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Opinion

SMITH: Catching up with a special fan

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The Indiana Pacers have a lot of loyal fans that care deeply about their team.  I met one of them last season, and felt like he deserved a story. 

I’ve covered the Pacers for the last seven seasons. I attend the home games, get some locker room quotes when the game is over, then head to the media room to write.  Typically, I leave Bankers Life Fieldhouse 90 minutes after the game.

Over the last few years, I started noticing a fan standing outside the parking garage after every game (90 minutes after).  He would talk to fans as they passed by, and he would wave and yell “Good Game!” to the players as they drove away. He isn’t seeking attention or anything in return — he simply wants to support his team.

I wanted to hear his story.
His name is Vivan Whitfield.  We talk after every game, but here are some of the things he had to say in a few of our conversations.

• Smith —  Do you attend some of the games, or do you just like to come out here on game-days?

• Whitfield — I go to EVERY game.  I try not to miss any. It’s not always easy to afford it, but I need to be there to support my guys.  I wish I could get down in the lower sections, but it’s rough sometimes.

• Smith —  And you come out here every game as well?

• Whitfield —  Every game. I come out here, and say bye to the players. They wave at me. Sometimes they roll their windows down and fist-bump me. That’s what we do.

• Smith —  I’ve seen you out here when it’s really cold.  Even when it’s negative 10 degrees you’re still out here!

• Whitfield — Yes. It don’t make no difference how cold it is- I’m out here. Rain. Snow. Sleet. Whatever.

• Smith — That’s awesome to see committed fans. Win or lose, you’re here and supporting them, right?

• Whitfield – Right. Win or lose, I always tell them ‘good game.’  Somebody’s got to be out here for them, and I think they really appreciate that.  I think there should be more people that appreciate them like that.

• Smith —  What do you like more — a hot summer day, or a freezing cold day with basketball?

• Whitfield —  A freezing cold day with basketball, for sure. I think they appreciate it. I really think they appreciate somebody being out here.

• Smith —  Which players or coaches respond to you the most?

• Whitfield —  Really, all of them do.  Nate (McMillan) always waves and honks, and sometimes he rolls the window down and talks to me about the game.  Domas (Sabonis) always honks. Some of the new players are starting to get to know me more now too.

• Smith —  How long do you normally stay after the game?

• Whitfield —  However long it takes for them to come out. Sometimes it varies.

• Smith — What do the Pacers mean to you personally, and what do you think they mean to the city?

• Whitfield — I think they’re outstanding. They do a lot for the city. Especially when they come out and do stuff for the kids. I think they really enjoy reading the books with them and stuff like that. I really appreciate them doing that.  That’s showing love for them and I like that.  That means a lot to me.

• Smith —  Who’s your favorite Pacer right now?

• Whitfield —  I love all of them. It’s a great group of guys.  A few years ago, Myles Turner was out here — they were doing something for the fans, and he saw me.  He called me over, gave me a shirt and talked to me for a while. It was great.  And then this summer, I went to a Fever game, Myles saw me and called me over to introduce me to some of the rookies and new players on the Pacers.  That meant a lot.

It’s great to see the Pacer players and coaches acknowledging Whitfield after every game. I look forward to my chats with him each night, and Whitfield would like to encourage more fans to join him at the Delaware Street parking garage (by the tunnel) after Pacer games.  You won’t find a more friendly or passionate fan around!

Tyler Smith covers the Indiana Pacers and Indiana Hoosier basketball for Indy Sports Legends. Smith is also the youth pastor at New Hope Christian Church, and the varsity girl’s basketball coach at Crawfordsville High School.

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