Disconnect Between Pacers and Indianapolis Is Widening by kentsterling
September 16, 2010, 4:06 pm
Filed under: Indiana Pacers, Kent Sterling | Tags: , , , ,

by Kent Sterling

An interview in today’s Indianapolis Star with Clark Kellogg contained a quote that taken out of context would bother the newest Pacers vice president (of player relations). He said, “He’s 20 years old, taking that into consideration. You try to help these guys deal with the bumps they run into because of poor choices and other issues.”

The only bumps belong to Stephenson’s girlfriend, and they are on her head after allegedly having it tossed down a flight of ten stairs and then – again allegedly – wrapping her head into the bottom step.

That is violence against a woman, and I don’t give a shit how much of Herb Simon’s money Pacers president Larry Bird has promised this kid, who currently leads all NBA players in felony charges compiled per year of life.

The Pacers, according to Kellogg, have required Stephenson to attend therapy sessions. That’s quite a statement about one of their employees who by the grace of God didn’t paralyze or kill his girlfriend.

At the end of the interview, Kellogg said, “As some of the folks around the office said, ‘Welcome Tao public relations.”. Is that was Kellogg’s job is? I thought his title was director of player relations, meaning that it’s Kellogg’s job to help the players deal with the challenges a sudden infusion of cash and status bring to those who never had either.

The Pacers do new players a total disservice when they come to the team by setting them up with their apartmentsand all related housekeeping issues – electricity, phone, cable, etc… When the players leave basketball, they have never done anything for themselves and are completely incapable of running their own lives.

When Austin Croshere was drafted and met with the Pacers for the first time, he and his dad were told that the Pacers would take care of all that stuff – finding an apartment and the rest. Croshere’s dad spoke up, “No, my son will take care of all that for himself.”

How can a kid become an adult if everything is done for him? How about someone from the front office teaching the rookies to look for a place, call the electric company, DirecTV, gas, and water. Call the electric company for a boy, he can read tonight. Teach him to call for himself and he can read at night forever.

With guaranteed contracts and the constant coddling of young players, the NBA has created a culture of fools who have no idea how to live their lives. They are no held emotionally accountable for their errors in judgment, that occasionally have casualties.

How Kellogg will have a profound effect on the lives of the Pacers players is anyone’s guess as he lives three hours to the east in Columbus, but as long as this is PR and not mentoring, I suppose it doesn’t matter. Kellogg is a genuinely good guy whose heart is in the right place, even if that is 170 miles and a state away.

This isn’t a Kellogg issue. It’s management, or a lack thereof. Throwing money at problems seems to be the only arrow in the Pacers’ quiver. Problem = hire a vice president. That way everyone can point to the new guy as the solution.

My personal solution is the same as a fellow with whom I had lunch today, just stay the hell out of Conseco Fieldhouse until the challenges of dealing with an employee who throws a woman down a flight of stairs are met with serious repercussions and consequences enacted by a serious man. Clearly, he isn’t on the payroll yet.

That’s a promise I’ll keep.


Indiana Pacers – What Is the “Promise”? by kentsterling

by Kent Sterling

Like clubbing a baby seal, being cynical about the Indiana Pacers isn’t a lot of fun.  Remembering a time when listening or watching a Pacers game was an appointment worth making is like reminiscing about a suddenly slowing grandparent.

Each year, the Pacers trot out a marketing campaign designed to convince fans that this year will be different.  A couple of years ago, I think, it was “Believe”.  Well, anyone who brought in didn’t for too long.  This year, the billboards read “Passion. Pride. New Promise”.

The first rule of marketing is to tell the truth, but that goes out the window if the product is not so good.  No one throws up a billboard that reads, “New Year, Same Shit!”  While that would be funny, and the advertiser would earn points for honesty, it probably wouldn’t prompt people to use the product.

