Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Bill's story:

So why do Lisa and I make periodic trips to Indianapolis to watch the NBA's Indiana Pacers play basketball? This post will answer that burning question. Our twice-a-season pilgrimages began in April, 2002 shortly after we started dating, when Lisa expressed an interest in attending an NBA game. Cavs fan that I am, I thought it would be a fun change-of-pace to check out the Pacers who had made the playoffs that season and were hosting the New Jersey Nets with their all-pro guard Jason Kidd in the first game of that series. We witnessed a tense gripping affair with the Nets finally prevailing only after Pacers' great Reggie Miller misfired on his buzzer-beater. Despite the result, we got so caught up rooting for the Pacers that night you would have thought we were life long fans of the team. And that is just what we became. But following the Pacers is not the only reason we kept coming back to Indy. The vibrant downtown area near Conseco Fieldhouse where the Pacers play is chock full of restaurants, great bars, nightclubs and hotels and a wonderful vibe that unexpectedly make Indy the perfect place for an overnight getaway.

So last Friday night, March 20th, we made the less than three hour journey west on I-70 from Columbus to Indy. We arrived just past 6 PM. In less than an hour we were able to check into our favorite Indy lodging - the small Canterbury Hotel, freshen up in our elegant junior suite, eat a fine dining steak dinner at St. Elmo's Steakhouse located next door to the Canterbury, and still easily make the 7 PM tip-off for the Pacers- Dallas Mavericks match-up at Conseco, a five minute walk from the restaurant.

One reason we were able to move with such dispatch is the nifty drive-up-on-the-city-sidewalk entrance to the Canterbury which is shown in the picture below with Lisa in the foreground.

Another reason we favor the Canterbury is its very comfortable bar just off the lobby. With its fine leather and old oak paneling, it has the look and feel of a very fine English club's bar - except more accessible.

And here I am in front of St. Elmo's in rabid Pacer attire.

The primary reason we were able to make the tip-off was the exceptional service we received from Mark, a six year veteran of St.Elmo's wait staff. Our filets were perfect and so was the wine. Mark is a fellow Pacer fan who shared his disappointment with the team's losing record this year. Beset by injuries to key players, the Pacers have been on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoff picture. Still, Mark opined that a winning streak could still lift the team into the playoffs in the east which is a relatively weak conference outside of Cleveland, Boston, and Orlando.

St Elmo's also has a fabulous bar.

Conseco Fieldhouse has all the amenities you would expect in a new arena, but it has architectural features and an ambience which are reminiscent of old style fieldhouses. This evocation of the past is enhanced by the homage that is shown in various displays to the Pacers' and the state of Indiana's basketball history.

Lisa sports a hip Reggie Miller retro jersey while I am relegated to a Peja Stojakovic jersey which I purchased cheap at the Pacers' store after he was traded from the Pacers.

The "Pacemates" and Bowser the mascot fire up the crowd.

We had our best seats ever for a Pacers game. Lisa took the game photos from our section 11 seats only 10 rows from the floor.

The Mavericks' mainstay for several years has been Dirk Nowitzki. (right in the photo below). One of the things that makes the angular 7 footer great is the ability to get a good shot off just about any time he wants. And the Pacers' old nemesis Jason Kidd, now with the Mavs, (left in the photo below) feeds Nowitzki the ball and provides stat stuffer numbers of assists, steals, and rebounds. The Pacers rallied from a ten point deficit and actually took a four point lead with 2 minutes to play. My favorite current Pacer player, Jeff Foster, a stolid hustling center who cannot shoot but leads the team in floor burns and hustle, was faced with the unenviable task of guarding Nowitzki during the fourth quarter. Foster did well for awhile slapping the ball out of Nowitzki's hands twice for turnovers as Dirk was pump faking. Then Kidd forced two turnovers leading to Mavs' hoops. The Mavs went up three until Danny Granger connected on an off-balance 3 pointer with the shot clock running out tying the game with fourteen seconds to go. The game came down to Nowitzki at the top of the key with Foster defending. This time there was no pump fake and Nowitzki threw up an 18 foot fall-away jumper over Foster's outstretched hand and buried it. That of course is what great players get paid to do. Another solid effort by the Pacers against a superior team ended in frustration.
But here is the best part! After the game, the fan-friendly Pacers invited the fans to come down on the court to attempt a foul shot. I got in line with kids and a few fellow over-the-hillers sprinkled in. Lisa recorded my body-englished effort below. I did draw iron but sad to say I am 0 for 1 in foul shooting in NBA arenas.

The scoreboard tells the story.

After the game we went to our favorite Indy nightspot, the Slippery Noodle. It is the oldest continually operating bar in Indiana dating from 1850. It features two rooms of music (generally the blues which Lisa and I both love) The headliners generally play in the backroom which also has room for dancing.
Lisa and I danced in the back room to the sounds of the Kansas City based Back Alley Band. There was no song we did not like, but "Sweet Home Chicago" really raised our collective pulses. Oh my, but the joint was rockin' with soulful train-sounding blues harp. If you like rocking blues, you too would go for the Back Alley Band. This band was so good that I am going to give you its website: www.thebackalleyband.com

We could have hit many more places after the Noodle, but we were all in and retired to the Canterbury. To our friends: some day you will believe us when we tell you (as we have many times) just how great Indy is!

No comments:

Post a Comment