Time To Settle Accounts
January 26, 2012: Bar stool perspective.
I was home working during the first half of the Bulls-Pacers game, but with the second half set to pop and the game not available on our digital antenna, I put on my shoes and set out for the Blue Line Bar. It was a strong crowd for a Wednesday night, with most eyes tuned into the game. I grabbed a seat in the middle of the bar, ordered my Blue Russian, and settled in.
Right away I realized all was not well for our Bulls. They led by ten at the half, but when the bartender set down my drink there were five minutes left in the third and their lead was 63-61. Indiana’s Roy Hibbert gave the Pacers a one-point advantage with two minutes to play, and at the end of the quarter the Pacers led the Bulls 75-74.
“There goes our ten point lead,” said one of the gentlemen to my right. There were three of them, and further along the bar was a larger group of 25-year-olds, while to my left were three consecutive young couples on what looked like dates. The date couples kept one collective eye on the screen and one collective eye on the date, while the folks to my right hooted with all they had.
Additionally, the televisions to my left were a full second ahead of the televisions on my right, so, for instance, when Derrick Rose drove to the basket with 28 seconds to play and the Pacers up two, the daters went “Okay” and then the hooters went “GET IT!” but by that time the daters had already seen Rose fire a pass to Brian Scalabrine for a corner three – “Ooh, what a pass,” and then “SCALABREEEEEENEEEEEE!!” – but as the hooters hollered for Scalabrine, the daters shook their heads sadly as the shot bounced off the rim, and then the hooters yelled “NOOOOOO!”…
…and now I looked at them sadly, knowing their fate, which was Ronnie Brewer spastically saving the ball to Joakim Noah, who spastically saved the ball to Indiana’s Darren Collison, who dribbled up court, centered the ball at the foul line with 16 seconds left, slipped, somehow puttered the ball to Paul George at the three point line who then flipped it to his wide-open teammate Hibbert for the easy dunk as the Bulls de-fense struggled to rotate. They played that crucial final possession – from offense to defense –with a plate of ball bearings fastened to the souls of their shoes, and the daters mumbled and the hooters howled and the Pacers won by five.
The crowd at Blue Line dissipated. Two of the three gentlemen to my right had departed, leaving just the one I’d spoken to earlier. I was now enjoying a fine Kentucky Vintage, and he was settling up his tab.
“Rough game,” I said.
“It was,” he said. He then looked around to see who could hear him. “How good are the Pacers?”
“A team on the rise,” I said. “How much of the playoffs did you watch last year?”
“Not much,” he said softly.
“Well we beat Indiana in five games in the first round and then Atlanta in six in the next round, but I found the Pacers to be the more frightening team. I think most Bulls fans felt that way.” I took another sip of bourbon, the fumes flooding my eyes. “This is a big win for Indiana. In the division, on the road against the league’s best team, unbeaten at home, and the team that knocked them out last year – oh yeah.”
“Bulls were undefeated at home?”
I nodded. “Yeah man, huge win. Imagine being a little 7th grade Indianapolis boy watching this. You’re just entering the peak of your fandom. And your little nobody team is chugging along this season, winning games, and you stroll into the United Center and give the 16-3 Bulls their first home loss? And on a school night?” I took another sip, enjoying the manliness of it all. “You’d be going to school PUMPED tomorrow.”
NEXT: Moneyball. (1.29.12)
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On this date, 2011: And in the end.
The Bears won Super Bowl XX 26 years ago today. WATCH THE FULL BROADCAST.