Digging deeper into the Pacers new marketing campaign on their website, there is another slogan, “Protect the Promise”.  There are pictures of five Pacers – Paul George, Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert, Tyler Hansbrough, and Darren Collison – and upon clicking their image, you get to read their promise.  I would prefer to see a video of them making their promise, because frankly, I don’t believe these promises were made by anyone other than a guy or girl in the Pacers marketing department.

Hibbert and Hansbrough’s promises are eerily similar.  Hibbert’s in part is, “…we’re ready to protect the promise to our fans of making every game a great experience.”  Hansbrough, “I’m excited to protect the promise by giving Pacers fans a great experience every game.”  Maybe Roy and Tyler collaborated on their answer.

Then, the Pacers did something very smart.  Instead of allowing fans the freedom to craft their own promise, which might have resulted in some more creative, but decidedly less positive free-form promise of their own, fans are encouraged to select promises written by a franchise hoping to sell a few extra tickets like, “Bring my kids to a few games per month”, “Paint my face every game”, “Bring a friend to a Pacers game who has never attended a game”, “Bring a date to a game after dinner” (why it needs to be after dinner is anyone’s guess), “Attend more than ten games this season”, “I will watch every away game on TV”, “Hold one office outing at a Pacers game”, “Wear my Pacers jersey to work on Fridays” (presumably over their Colts jersey), “Take a client to a Pacers game once per month”, and “Bring my church/youth/scout group to a game”.

Throwing in the towel and telling fans to stay home until they start winning would get a lot of people fired, so that’s not an option, but this effort to make fans promise to pony up to watch what has been a substandard product for several years is the sort of ‘anything goes’ craziness that sent Andy Kaufman to a faith healer in the Philippines.

The Indiana Pacers are a major league franchise, for God’s sake.  Regardless of making fans vow through a Pacers-speak drop-down menu to support what has been an underperforming team, people are going to stay away until the on-court effort and results improve.  Winning = ticket sales.  Losing = empty seats.  That formula is immutable, except on the north side of Chicago where losing has become so intractable over 102 years that it’s become part of the charm of Cubs baseball.

It’s interesting to see those not on the website and billboards.  No Jeff Foster, Mike Dunleavy, T.J. Ford, and obviously no Brandon Rush, whose promise hopefully includes 12-steps and sobriety.  There is also no promise from coach Jim O’Brien or one of several presidents Larry Bird – both heading into the final year of their respective contracts.

The Pacers could make the promise with a straight face that they are going to be better.  Darren Collison and to a lesser degree James Posey are going to help.  A true point guard is a necessary piece of the puzzle for NBA success, and Collison showed great potential last year.  Hibbert has been working his ass off with Bill Walton.  He’s a solid offensive center who has hopefully developed a couple of tools that will allow him to defend without picking up fouls.

My promise is that I will give the Pacers a chance, like I do every year, to show me something.  I want to like them.  I want them to win.  And I want to be excited about going to games.  The people I know inside the front office are good people who work really hard.  I want the Pacers to win for them, so this eternal hell of trying to sell tickets to people who have no interest in buying them comes to an end.

Here We Go – Football Is Back by kentsterling

by Kent Sterling

Seasons change and so do I, you need not wonder why. no time for revolving doors … no time left for you,” the Guess Who.

What revolving doors have to do with the constant of time forging ahead is anyone’s guess, but Labor Day is when the sports season rolls over and watching TV on the weekends gets interesting again.  Pro and college football are back, camps for NBA teams will open before the end of the month, baseball gets interesting, and college hoops are right around the corner.

The Indianapolis Colts are trying to extend their record for consecutive 12-win seasons to an amazing eight, and their run of playoff appearances to nine straight.  Peyton Manning shoots for his fifth NFL MVP Award as the Colts return virtually everyone.  Going against them is a fallacy of the so-called Super Bowl curse – the loser has missed the playoffs the following year more often than not over the past decade – and the inevitability of age and bad breaks catching up with the Colts.

First up is a stiff test on the road against the Houston Texans next Sunday at 1 p.m.  Gary Kubiak’s squad seems each year to edge closer to excellence, but losses to the Colts have been a part of their routine since joining the NFL.

