by Dennis D'Agostino
July 5, 2001
Dennis D'Agostino is the Knicks' publications consultant, after spending 12 years as a full-time member of the club's public relations staff. He was named winner of the 2000 Marc Splaver/Howie McHugh ''Tribute to Excellence'' award by the NBA PR Directors Association for long and meritorious service to the League and media. Aside from the legendary Knicks-Pacers battles, his fondest memory of MSA was seeing Bob Hope host the opening ceremonies of the 1982 National Sports Festival.
I've been reading about how they're just about ready to blow up Market Square Arena - throw a switch, push a plunger, and turn the thing into a pile of dust - and it makes me very sad.
I want very much to be there when it happens, to stand on the sidewalk in a hard hat alongside Slick Leonard and David Craig and Mark Boyle and Jerry Baker and Reb Porter and David Benner, get all teary-eyed and watch the place turn into rubble in a matter of seconds - and then join everybody at St. Elmo's for a steak dinner and a long night of story-telling.
I'd like to do all that, to celebrate all the history and the magic of the old place. I really, really would. But since I don't live anywhere near Indianapolis, I won't be able to make it.
And before we go any further, I have a confession to make.
I work for the New York Knicks.
Please, please, don't feel that way. I really want to you keep reading.
Because as hard as this may be for you to believe, you didn't have to be a Pacer Person to realize that Market Square was a special place.
OK, I have to admit, part of the reason I hate to see Market Square go is that my team had a lot of memorable days and nights within its walls. I was there for the final Saturday night back in '88, that heart-stopping two-point win that clinched the first of our 14 straight playoff berths, with Kenny Walker stopping Steve Stipanovich on the last possession. And the night five years later when the term ''head-butt'' stopped being the exclusive property of the WWF. And then there was Game Six in 1994, and Game Six in 1995, and Game Five in 1999.
Sorry. I didn't mean to get carried away.
But even if you were an opponent, you knew right away what made MSA a really cool place. How you could see that big mushroom dome from almost anywhere in the city. How steep the stands were, how high they went up - way, way up beyond the curtains, which they never had to drop again after about '92.
How the team bus had to make that long, long, climb up the ramp to the side entrance. And how the elderly guard that worked there always had his radio tuned to the only big band AM station in Indy.
How you could step outside the concourse and look out at downtown, where it seemed like every office building had at least one ''Go Pacers!'' sign. How Reb was the only PA man in the NBA to call a three-point basket by its rightful name: a home run. And how he was so convincing that I've gone through much of my NBA career thinking that ''Your'' was officially part of the team name.
Or how you could take a walk around and discover, in a far corner almost hidden from view, a trophy case filled with memorabilia from Elvis' last concert, or another that contained mementos from the Pacers' early championship days.
And if you knew the history, you knew the ghosts were still hovering. Heck, all you had to do was look over at the far wall to the three giant banners, or see Mel Daniels sitting under the basket, or George McGinnis or Slick Leonard at the press table.
There were so many things that were uniquely Market Square, especially at Playoff time: Boomer in his Grim Reaper outfit (God, was that annoying! Does he still do that?); That ''Boom Baby'' song; Matt Azen's signs; Hundreds of plastic pink flamingoes (What's the deal with that?).
Doc Rivers or Derek Harper bringing the ball up, then suddenly: Vrrrrrrooommmmm!!
David Letterman's mom. Jim Nabors coming over to sing ''Back Home Again in Indiana.'' The Playoffs and The 500 going side-by-side, and having a bunch of confused New York beat writers asking how to spell words like ''Luyendyk'' and ''Villeneuve.''
Most of all, you knew that this was a basketball place. A place where they honored the game, where the fans were the most rabid in the league.
Of course, progress is progress and time marches on and all that. I've never been inside Conseco Fieldhouse, but everyone says it's the absolute last word in arena construction.
Maybe. But Market Square Arena in the ‘90s was one terrific gym. And if somebody who draws a paycheck from the Knicks feels that way, I can only imagine how you Hoosiers must feel.
I'm just sorry I won't be there for the finish.
Because MSA was a place even a New Yorker could love.
Save me a brick, Slick!