To call Indianapolis something of a fairweather sports city may not be entirely fair to the word "fairweather." The writing has been pretty clear in the city's recent (read: just about the only) stretch of success over the past two decades where the Pacers and Colts have each enjoyed their own long stretches of winning and support that overshadowed the other franchise fighting against weekly blackouts and empty arenas.
In NFL Films' America's Game, the Colts' long time center Jeff Saturday was quick to point out that disparity by talking about the rabid nature in which Indianapolis fans supported the Pacers, describing dedication that sounded far more in line with what is more associated with football fanatics and far less for what a typical NBA fanbase would seem likely to see.
While the words were certainly accurate in regards to how Indianapolis had embraced their Pacers over the course of the 90’s and into the early parts of the 00’s, the timing of the line in the documentary, which aired in the summer of 2007, came off as a fairly ironic one to those who were still attending Pacers game at Conesco Fieldhouse.
Not only were those rabid fans far less prevalent, but it turns out everyone else was as well. So many of those who cheered on their professional basketball team through the countless big time battles led by Reggie Miller seemed lost for a moment when he rode off into retirement. Rather than support a post-brawl disaster zone, they only had to glance down Georgia St to see the new hero that was working wonders and pulling out his own miracles.
And most of them still haven't come back. But, with questions arising following Peyton Manning's first missed start in addition to the numerous other games he may miss, and the 34-7 beatdown the Colts took in Houston, those same fans may be looking for some solace from what could be a dark winter. It’s no coincidence shots taken at the Colts following that loss have involved jokes regarding how there will be a sudden increase in Pacers season ticket sales.
Of course, there is that one tiny little problem…
Given the uncertainty of the lockout, the Pacers are in position to lose a potentially big short term gain by drawing in fans. Herb Simon’s willingness to get a deal done could be a direct link to this possibility. While the talk about the NHL being a large benefactor from the NBA lockout bleeding into playing time, that certainly won’t have a significant effect in grabbing hearts in Indianapolis.
The Pacers, on the other hand, as a young squad with a positive look and interesting upside are in a great position to grab back some fan interest that’s been missing for the last five or six years. All that’s missing is a postseason statement, one that could be made this coming April if things go well and players continue to progress.
A shortened season not only keeps local fans less engaged, but could be an issue with the young Pacers should they get caught up with a bad start, causing them to struggle to recover from in a shortened game load. The reasons to have a season seem to be growing by the day, one of course being the itch to just get back on the court and see the blue and gold continue to grow, but unfortunately the one reason to keep bargaining happens to be the biggest one, but getting the "right" deal in place quickly could prove a powerful ally to the Indiana Pacers and their once local diehards in the short and long term.