I want to care about the Indiana Pacers, but if the Pacers themselves play as though they don’t care about the Pacers, why should I bother?
That was the thought that rang in my head like the bell in a church where it is always noon as I watched their pathetic lack of effort in Toronto last night. Basketball is dramatic, fun to play, and compelling as hell to watch when there is something on the line. The Pacers played folded for the Raptors as though not even pride was at stake – maybe especially as though pride wasn’t at stake.
Basketball is a lot like music. If a band goes through the motions playing their hits and serves as a walking and breathing jukebox without a captivating collective aspontaneity, people at a concert chat among themselves and treat the event as background entertainment. Basketball provides the same opportunity to be a fascinating watch or a distraction from conversation.
Through five games, the Pacers have been more chatter than matter despite three very close contests to begin the season. Because my wife was busy doing something more important than watching the Pacers lose in Toronto last night (a broad swath of potential activities), I was left to talk to myself – which is something you can see me do twice each day on my YouTube channel. I asked myself a variety of questions. Hear are 14 of them (in honor of Sam Perkins, one of my favorite Pacers):
- Do the Pacers realize that basketball isn’t drudgery?
- Each member of the Pacers starting lineup (minus Chris Duarte, who is on his rookie deal) earns roughly a quarter of a million dollars per game. That would pay four-to-five teachers, police, or firefighters for a year. All they need to do is play basketball for two-and-a-half hours while travelling via chartered jets and staying in luxurious hotels!
- Did last night’s game interrupt something the players were more interested in?
- Why did Rick Carlisle decide to coach another team given that his wealth is substantial, and he could easily lay on a beach sucking down Coronas with Snoop Dogg for the rest of his life?
- Was Malcolm Brogdon born with structurally deficient hamstrings?
- Will Duarte’s positive energy lift his teammates, or will he be dragged into the team’s intractable malaise?
- Are we in the midst of another era when fans would prefer to sit in the Gainbridge Fieldhouse bars to being in their seats watching the game?
- Why does Myles Turner often appear to be more enthusiastic as he supports teammates from the bench than when he’s on the floor?
- Why did only the rookies sing Happy Birthday to Rick Carlisle as he “celebrated” the end of his 62nd trip around the Sun?
- Can I discipline myself to watch another 77 of these games?
- Are the other 29 NBA teams as ambivalent about basketball as this one seems to be?
- How long until Pacers assistant and Butler alum Ronald Nored decides to run for Congress instead of coach apparently indifferent millionaires?
- Do Chris Denari and Quinn Buckner like each other?
- Who has it worse – the people who pay for tickets to watch this team or the people who get paid to watch this team?
Some of those questions are uneducated and reflect my angst in the moment as I watched the game. I did not enjoy asking myself those questions – or answering them alone in our living room. Maybe tomorrow night in Brooklyn the switch will flip and suddenly I will enjoy watching the Pacers again. It can happen just that quickly. That’s part of the fun of basketball too!
Overreacting to dismal starts is something that fans do, and I am a fan of the Pacers franchise. A 1-4 start is hard to ignore – regardless of injuries. Results always have a cause, and I’m afraid the cause for 1-4 is the same as the cause for my disinterest in our city’s NBA franchise.
I have great respect for Pacers ownership, affection for the management team, and a deep love of basketball. So why don’t I enjoy watching this team right now?