To be perfectly honest, my first trip to Indianapolis wasn't all that memorable. It was during the 1981-82 NBA season, and after a game between two dreadful teams - Clippers and Pacers - the late, great Indianapolis Star beat writer Dave Overpeck took me out for something to eat and drink. At the time, the late-night choices were limited. We had a choice between a place called The Slippery Noodle and a place called the The Slippery Noodle.
Use your imagination, folks. I don't even want to know if the place still exists.
I write about the Pacers' history and their resilient fan base in Friday's Bee, but it's hard to summarize this franchise and the transformation of this city in 25 or so inches. Forget about the fact Indianapolis has become one of the world's sports destination cities - a place for NCAA Tournaments, All-Star Games, Super Bowls, World Basketball Championships, etc.
Indy comes highly recommended (by me) for two specific reasons: First, there is no basketball facility that remotely compares with the authenticity of the Hoosiers-themed Bankers Life Fieldhouse that seats just over 18,000 and actually feels like a place built for basketball. And secondly, the compact, vibrant downtown that now features dozens of hotels and restaurants, is one of the great walking cities in America. (Who can ever forget the sight of a devastated George Karl walking toward the Marriott Hotel after Team USA's historic epic loss in the 2002 World Basketball Championships?)
Plus, what's not to embrace about the Pacer People? Ah, yes, the Pacer People. Before earplugs were required at Arco Arena and everyone started gushing about decibel levels at the Warriors' Oracle Arena, the noise at Market Square Arena was comparable to the best of the best - the old Boston Garden, the old Chicago Stadium, the Salt Palace and even the new palace in Salt Lake City. My ears are still ringing from the sounds of the engines roaring - and, yes, they pumped in the faux noise back in the day - but mostly from the enthusiasm of the crowds.
Small markets don't necessarily do it better, and in fact, they have to work harder. Maybe that's why they tend to be louder.