[Pacers_Chants took in the Fan Jam event on Sunday afternoon at the Fieldhouse and submits an outstanding report. Enjoy. -TL]
Conseco Fieldhouse – home to slippery reverse layups, thunderous dunks, three-point swishes, and professional athletes furiously ripping all the tissues out of a Kleenex box.
Yes, only at Fan Jam, where Indiana fans get their annual preseason introduction to the team, autographs and a chance to see the Pacers in some odd, often comical situations.
"You’ll see the players doing some really fun things on the court," said Fox Sports Indiana play-by-play voice Chris Denari, who hosted a series of "Minute to Win It" challenges in which Pacers players competed to win prizes for fans.
All in all, Fan Jam, version 2010, served its purpose. Enough fans attended to fill at least the lower level of the arena, and all of the players, except for an under-the-weather Magnum Rolle, stuck around to put their John Hancock on a few basketballs and hats.
For everyone, it was a little downtime, the absence of pressure or anxiety before events turn all business Wednesday night in San Antonio, Texas. Well, unless you were bothered by the couple that brazenly wore Tom Brady jerseys into Conseco. (On the bright side, perhaps they wore Granger jerseys to Patriots training camp. You never know.)
Early on, fans enjoyed their free hot dogs and sodas before heading to the green seats around 2 p.m. That’s when the players came out, one by one, introduced to the strains of "Zombie Nation." Applause was raucous for "USA World Champion" Danny Granger, tepid for Brandon Rush and Lance Stephenson (but applause nonetheless.)
Then coach Jim O’Brien took the microphone to speak for about 30 seconds.
"I encourage everyone to take part in 41 home games," he said. "There isn’t a better conditioned team in the NBA. You’ll see a very exciting basketball team that runs every chance we get, defends hard, shoots a lot of threes, and attacks the basket."
Fun began with Denari’s "Minute to Win It" games, based off the NBC television series of the same name. Here’s a quick rundown.Chocolate Unicorn
Contestants: Paul George, Darren Collison, A.J. Price
Challenge: Stack as many chocolate ding-dongs as possible on your forehead
Favorite in Vegas: Collison, because the best point guards have the best body control
End Result: A.J. won with five ding-dongs, which ended up on the floor when Granger surreptitiously jogged up and smashed the stack down on Price’s face as the buzzer sounded.
Contestants: Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert, Dahntay Jones, Lance Stephenson
Challenge: Wearing a blindfold, hold a fishing rod with a lampshade attached as bait, and lower the lamp shade over your head
Favorite in Vegas: Hibbert, because he uses arms-over-head coordination as a shot-blocker
End Result: Roy got it done in 14 seconds, but Dahntay went lights-out at 11.3 seconds. Lance did not succeed. (Was a rough all-around Fan Jam for Born Ready, if you read on.)
Conntestants: T.J. Ford, Mike Dunleavy, Solomon Jones, James Posey
Challenge: Stack progressively higher numbers of soda cans on top of one another with paper plates in between, making something of a reverse triangle.
Favorite in Vegas: You figure Dunleavy probably stacked Coke cans at some point sitting on his couch with the bum knee. Experience in that regard.
End Result: This was the easiest of the four events. All were successful, but Solomon Jones won in what he hopes was not his last victory as a member of the Pacers.
Contestants: Jeff Foster, Tyler Hansbrough, Brandon Rush, Josh McRoberts
Challenge: Place the most apples, one on top of the other, in the usual 60 seconds. (Yeah, I know, team really got into stacking things, for whatever reason.)
Favorite in Vegas: Did Psycho T ever visit an apple orchard in his tiny Missouri hometown?
End result: Foster won.
Next up was "Dannyoke." Granger sang some songs from his iPod in shaky pitch, and two teams (Posey and Foster, Hibbert and George) tried to guess the tune by pouncing on Family Feud-style buzzers.
Pacers fan Melanie Meeks of Indianapolis said "Dannyoke" was the best part of her day.
"It’s funny, Danny singing, because he’s horrible," Meeks said.
Foster held his ears, though, and again pulled out the victory with his knowledge of some older tunes, including Danny’s hilarious rendition of John Mellencamp’s "Small Town."
"I was born in a small town," Granger sang, "where they’re so small, just like me!"
The Pacemates did their thing, Boomer and company were in midseason form on that famous dunk routine, and then came the event O’Brien had warned us about: rookie sing-along’s.
A botched "Party in the USA" for Paul George. Even some boos for Stephenson as he tried to do better.
Oh, come on, I thought: Don’t those fans know the rookies aren’t actually set up for success here? The vets loved this. I asked a few players afterward what their favorite part of Fan Jam was.
T.J. Ford: "Rookie singing."
Solomon Jones: "Rookie singing."
Dahntay Jones: "Rookie singing, especially Lance."
Mike Dunleavy: "Roy emceeing (the rookie singing)."
Coupled with the tunes was a dance-off, when Stephenson went head to head with a younger fan who matched him move for move.
"I liked it," said noted Pacer fan El Pacero. "Lance might be the best dancing Pacer."
The majority of fans, not an overwhelming amount but a slight majority, wore some form of Pacers gear, and a number brought the optimism to Fan Jam.
Mary Ella Miller, of Marion, has been a fan since the Pacers’ ABA days, and she looked around the concourse, seeing the tide starting to swing in a better direction.
"Indiana has the spirit," Miller said. "I just feel it. It’s so exciting to be down here and see the children so excited. This is a nice thing to have. They’re going to make it again and be good."
Something like Fan Jam won’t count in the standings, but it can certainly have meaning to a fan base.
"For me, it’s the fact that people may not have the chance to come to all the Pacer games," television commentator Quinn Buckner said. "This is a time for everyone to come [to Conseco]."
Sideline reporter Stacy Paetz said Fan Jam unites the state and team.
"I love the opportunity to have the community get closer to the players and announcers," she said. "It’s a great time to come closer together."