around Central Park, and then capped off the day at the Carnegie Club, enjoying a cigar and the wonderful work of the Stan Rubin Orchestra.

It’s always great to get back to Indianapolis at the end of a road trip. It’s a wonderful city. But it has one mediocre newspaper (note to Mike Wells, Bob Kravitz, and one or two others: I’m not talking about you), nothing like Central Park, and my one time favorite cigar bar (Nicky Blaine’s) eliminated their terrific live music several years ago.

Like most of you, I’m hoping that the Pacers eventually evolve into a championship contender. Unlike most of you, I secretly hope that the Knicks will progress in a similar direction so that I can get some extra time in NYC.

Please don’t hold it against me.

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A Beautiful Mind

March 11, 2011

Random thoughts while watching the classic movie 48 Hours and getting my notes together for tonight’s game with Toronto (I excel at multi-tasking):

You don’t think Canada’s a great country? Think again. They don’t have ESPN here.

This Latino Night concept that the NBA is offering up this month is a great idea. However, I don’t understand these jerseys. Heat, for example, is an English word, not a Spanish word. So shouldn’t the jerseys read “El Calor” rather than “El Heat”? Just wondering.

Even if the NFL lock out their players for a full year and fans feel a void, soccer will remain irrelevant.

Why do these smaller college basketball conferences even have regular seasons? Since the conference tournament winner is the only team that goes to the NCAA tournament, why not just shelve the conference season all together? I know it’s a novel concept, but under that scenario the players could actually, you know, go to class.

Larry King had seven wives. During the MJB Single Era, I don’t think I had seven dates.

Way to stand tall, Ohio State. You’re sure to miss Coach Tressel during those tense matchups with Akron and Toledo.

I see where Charlie Sheen is having issues and his hit television show is being cancelled as a result. Couldn’t it just go on as 1½ Men?

If San Antonio plays Miami in the NBA Finals, the over/under on the number of fans outside of Florida rooting for the Heat is 9.

By the way, it’s hard to see because of the reflective glare, but that picture Slick is standing next to is of the man himself when he played for the Minneapolis Lakers. It’s on the wall in Hubert’s, a restaurant in the Target Center.

Off to the Air Canada Centre…..

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Up in Smoke

March 5, 2011

Yesterday was Rookie Cigar Day in Dallas.

David Benner, our legendary media relations guru, long ago managed to convince (read: con) the rookies that part of their indoctrination into the NBA consisted of buying David and I each a box of cigars. It generally takes the rookies a year or so to realize that they are above us, not below us, on the food chain, and being savvy veterans who recognize prey when they see it, we pounce.

So yesterday we took advantage of the situation, and something happened in the store that I found amazing. The guy in this picture is Patrick Carmichael. He’s the assistant manager at Up in Smoke, which is where we snagged our cigars, courtesy of Paul George and Lance Stephenson. When I walked in there, he said, “Hey, aren’t you with the Pacers?” When I acknowledged that this was so, he said, “When you were in here last year, you forgot your lighter”, and he proceeded to open a drawer behind the counter and pull out a lighter that I had, in fact, left in his store a little over a year ago.

See, car keys are from the only thing I misplace.

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A Place For Everything

March 1, 2011

Last night, I needed to be downtown at 7:30. Fully aware that The Fortress of Solitude is 15 minutes away from my destination, and being a math savant, I cleverly conclude that I need to set sail by 7:15. Normally, this would not be an issue, but in this case there’s a slight problem.

I can’t find my keys.

This is nothing new. Absent-mindedness is as much a part of my personality as cluelessness (assuming that’s a word) is a part of Sarah Palin’s being. I have forgotten my own birthday more than once, and on one memorable occasion I returned from a West Coast road trip to discover the entryway to my home drifted with snow because I had forgotten to close the front door upon departure.

So I’m looking at this as nothing more than a minor irritant. I confidently begin my search, targeting the logical spots first. However, I soon discover that this might be a little more annoying than usual; I can’t find these keys anywhere. They’re not on the kitchen counter. They’re not upstairs in the office. They’re not in the basement, the laundry hamper, the bathroom, or even in the car ignition. I’m stumped. I even check the garbage, all to no avail.

Frustration is setting in. I know they’re in the house, but somehow they’re eluding me. So I take a deep breath, try to remember the events of earlier in the day when I returned from the grocery store, and tap into my memory in an effort to retrace my steps. And pretty soon, I found them.

Who amongst us hasn’t let his keys in the refrigerator?

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