Pacers fan enjoyed time behind Bird

Tom Crossland

Ever since taking the front office job with the Indiana Pacers, Larry Bird has been seen watching the games from the stands. But the man behind sitting behind him seems to get just as much attention.

Who is he? Self-described sports addict Tom Crossland, who has a become a celebrity, of sorts, himself.

"I get calls from out of state," Crossland said. "People who know me say, 'I saw you on TV with Larry.'"

Crossland, a season ticket holder, has sat in Section 2, Row 6, Seat 21 since the Fieldhouse opened. It's one of the best seats in the house for watching the Pacers and Bird.

"I'm watching the game, but there are all these people coming by, they're all coming by because everyone knows Larry," he said.

Bird may not know most of the fans who stop for an autograph, but he's definitely come to know the guy sitting behind him. While Crossland said he's careful about "not pestering" Bird, he's also not shy about offering advice.

"I'll tell them what I want (the team) to do and he'll tell me, too," Crossland said. "He'll complain about someone not playing defense or, occasionally, he'll tell me something he wants me to yell at the refs."

Crossland always obliges, though sometimes he admits he's a bit too loud, noting, "I try not to yell in (Bird's) ear. I don't want him to go deaf, but he might have a hearing problem by now."

Crossland also admits he's sometimes goes a bit too far.

He said ushers will "Come up and give me the 'Shhhh, don't go there.'"

Over the years, Crossland has also come to know Pacers owner Herb Simon, who often sits in front of Bird. Still, he says with Bird gone, Section 2 just won't be the same. Asked for his reaction on Bird stepping down as president, he deadpanned, "He didn't ask me if he could leave and I didn't get his job."

Joking aside, he said he's always been behind Bird in every way, especially in terms of what he's done for the Pacers.

"He's got a well-balanced team with a depth of good players and they're young," he said. "He's gotten them back up to the top. I expect them to win the championship the next two years."

Crossland will be right where he always sits, even if the cameras are no longer pointed his way.