Reggie Miller can't be done.
For one thing, I'm not ready to have a mortgage, host dinner parties and savor the bouquet on a nice bottle of shiraz.
But when Reggie walked off the court at Conseco Fieldhouse on Thursday night to the thunderous and heartfelt cheers of a defeated crowd, it became a heck of a lot more difficult for me to deny the cold embrace of adulthood, with the roadside attraction that is middle age looming off in the distance like Wall Drug or the World's Largest Ball of Twine.
Don't get me wrong, I can (and I will) still wake up late on a Saturday morning with little else on the agenda but watching Fruity Pebbles turn the milk into a consumer-goods impression of a Seurat painting, and I still plan to use plastic funnels for entirely nonproductive purposes from time to time. But it won't be the same without Reggie. Without him launching 3-pointers, hands crossed in a release that made every youth coach in Indianapolis cringe for the past 18 years, I'll just feel like a slacker.
I love watching Marvin Harrison snare touchdown after touchdown in a seemingly effortless exercise in making cornerbacks look like extras from the remake of "The Longest Yard." I'll rearrange my calendar for a chance to watch Diana Taurasi light it up on the court. And I sincerely hope the Pacers keep high-flying Fred Jones around for years to come. But it was different with Reggie. I didn't just root for Reggie, I marked personal epochs by his hairstyles.
A generation of folks from Maryland know what I'm talking about. They went through this with Cal Ripken. Or Walter Payton in Chicago. Emmitt Smith in Dallas and Steve Yzerman in Detroit. And on and on and on. Just as somewhere in Akron right now, there's a kid who will always remember LeBron's first playoff series win whenever David Stern's dream becomes a reality as the night he ran over the neighbor's mailbox trying to beat curfew.
But for me, it was Reggie. And sorry about the mailbox.
My family moved to Indianapolis from London just in time for the 1987-88 NBA season, although my parents continue to insist the timing was purely coincidental. At the time, I was more familiar with Diego Maradona than Michael Jordan, but the prearranged marriage that is basketball and childhood in Indiana blossomed into a lifelong addiction. Which is probably a good thing, considering the kind of addiction Maradona might have inspired.
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And there was Reggie, just beginning his career and battling Chuck Person, who arrived a year earlier in the apparent "false prophet" role, for control of a franchise moribund since the demise of the ABA. Those were heady times only in the sense that Reggie could still dunk. I think. I might have just imagined that part. But between the Pacers and the Colts, it seemed entirely possible those first couple of years to reach Christmas with the city's two pro teams unable to combine for double-digit wins. But they were our losers, and losing like that almost made it easier to get close to a team and its players. If only because the population density at Market Square Arena often resembled parts of Wyoming ... and not the crowded bits of Wyoming, either.