The Indiana Hoosiers are trying to take the next step toward earning a bowl berth more than once every 17 seasons.  They’ve closed the end zone and filled it with a weight room that is the largest in college athletics.  The scoreboard in the south end zone is huge, and coach Bill Lynch is hoping that his young defense develops quickly enough to keep opponents from filling it with scoring plays.

They soundly beat Towson, but even the Hoosiers should expect to crush them.  This week, they’re off, and then it’s on to Western Kentucky to battle the woeful Hilltoppers.  Then they host Akron before opening Big Ten play at home against Michigan at Memorial Stadium.  Four certain wins should bring a bowl berth within reach.  The bad thing about scheduling patsies in the four non-conference games is that a loss is crippling.  If the Hoosiers find a way to lose any of the remaining three, it would be almost certain career suicide for Lynch.

The Hoosiers need to fill that stadium, and fans aren’t going to brave the construction traffic on State Road 46 to watch a team that loses to Western, Akron, or Arkansas State.

Purdue is trying to find a way to creep into the upper-echelon of the Big Ten with Robert Marve – former Mr.Football in Florida.  Things didn’t get off to a great start Saturday as they were the first victim of Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly.  While the Fighting Irish are an outstanding opponent, the Boilermakers enter the patsy zone of their schedule this week as they host Western Illinois, Ball State, and Toledo over the next three weeks.

The Indiana Pacers are three weeks from opening camp, and with shiny new point guard Darren Collison, they have reason for a little optimism.  After winning only 32 games last year, the Pacers are ready to take a few chances with their roster.  Fans and the franchise have had next season circled for a few years because of the tonnage of contracts scheduled to expire after this season, but Larry Bird looks like, entering the final year of his contract, he is going to make moves to try to get the roster straightened out.

They still lack the superstar necessary to compete for a championship, but a trip to the playoffs is within reach, and that would bring some much-needed positive momentum for a fanbase that has largely moved on to attending events other than Pacers games.

Lance Stephenson and Brandon Rush have not helped matters through their foolish decisions.  Rush tested positive for pot a third time, and now faces a 10-game suspension.  Stephenson’s girlfriend wound up at the bottom of a staircase – either by falling or being shoved by Stephenson – and then allegedly had her head banged into a step by the very talented kid who turned 20 yesterday.  If convicted of the felony charges he faces, jail time is a virtual certainty.

If Tyler Hansbrough can battle back from whatever has caused his vertigo, that would help compensate for Rush and Stephenson’s prolonged absences.

Regardless of the successes and failures of the Indiana area teams, it’s going to be a hell of a lot more fun to watch than the endless meaningless and passionless Cubs games that have made this summer one of their worst in recent memory.  The Colts, Hoosiers, Boilers, and Pacers are going to make this an interesting fall, and I’m ready to enjoy some relevant competition.

On the Road with Mark Boyle – End of the Road by kentsterling

by Kent Sterling

If anyone sees Ernest Borgnine driving down the road in his 45-foot motor home, follow him and when he stops take his keys and throw them into a pond.

On a Biography Channel piece about Borgnine, it showed him as the happy as a clam navigator of a giant RV.  It looked like a great way to spend the golden years of his life.  As it turns out, trying to keep one of these beasts out of the path of other vehicles is not a good way to spend a minute no matter how old the driver is (Borgnine is 93).

Through yesterday, I drove the motor home that is Indiana Pacers play-by-play man Mark Boyle’s base camp for his month-long walking tour of Indiana to raise money for the Indiana Children’s Wish Fund.  Mark is walking 500 miles in five weeks and a couple of days, and while he’s walking, someone needs to drive the bus to the next town.

I volunteered for two reasons – the Indiana Children’s Wish Fund is one of the outstanding grassroots charities in the country, and Mark is a very interesting guy with such unique perspectives that I felt getting to know him better was going to be fun.

When Krissy Myers sent a note telling me that the bus was 45-feet long and might be a little intimidating and maybe I might reconsider my commitment, I scoffed.  If the guy who played Quinton McHale in “McHale’s Navy” could roll all over America, how hard could that be?

