Another black eye

This is not news anymore. Pacers players Steven Jackson, Jamaal Tinsley, Marquis Daniels and Jimmie “Snap” Hunter were all questioned after an incident that culminated with Jackson firing a few rounds into the air from his gun.

Realistically, it wasn’t news to begin with – it was just the same old Pacers. The “bad boys” of the NBA. Except, of course, these “bad boys” aren’t as talented as the 88-90 Detroit Pistons. These “bad boys” won’t be doing anything but forcing comparisons with the more recently troubled Portland Trail Blazers, a team so mired in its own problems that no one could focus on what they were being paid for: playing basketball.

I don’t even know what to say anymore. It, admittedly, is pretty frustrating. The Pacers are my team. Above any sport, and above any professional franchise, I stand behind the Indiana Pacers more than any other entity. They have a history of “underdoggedness,” of being nearly good enough, of being, really, the pre-2004 Boston Red Sox of the NBA. (No offense to the Clippers, or Cavs, or other teams that haven’t won a championship – the Pacers franchise has actually had contending teams. Unfortunately, they met the juggernaught Chicago Bulls and the dynastic Los Angeles Lakers at their peak.)

Indiana is the Fertile Crescent of basketball, just like Texas is the motherland for football and both St. Louis and New England areas are baseball hotbeds. Indiana holds the history of basketball, and the Pacers have always held on to that history, to their own history. They hire Indiana legends (Larry Bird, Isiah Thomas) and they built the best basketball stadium in the game.

But over the past five years, they haven’t been able to put together a team that doesn’t self-destruct at the first possible chance. Ron Artest was the main culprit, but Stephen Jackson has been right there beside him, pouting and coming up short in every way possible. Jamaal Tinsley fights hard for his contract and nothing else, and now they’re dragging Marquis Daniels – a hopeful young star – into their selfish lair of mediocrity.

Nice job, guys.

The Pacers organization made a promise this year to be more fan friendly, to be more of a positive presence on and off the court. “It’s Up to Us,” their campaign said. And then this happens. Stephen Jackson ends up on top of a car. He pulls out his licensed firearm and shoots it into the air. And then, they find marijuana in their getaway car.

Everyone is rallying around Jackson. And Reggie Miller thinks it stinks.

“That is a black cloud. That is a punch in the gut for [team CEO] Donnie Walsh and [team president] Larry Bird.”

“You shouldn’t stand behind a player that is someone slapping you guys in the face during the middle of training camp being out at a strip club at 3 o’clock in the morning shooting it up like it’s the Wild, Wild West,”

I agree with him. I’m tired of standing behind this team. I’m tired of making excuses and telling myself that “they’re basketball players” and “this won’t affect their team this year” and “this will pass, we’ll be alright.”

I don’t believe it anymore. The Indiana Pacers have officially disgusted me. I still root for them, but until they can prove that they have some small desire to be a quality basketball team, that they are willing to do what it takes to win, to smash the losing mentality that seeps into the team after an altercation like this, they won’t get my respect.

After all, it’s up to us.

This was lovingly handwritten on October 10th, 2006