George Hill plays to the teaming throngs (Getty Images)
Something we neglected to point out, over an exhausting weekend, is the fact that George Hill is an Indianapolis native. This adds to the frustration that the Indiana Pacers guard expressed on Friday night, when pointed to what he termed a 70 percent Los Angeles Lakers-favoring crowd in attendance at Bankers Life Fieldhouse during a Pacers loss. The voraciousness of those Lakers supporters, combined with a tough Pacers loss to a Los Angeles squad that played most of the game without Kobe Bryant, pitched together to create a home atmosphere that Hill was not happy with.
Or, to use his words, a crowd that really “sucks.”
On Tuesday, Hill clarified his feelings in an interview with the Indianapolis Star. Stop living in Indiana and acting the role of a poseur Laker fan, dude:
“I’m not saying you can’t be somebody’s fan,” said Hill, an Indianapolis native who went to Broad Ripple High School and IUPUI. “I was a Michael Jordan fan growing up, but when I did go to the games, I always rooted for my hometown team.
“You root for who you want to root for, but I know one day that we’re going to get it like it used to be at Market Square Arena. That’s my dream, that’s my goal from when I first got here, to help bring fans back. That’s all I’m trying to do.”
Hill was not booed in his first game in front of his hometown crowd on Tuesday.
On Monday’s The Basketball Jones podcast, J.E. Skeets brought up an interesting point that helped drive home the distinction between Laker fans filling up a road stadium, and Indiana basketball enthusiasts failing to show up for Pacer games. The Laker dorks filling up Bankers Life Fieldhouse were never going to go to Pacer games anyway as Pacer fans, and it’s not as if they simply switched one jersey for another. They’re just the sort of fly by night types who couldn’t tell you what role George Lynch and Anthony Peeler played in the move to fit both Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant under the Lakers’ salary cap in 1996, and those Laker jerseys will be collecting mothballs as soon as the Kobester retires and the Lakers hit the lottery.
Despite their protests to the contrary (see comment section below).
Though I live in Indiana I am not a Pacers fan nor an Indiana native, I do share the same sense of frustration when I spy empty seats, or fail to hear a single word (or, at least, single smart word) about the Eastern conference’s second best team after spinning the local radio dial. Again, this is a fascinating team, a fun one to watch, full of admirable players that don’t share a single thing in common with the Pacer club that routinely embarrassed the state of Indiana from 2004 to 2007.
It’s also one of the cheaper tickets in the NBA. Tuesday’s Pacer win over the Magic featured a two-for-one ticket deal, and I detailed last week how I was able to drive my family of four to a Pacer game and have the time of our lives (gas, a poor parking choice, beer, food, tickets, and foam fingers included) for $110. And if mom and dad chose to drink water instead the two beers they had apiece during that night out, the tab would have been nearly $30 lower.
There are two separate issues at play here. One is the bevy of Laker fans that annoy every single fan group in the NBA (including other, actual Laker fans), and the fact that the Pacers rank in the lower realm in terms of attendance and often play to empty seats. “Sucks” aside, Hill was not indelicate as he vented about the situation in Indianapolis on Friday, and his local connections (from Indy to begin with, then going to college at IUPUI) only amplify the charges. Root for Michael Jordan to score 50, Hill seems to be saying, but back the home team when it counts.
Those instincts – as cable and the internet make the idea of community a dodgier prospect – might act as an anachronism in 2013. It’s just as easy to follow and cheer for a team that plays half a country (or planet) away as it is to pull for your local squad, and those without patience or tact will always tend to lean toward the more famous teams around. Cheers to George Hill, though, for expecting better of us.
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- Indiana Pacers