Area 55 Newsletter: vs Utah Jazz 2/7

AREA 55 NEWS YOU CAN TAKE TO THE BANK!!!!

Greetings, 55ers!  Tonight we don our gear, paint our faces, and take on that most oxymoronic of NBA squads, the Utah Jazz.  Utah’s playing pretty well.  They’re 13-10 in the Northwest and, without a lot of stars or notoriety, have been quietly improving.  Saturday, they beat the Lakers.  Anytime we bump up against a team like Utah, possessed of a winning record, a challenge looms.  Our boys have to take the Jazz seriously.

Still, the Pacers will have a couple of advantages tonight that are perhaps worth mentioning.  First, it’s the Jazz, and not us, that will be playing the butt-end of a back-to-back for a change.

Second, Utah looked pretty lackluster last night in their 99-88 road loss to the Knicks, managing to lose fairly convincingly despite the absence of New York’s normal one-two punch of  Amare Stoudemire (out attending his brother’s funeral), and Carmelo Anthony (out after 6 minutes of play with a groin pull).  True, the Jazz’s center, Al Jefferson, had 22 points, but he pulled down only 4 rebounds.  And Utah’s perennial Pacer-killer, Paul Milsap, went 3-10 and amassed only 9 points before fouling out.  The Knicks’ Jeremy Lin, inserted at point guard by Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni in a sort of an “I don’t have anybody else to put in at point” sort of move, thoroughly outplayed Utah’s point-man Devin Harris, scoring 28 points and doling out 8 assists in the effort.

Third, the Jazz are a bit banged up.  Ancient Al Jefferson has tendonitis in a knee.  Shooting guard Raja Bell has just come back from a week off with an abductor strain.  Harris is nursing a sore hamstring and ex-Pacer Earl Watson missed Friday’s game with a bad ankle.

The Pacers are one of the few teams in the NBA that can boast about not losing two-in-a-row this season.  Let’s help them keep this feat alive, 55ers and send the interlopers from Utah whimpering back to Salt Lake City.

PTO Doings!  Now that the Superbowl has come and gone, and Indy returns to placid normality, the Pacers Tailgating Organization will reportedly reconvene in its open-air home at the Nameless Parking Lot Across from Arby’s.  The conclave will probably begin around 5:00 P.M. although, as usual, this is by no means certain.  Look for the usual felons and ne’er-do-wells standing around, hobknobbing, and sipping alcohol from paper bags in the Nameless Lot and join in on the fun.

Lest you be confused, PTO attendees can be distinguished from the homeless wine-heads that inhabit the railroad overpass adjacent to the Nameless Lot by their distinctive Pacers gear and generally more cheerful demeanor.  Both, the PTO regulars and the wineheads will ask you for money and drinks, however, so be forewarned.

Kudos to the Rookies!   On behalf of himself and all the other  Season One Vets, your Prez takes this opportunity to congratulate all the Rookie members of Area 55 on their general Section 101 performance to date.  The NBA season is now about a third gone and all the Vets think our Rooks merit very high marks.  Attendance has been good; the enthusiasm has been there; and you guys are turning into seasoned veterans in your own right.  Keep up the good work!  By the way, our mentor, Roy, will be doling out his coveted Midseason Awards next week.  Among the categories will doubtless be a Rookie of the Year prize.  You’re all in the running, so don’t slack off.  One of you might win a bobble-head!

Vets and Rooks are encouraged to meet and mingle.  Owing to the Superbowl, PTOs have been sparse of late and opportunities for us to socialize have been few.  No excuses anymore.  Let’s all get to know one another.  Rookies, hit the PTOs if possible.  Vets, consider exchanging your up-front seating for a half or so with a Rookie normally situated in 101’s Himalayas.  It’d be nice if more of us were on a first-name basis.

Cleveland Trip! Well, Maybe!  Tony “Duke Dynamite” Laurenzana advises me that he’s been working on a $25.00 package deal for Area 55 members to travel to Cleveland to see our boys play the Cavaliers. The $25.00 charge would include the price of a ticket and transportation there and back.  As usual, all this is merely rumor.  However, with Area 55 and Laurenzana, rumors have a dangerous tendency to burst into fruition.  Stay tuned.  I for one would be up for another road trip if work permits.  Last year’s impromptu jaunt to Milwaukee was certainly memorable. We’ll see about the Cleveland trip.  Stay tuned!

