AS the final audition began last Wednesday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse for the Indiana Pacers’ Area 55, Columbus couple Rex Sharpe and Beth Shadle felt like they had gone to a costume party without costumes.
There was a guy dressed like Hulk Hogan, only in Pacers’ colors. Then there was a guy in a Spider-Man suit, also sporting Indiana’s navy blue, gold, silver and white. One guy painted his head like a basketball.
People brought wheelbarrows full of props in an attempt to show Pacers center Roy Hibbert they were deserving of the free season tickets given to 55 super fans.
Sharpe and Shadle went ... as themselves.
“We thought, ‘We don’t need a gimmick,’” said Sharpe, a 32-year-old teacher and a lifelong basketball fan. “We weren’t going to put on a show. We were not going to pretend to be something we’re not.”
That was fine with Hibbert, who was so impressed with their fan loyalty that he invited them to be part of the Pacers’ 2012-13 season, at his expense. This is the third year of Hibbert’s Area 55 program.
“Roy Hibbert made the call to us himself,” said Shadle, a 32-year-old student at Ivy Tech. “I was sitting by the phone all day last Thursday, and I saw a call from 317. He said we made it, but I would have to hug him from now on whenever I saw him.”
At the final audition, Shadle had put together her 30-second speech to give in front of Hibbert and a panel of judges. “I was so nervous that when I got halfway through my speech, I started to cry a little. I wasn’t expecting so many people there, and the cameras.
“Roy said, ‘Oh baby, come here,’ and he gave me a hug.”
The couple said their main intention during their 30-second speeches was to convince Hibbert that they were true fans.
“We are passionate about basketball, and we are big fans; that’s what won them over,” Shadle said.
The engaged couple made an audition tape that they posted online. On the tape they included a photo of them taken at midcourt that they used with their engagement announcement that ran in The Republic. They were chosen with 110 other people as finalists for the 55 spots.
Sharpe is a 1998 Columbus North graduate, while Shadle is from Richmond originally and moved to Columbus a year ago.
Their selection indicates that some tough times might be turning around. A year ago, the couple lost their Taylorsville home to an electrical fire. All their possessions were ruined.
Then in August, Sharpe lost his job when Northstar Montessori school shut down its elementary program. He is now working as a teacher’s assistant in the Special Needs Life Skills class at Clifty Creek Elementary School.
As members of Area 55, they will be expected to attend all the Pacers home games, and be themselves.
“We really made a lot of noise where we sat last year,” Shadle said. “But the people around us looked annoyed.”
“This is a huge gift for us,” Shadle said. “And Roy Hibbert, in the past, has taken members of Area 55 to do all sorts of stuff, like going to a movie or a show. It’s like building a family.
“Roy is so personable, and he is just a normal guy. He does a lot to give back to the fans.”
Think your friends should see this? Share it with them!
All content copyright ©2013 The Republic, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.