Indianapolis is a great city with a lot of passion for sports. But, there seems to be no loyalty.
There was a time, not long ago, when Indiana Pacer tickets were next to impossible to find. Beginning with the 1998 season, the Pacers began a streak of nine consecutive playoff appearances.
They reached the NBA Finals in 1999-2000, the first year they occupied the fabulous Conseco Fieldhouse. This first season saw the venue sell out every game, averaging over 18,000 fans per game.
Attendance stayed steady at above 17,000 fans per game until the infamous brawl with the Pistons in 2004. The franchise, as well as the fan base, has gradually disintegrated since that time.
Last season, the team ranked No. 28 in league attendance, and this year they are dead last. Attendance dropped 40 percent in 10 years.
Blame it on the fallout from the brawl if you wish. Blame it on the economy. There are plenty of excuses, but really no good reasons. The only truth is that Indianapolis is a bandwagon town.
Walk into any bar, pub, or tavern on a Sunday afternoon in the fall. What do you see?
Sure, the Colts have a huge fan base and tremendous following, but on any given Sunday, I can be run out of a bar in my own town.
Do you think you see that in Pittsburgh? Doubt it.
I could go on and on. Indianapolis is a melting pot of loyalties.
But why is this? The only theory I have is its proximity to other large cities and its lack of true professional sports teams for many years.
Baseball loyalties used to be in favor of the Reds in this town. The Indianapolis Indians were the Triple-A affiliate of the Cincinnati team for a combined 24 seasons in parts of the 1930s, 40s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. They left most recently in 1999.
Since that time, pockets of bandwagon fans have come out in support of the White Sox, the Cardinals, and especially the Cubs.
And of course, every October and November you’ll see a few more hats of the most recent World Series champ pop up. There seems to be quite of few Boston fans in this area lately as well.
Lately, there seem to be more “diehard, for life” Butler fans in this city. In 1998, no one had ever heard of Butler. Even in Indianapolis.
My biggest worry with this trend is how the Colts will be affected. Peyton Manning cannot play forever. Bill Polian will step down someday. The Colts cannot make the playoffs forever. The power will eventually shift.
When this happens, how do the Colts fill Lucas Oil Stadium? Because, we know how fans react in this town when their team does not win. They stop going to the games.
The company that runs the stadium already faces an operating deficient in the millions. How will they function when the stadium is only 60 percent full?
More likely than not, the team will be moved. It has been threatened before and could soon become a reality.
All because Indianapolis is bandwagon central.