Well, I’ll tell you how hard it is – on the open road, not so hard.  But at the end of every leg, the bus need to be parked.  Some people don’t like to parallel park a car.  Try it with a vehicle three times as long as a car.  Try piloting the beast through a town with tight streets and high curves.  Try getting in and out of a McDonald’s.  Hard?  Yep, and terrifying.

Disaster lurks around every corner.  Want to try taking a shortcut?  You won’t try that twice.  Shortcuts, and I like shortcuts under almost any circumstance, are death.

Yesterday on the final day of my career as an RV driver, I took the RV to the camping area where we had reservations for the night, I told Sandy – the owner of Lake Monroe Village that I wasn’t ready to park the bus.  I just came to make sure I knew where I was going.  She told me that she would like me to park, and then pick up Mark with her Toyota Prius.  I almost cried.

To know that I know had to park the behemoth once more was almost more than I could emotionally bear.  Fortunately, the culture of campers requires them to help an idiot like me, and several men served as flagmen as I clumsily backed the beast into slot 69 (insert your own 69 joke – I’m still too exhausted to engage in such frivolity).

Sandy asked Ralph, a camper seated in an adjacent site at a table filled with empty Coors Light bottles, if he would mind backing the bus in.  As much as I dreaded the thought of doing it myself, trusting a $200,000 bus to Soupy McRalph seemed an even worse idea and I soldiered up.  Ralph was not too lubed to guide me properly, and I repaid his work with yet another 12-pack of Coors Light.

So Mark takes today off and gets back at it tomorrow looking ahead to 14 more days of hoofing through the Hoosier State to raise money and awareness for a great cause.  Earlier in the week, he wrote in his excellent blog that because I fired him from 1070 The Fan a little over a year ago, that he was looking forward to firing me as his driver on Saturday.  He didn’t have to.  I happily retired.

The truth is that Mark’s firing was entirely due to my being unable to find a suitable position for his talents, and nothing to do with him.  His sending me out as a driver would have been entirely driven by my pronounced incompetence.  My only source of pride is that Mark’s first driver bailed after simply looking at the bus, and that Mark staunchly refuses to drive it at all.  I’m not sure that refusing to acknowledge a lack of skill should be a source of pride, but I’m clinging to anything at this point.

Regardless of my ineffectiveness as a bus pilot, I’m better off for spending that much time with such an honest and perceptive guy.  Mark’s view of media and life is uncorrupted by a need to compromise or say the right thing, so what you get in a conversation with Mark is an unvarnished look at politics, religion, or whatever else piques his interest at any given moment.  He doesn’t let pablum skate by without question.  Say something just to say it, and Mark will ask why a person believes what he just said.  It’s refreshing, and I only wish that I still programmed WIBC because I would find a place for him as a news/talk host, if he was interested in pursuing it.

My favorite moment of the week was in Nashville, Indiana, when we were trying to park the RV at a site run by a fascinating woman named Jackie, who told Mark that she has lived in every one of the 50 states for at least five months.  I was sloppily parking and trying to hook-up hoses.  She looked at me like a tourist looks at a baboon trying to stack blocks at the zoo, and I asked, “You feel sorry for me, don’t you?”  Her reply, “Should I?”  Perfect.

Despite enjoying the conversation, my career as Mark’s driver is over.  I would rather jump out of an RV while it’s moving than try to park one again.

Go to the website Mark is using to chronicle his trip to donate to the Indiana Children’s Wish Fund.  They do great work in giving kids with life-threatening diseases and their families something to look forward to in the most trying of times.

On the Road with Mark Boyle by kentsterling
August 30, 2010, 5:02 pm
Filed under: Indiana Pacers, Kent Sterling | Tags: ,

by Kent Sterling

Driving an RV is a new gig for me, but I like sitting in what is actually a giant bus writing while watching a DVD of the Thrilla in Manilla – the ultimate Ali/Frazier battle to the near death.  You want to know why boxing has declined in popularity over the past 10-15 year?  Watch this fight.  That’s another story though.

