I don't always listen to Colin Cowherd, but when I do, I tend choose "What an idiot" a lot more often than, "You know, that guy's really insightful."
Case in point: His theory today that the reason the Indiana Pacers don't draw is racially motivated, in the sense that the fans are still punishing the organization for its outbreak of thuggery almost a decade ago.
Couple of things wrong with this.
1. It was almost decade ago. Not even the most ridiculously stubborn Hoosier (and there are some ridiculously stubborn ones, most of whom work in the Statehouse) holds a grudge that long.
2. That university 45 miles to the south is relevant again.
3. Most people, speaking of stubborn Hoosiers, have gotten over the whole killing-off-Hoosier-Hysteria thing.
No one who's been to Assembly Hall lately could possibly say with a straight face that the snubbing of the Pacers is some weird racial Indiana thing. There, after all, lots of black players on Indiana's roster. Hasn't stopped the Hall from being a packed-to-the-rafters madhouse now that the Hoosiers are one of the nation's top programs again.
Bottom line is, Indiana is and always has been much more in love with college and high school buckets than the professional version. Cowherd points out that Indianapolis was mad for the Pacers when Reggie Miller played for them, but think about what else was going on in the Indiana hoops landscape at the time.
The IHSAA, in a remarkably mutton-headed decision, was in the process of ending one of the state's cultural touchstones, the beloved single-class high school tourney. And Hoosiers were punishing it accordingly by staying away from the newly-minted multiclass tournament in droves.
Plus, Bob Knight, annoyed that he could no longer get away with all the personal misbehavior he used to routinely get away with, was pretty much going through the motions in Bloomington. In his last six years at IU, Knight's teams posted double-digit losses five times, never advanced beyond the second round of the NCAA tournament, and were one-and-done four times. They were a combined 21-29 against ranked opponents.
Not much to get enthused about there.
So what was left?
Reggie and the Pacers, who were, at roughly the same time, staging all those epic duels with the Knicks.
That's not to say there aren't some people (remember: ridiculously stubborn) staying away from an exciting, talented young Pacers team because of the Malice in the Palace and all the attendant mischief of the Ron Artest/Stephen Jackson era. But the aforementioned factors, I suspect, carry far more weight in the team's odd inability to draw.
And, sorry, but Cowherd's also wrong when he points out that you can't blame a downturn in the NBA's popularity, because its popularity is through the roof. That's true if you take the country as a whole. But if you break it down by region, it becomes glaringly obvious that most of that popularity is coming from both coasts and/or cities with teams. Elsewhere, the middle of the country, with a few exceptions, demonstrably doesn't care. The numbers say so.