NOW FOR SOME FUN FACTS ABOUT UTAH!!!

Oh, Those Mormon Homiest!   Utah’s jazzy B-ballers play their games at the “Energy Solutions Arena,” usually before rabid fans known for their vociferous partisanship.  This fact has not gone unnoticed in the NBA dream world of “whoops, I didn’t really mean to say that” punditry.

In a 2008 radio broadcast, ESPN’s NBA sideline yapper, Ric Bucher, suggested that the reason Utah was one of the toughest places to play was because their fans are so pent-up and frustrated because, you know, well, they’re…Mormons.  Bucher advanced this thesis thusly:

“It is the most intimidating place to play because of the configuration of the arena…and let’s be honest, they are Mormons, they are in Salt Lake, and there is nothing else there. You know, [Mormons] gotta smile and be happy all the time. This is the one opportunity for people to get vicious in a fair arena. And the fans seem to take full advantage of it.”

Jazz fans and clean-living polygamists alike were so pissed at Bucher’s remarks that they inundated ESPN with complaints and forced both Bucher and ESPN to apologize.

Bucher was thusly contrite:

I knew immediately that I had made an inappropriate connection between Mormons and the harsh reception that opposing teams sometimes experience inside Energy Solutions Arena. I regret making that connection and apologize to anyone of the Mormon faith for having done so. And (I hope) that all citizens of Salt Lake City will find it in their hearts to welcome me as hospitably as they have in the past.”

Some NBA players have also had occasion to comment on the enthusiasm of the Salt Lake City fan base:

Following a 1997 playoff road loss by the Bulls to the Salt Lake City-based Jazz, Rodman said,

“It’s difficult to get in sync because of all the (expletive deleted) Mormons out here. And you can quote me on that.”

Afterwards, Dennis said his remarks were brought on by Jazz fans that were making obscene gestures at him. However, according to press reports, Rodman supposedly had also made lewd comments about Mormons on two prior occasions.

Like Bucher, Rodman too was sincerely apologetic:

“If I knew it was like a religious-type deal, I would have never said it. I’m sorry about that.”

Phil Jackson, Rodman’s coach at the time, tried to explain Dennis’ remarks by noting,

“To Dennis, a Mormon may just be a nickname for people from Utah. He may not even know it’s a religious cult or sect or whatever.”

Dennis later received a $50,000.00 fine, the largest fine up to then ever assessed on a player for his remarks.

So it goes.

Al Jefferson!  Watch Your Back!  As we all know, NBA basketball players are human beings.  They have lives off-court.  Some, however, have livelier lives than others.  Back in December of last year, Utah Jazz center Al Jefferson made a frantic call to local police.  Why?  Al, it seems, had been viciously attacked by his girl friend, Shirley Lewis.

According to the probable cause statement filed by police in the case, a verbal argument at Jefferson’s Cottonwood Heights mansion took place between Lewis, 38, and Jefferson, 26.  The argument then escalated to violence when Lewis allegedly hit Jefferson and then bit him on his back.

Jefferson refused to discuss the incident at Utah’s media day for the 2011-12 season.

“It’s a personal matter and I’m done talking about it. I want to discuss basketball. I know you’ve got some good questions about basketball, right?”

Reporters gave Jefferson space. But Big Al did take a moment to reflect on a strong seven-year professional career that sometimes has been overshadowed by off-court drama

“It’s life, man. Life is full of adjustments, full of changes. It’s life.”

Hey, Look!  It’s Olive Gordon!  Former Butler Bulldog standout, Gordon Hayward, has cracked the big-time and now starts at forward for the Jazz.  However, success has not spoiled Gordon.  In a jaunt to New York City, one of America’s culinary capitals, Gordon was found dining not in one of Little Italy’s finest dining spots.  Instead, Gordon opted for a $13 meal at a Times Square Olive Garden.  Gordon’s assessment of his menu choice, Olive Garden’s “The Original Spaghetti with Meat Sauce”?

“It was good!”

When asked where he went for lunch between the Jazz’s morning shoot-around and their game with the Knicks, Gordon’s comment was similarly emphatic and terse:

“Subway”

That’s it, 55ers.  Be loud, proud, and nasty tonight.  And if you are so inclined, bring Gordon Hayward a can of Spaghetti-Os.

GO PACERS!  GO AREA 55!

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