I’m waiting for Pacers play-by=play man Mark Boyle to finish the latest leg on his 500-mile walk through Indiana to benefit the Indiana Children’s Wish Fund.  I like both Mark and the people who run the Indiana Children’s Wish Fund, so I volunteered to haul Mark from the place where he calls it quits every night to the campground and back again in the morning.

Mark is well-known for his interesting summer projects.  A few years ago he ventured to the Amazon.  He’s also played in the World Series of Poker and done play-by-play for a minor league baseball team in Montana.  Those little ventures have always been the object of envy for me, so I decided to take a small part in this one myself.

Without question, Mark is among the best, if not the absolute best play-by-play guy iin the NBA, and he’s also one of the most selfless.  This walk of his will take five-and-a-half weeks, and it’s all being done to try to fulfill the wishes of terminally ill kids in Indiana.

Fortunately, Mark is also a very interesting guy.  He has well-developed opinions about everything, so the time in the bus goes quickly, and that’s a good thing because driving this beast – on loan from Camping World of Indianapolis – is a challenge.

I’ve driven trucks on the streets of Chicago, and backed them into docking bays at NBC Tower after volunteering to be the driver during WMAQ’s move from the Merchandise Mart.  The big bosses asked the producers if anyone knew how to drive a truck.  Knowing that no one ever got rich or even unpoor by saying no, I threw up my hand.

The assumption was that I would be piloting a 22-foot U;-Haul, and I could handle that.  Imagine my surprise as I was steered to an 18-wheeler by the rental attendant.  I had no idea how to drive a stick, and now I was in a spot where I would have to navigate an honest to God semi back and forth from the Mart to NBC Tower dozens of times over a three or four-day period.

There were no mishaps, thank God, going forward or backwards.

The bus is much easier to handle, but the price tag in the window makes me nervous.  Helping the Indiana Children’s Wish Fund is well worth it, and spending time with the Voice of the Pacers couldn’t be more pleasant.  If you think of it, drop a check in the mail to the good people at the Indiana Children’s Wish Fund.  They’re good people and the kids have the time of their lives on the adventures paid for with your donations =- literally.

NBA Suspension of Pacer Brandon Rush Is Idiotic by kentsterling
August 27, 2010, 7:40 pm
Filed under: Indiana Pacers, Kent Sterling | Tags: ,

by Kent Sterling

"Where're my shoes, man? Shit, my shoes are gone. Ha. I can't play in flip-flops. Ha. Playing in flip-flops...Man, my shoes are gone. Shit, anyone see my shoes? Ha, maybe I'll play in flip-flops...

Suspending a 24-year-old kid for getting high three times is crazy, but somehow the NBA thinks it’s just.  That this enforcement of a positive test takes place during the offseason exponentially multiplies the stupidity.

Brandon Rush of the Indiana Pacers will serve a five-game suspension at the beginning of the upcoming season because of his third positive test for marijuana use, and it just doesn’t make sense.

It’s understandable that leagues would want to test for illegal or banned substances, and while weed is certainly not healthy, they have no business testing for a recreational drug that enhances performance only in the areas of listening to Phish and late night eating.

The NBA needs to get off its high horse and function again as a sports league rather than a police agency.

Granted, given the obviously harsh escalating penalties for getting stoned, it’s incredibly short-sighting to partake as Rush has prior to three tests.

NBA players take four unannounced drug tests per year, and with each positive test the penalty grows.  After the first, the player enters a marijuana program of unclear duration or content.  After the second, a trip to the program (which could be online or in another form) and a $25K rip.  Third time – five-day suspension and another dose of the same program that failed twice before.  Each subsequent violation earns an additional five days added on to the previous one, and yet another dose of the anti-dope message that has yet to do the player any good at all.

