Sunday, November 3, 2013

Cleveland Cavaliers 74 at Indiana Pacers 89 - November 2, 2013

When I first planned the NFL road trip, I had myself staying just south of Indianapolis after the second day of driving from Miami to Green Bay. When the NBA released its schedule though, I noticed that the Indianapolis Pacers would be home that very evening. They play at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, one of the few remaining NBA venues I needed to enter Club 122 (more on that later). I woke up early and added a few miles to the drive, arriving in downtown Indy around 5:45 pm after 620 miles from Macon, Georgia. I walked over to the arena, where there was a large crowd in the atrium waiting to pass through security. A number of fans who presumably had arrived earlier were already inside this barrier waiting for the ticket gates to open, but no more fans were being allowed past security as the area was too crowded. The box office was behind this barrier, an odd set up.

I should have lined up with the crowd immediately, but went back outside to take some pictures and see if there were any tickets available. There were plenty from scalpers, but stupidly I wanted to see what was available at the box office. By the time I rejoined the queue, the gates had opened and security was again letting people in. However, lines were moving very slowly, if at all. It took over 20 minutes to move perhaps 50 feet - the problem was that in the middle of the atrium, there were multiple lines converging on just a couple of guys doing the security check. Keep in mind this was separate from the ticket scan. I was furious at how they could completely mismanage such a critical part of the entry process, especially given how well the NFL handles it when gates open (to be fair, few fans enter NFL stadiums when gates open as most are tailgating). By the time I got through, there were small lineups at the box office, and I didn't feel like giving the Pacers any of my money, so I overpaid for a ticket just so I could get in as soon as possible. Bankers Life Fieldhouse is one of the best venues in the Big Four for design and history and I wanted to see as much of it as possible, but in the end, I had less than half an hour to do my rounds.

Memo to the Pacers: 1) Gates need to open 30 minutes earlier, so that the security bottleneck is minimized and fans who want to see the arena can do so; 2) Lineups need to be managed near the atrium doors so that each member of the security staff has a single queue, rather than having multiple queues converge; 3) More entrances and have the box office outside security. Seriously this was the worst entry process I have seen in my travels and it is extremely disappointing given how much there is to see inside.

Anyways, I spent the first quarter and a bit at my crappy seat and then started moving around to check some of the displays and watch the game from different angles.

Indiana is known for basketball (Hoosiers, anyone?), and they showcase dozens of interesting bits from high school games through to the Pacers. Did you know that Oscar Robertson played high school basketball in Indianapolis at Crispus Attucks, a segregated school, and led his team to two consecutive state championships in 1955-56? They were the first all-black school to win a state title anywhere in the nation.

The game itself was rather uneventful. The Pacers are clearly better than Cleveland and although the Cavaliers stayed close early, their last lead was 14-13. Indianapolis was led by Lance Stephenson (shooting below) with 22 points including 5 three-pointers, while star Paul George (#24 above) had some monster dunks to get the fans going.

On the Cleveland side, former #1 pick Kyrie Irving (below) was 6/17 for 15 points while this year's #1 draft choice Anthony Bennett was invisible, going 0-for-6 with a couple of airballs.

The final score was 89-74 as you can see on the magnificent scoreboard below.

Club 122

The Quest for 400 is really just a personal goal with no true structure, as the leagues and teams change quite often. In fact, now that I am back on American shores, I am probably going to kill it as there is no chance I am flying anywhere to see NBDL or MLS games. Club 122 on the other hand, is far more important and very structured. This is the club you join when you see a regular season or playoff game in all 122 active venues in the Big 4 sports.

There are 32 NFL stadiums (I have seen 23 so far and will see the rest of this trip), and 30 in MLB (seen them all), NHL (2 left in Boston and Carolina) and NBA (still 5 to go: Chicago, San Antonio,  New Orleans, Orlando, Boston).  That means I have 106 stadiums with 16 remaining.

My friends Andrew and Peter from the Ultimate Sports Road Trip are members, as are Gary and King from Royalty Tours. I will join them next year, probably finishing with the Raptors in Orlando on March 30th. After that, I will focus on minor league baseball, the AHL, and the CFL, which are the only leagues I really care about in terms of seeing live.

For now though, it is back to the NFL Road Trip. On to Green Bay!



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