Two weeks ago, Colin Cowherd once again lowered himself to the pit of hyperbolic and idiotic reasoning when he suggested that Indiana fans were racist for not showing up to Pacers’ games.
A few days later, Bob Kravitz gave a sterling response to Cowherd’s claim.
Kravitz would know — he’s lived in Indiana for the past 13 years, covering Indianapolis sports better than almost anyone.
Kravitz insightfully and methodically pointed out several key points that easily put Cowherd’s claim to rest.
- During the 1999-2000 NBA season, the Indiana Pacers sold out every single game. (Interestingly enough, only four rotation players on Indiana’s roster that season were white.)
- In 2004-05, the season of The Brawl, the Pacers averaged nearly 17,000 fans a game and had 13,000 season ticket holders.
- In 2008, Indiana voted for Barack Obama – the first time the state had gone blue in decades.
It might also be easily pointed out that the Indiana Pacers shouldn’t have higher attendance than other teams. Indianapolis is the 7th smallest market for any NBA team, so in theory, finishing 7th to last in attendance would be completely justifiable. Add in the fact that Conseco Fieldhouse is one of the smaller NBA stadiums, and low attendance numbers should actually be expected.
In 2012, Indianapolis had a population of just over 800,000. Of that number, only 38.1% fell in the 18-44 year old demographic, the largest demographic that attends basketball games, leaving the city with about 304,000 “basketball attending” citizens.
If basketball really was so popular in Indiana, shouldn’t it be reasonable to expect 6% of those people to make it to Pacers’ games? Not necessarily.
The people in Indianapolis are watching and attending basketball games … they just don’t necessarily go to the Fieldhouse to do so.
You see, Hoosiers — and I’m talking here about citizens that live in Indiana, not just those that align with Indiana University — like to think of themselves as basketball connoisseurs. We appreciate good basketball, and unlike folks that live in Sacramento, Dallas, or San Antonio, we are always within a stone’s throw of good non-NBA basketball.
Take the thirty largest high schools in the Indianapolis area. If each of them had a home game on a Friday night that filled its gym to capacity (which is completely likely on most nights), 123,277 fans would have attended high school basketball games alone. Just in Indianapolis. This excludes anyone that may have visited Bloomington to cheer on the Hoosiers, Lafayette to cheer on the Boilermakers, or stayed home to watch their teams on television. It also excludes anyone that may travel 45 minutes away to schools like New Castle High School, which holds almost 10,000 seats.
The list goes on and on. LaPorte High School’s gym holds more than 3,900 fans. This nearly doubles the size of the largest high school gymnasium in South Carolina. In Indiana? It comes in ranked 70th.
It’s simple economics: when you have a dearth of any product, demand shoots up. However, when there is a surplus, demand isn’t as high.
Pacers fans know what constitutes good basketball. Unfortunately, the Pacers haven’t offered much good basketball since The Brawl. Did Indiana fans become “racist” overnight? Of course not. Instead, they chose to take their dollars elsewhere, giving Butler their highest attendance total in 40 years.
In 49 states, it’s just basketball. But not in Indiana.
Maybe you think this makes basketball fans in Indiana slightly “fair-weathery.”
You’d be right. But you just have to understand — Hoosiers expect good basketball, and they will go to any lengths to find it.
It also should be noted that nearly every season, basketball attendance shoots up at the Fieldhouse come mid-March.
Just last year, the Pacers finished second to last in the league in attendance (again, this should be somewhat expected considering the size of the stadium and market). But from March 15 on, the Pacers attendance “magically” jumped from 13,364 to 15,133.
What could possibly cause an increase of almost 1,800 fans overnight? The end of high school basketball, and no more home games for Purdue and IU. As soon as the basketball options disappeared, Indiana fans turned back to the Pacers.
Of course I wish that more fans showed up to Pacers games. But you just have to understand, that’s not really the culture of Indiana. We don’t cheer for one team, we cheer for them all. We celebrate basketball in its entirety.
Cowherd can keep calling us racists, but we know the truth. We are basketball connoisseurs.
And as the Pacers continue to improve, the city and state will once again accept them with open arms.