The teams are not told about any positive tests until a suspension is due.  Of course not.  Why would the employer need to know there might be a problem with the employee?  No, just give the kid the password to whatever minimally effective say no to pot webinar the NBA has contracted with and pat yourselves on the back for a job barely done.

The ban on pot was enacted because the barely exaggerated image of an NBA player was a guy in a fancy ride with tinted windows and an ashtray filled with roaches.  While that isn’t the ideal mental picture for athletes to a ticket buying public, if getting a little high once in a while negatively impacted play a kid like Rush would never have been good enough to draft in the first place.

The NBA overreacted to a problem that was more an embarrassment, and now a kid like Rush is writing big checks.  Yeah, Rush is a moron who engages occasionally in sort of illegal nonsense, but only because of the NBA’s draconian penalties for violating a bad rule.

Lance Stephenson – Can Knocking a Woman Down Stairs Be Justified by kentsterling

by Kent Sterling

Let’s say that the Pacers second-round draft pick Lance Stephenson, whose potential was rewarded with a guaranteed two-year contract, was angry with his girlfriend for behaving poorly.  Let’s say that Stephenson doesn’t drink and the girlfriend (and mother of his child) said she was going out but would be home by midnight.  Maybe waiting from midnight to five a.m. at the girlfriend’s apartment, not knowing whether the girlfriend was dead or alive, Stephenson was borderline hysterical with worry.  And then, when she walked in, it was obvious to Stephenson that she was wasted.

If all that happened, would it matter?  How about the girlfriend being dismissive and verbally abusive?  Some guys are just plain bad.  Some guys aren’t so bad, but react inappropriately to a strange and stressful situation.

Other than violent crimes committed by sociopaths, most are at the hands of men and women placed in a unique environment that they have had no ability to prepare for.  Few people are purely or even mostly bad.  That’s the penalty for hoping that the 85% good in even the most questionable characters can triumph over the 15% that is angry, intolerant, and cruel.

Those are the people who break hearts.  Not to spin back the calendar of Pacers history to the Brawl, but there are few men any nicer and honest than Ron Artest.  He’s funny, good-natured, and fun, except for those moments where he relinquishes control and lets his anger win.

Mike Tyson can be a charming and thoughtful guy.  He is a very interesting dinner companion.  Tyson’s weakness, as you might guess is women.  Orlando Magic executive Pat Williams told me that he and Tyson had dinner together, and Tyson was a phenomenally entertaining conversationalist – unless a women was within six feet of him.  Then, his personality changed.

Prisons are filled with men and women who were terrific people until that moment when they weren’t.  That’s not to say that Stephenson should go to prison, or that he’s guilty.  It does say that there are some good people who operate with the best of intentions who break laws and violate the trust of those who believed in the ability of their innate goodness to overwhelm their weaknesses.

The Pacers have to make a decision whether there are mitigating circumstances that make worthy another leap of faith, or is Stephenson a guy not worth the effort of faith?  The ticket buying public in central Indiana is not fond of men who allegedly knock women down a flight of ten stairs, and follow that up by banging her head against the bottom step.

There are people who root for the underdog and Stephenson is an underdog here.  There are also people who don’t forgive the physical abuse of a women regardless of the reason or circumstances.

What the Pacers are contemplating in the offices inside Conseco Fieldhouse is whether they value the audacity of hope over the timidity of pragmatism.  That’s why Larry Bird makes the big bucks.

They should suspend Stephenson with pay until the adjudication of his case.  If he either pleads guilty or if found guilty, buh-bye.  The New York Post reported today that a family friend of the victim says that Stephenson had been the victim of Stephenson’s temper before, but the victim kept quiet because she didn’t want to hurt his basketball career.  Conseco Fieldhouse has never succeeded in the role of halfway house for troubled athletes, and the Pacers have worked too hard to scrub their image as an outpost for violent types.

Every minute Stephenson spends on the bench will be an opportunity for fans to look at him and correctly wonder whether this guy shoved the mother of his child down a flight of stairs and then bounce her noggin of the last of those steps.

People deserve second chances, but no one should have to pay $65 per ticket to see it.