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The unlikely Miami Heat fan who lives in Celtics’ Brad Stevens’ old Indianapolis house

Author Dan Wakefield watches — from the house Celtics coach Brad Stevens once rented — as his Miami Heat take a 3-1 series lead over the Celtics Wednesday. Photo by Jake Query.

Written by: Dana Hunsinger Benbow, Indianapolis Star

INDIANAPOLIS — Dan Wakefield sits in his living room, actually, a lot of the time he stands, paces and then drops to his knees when a bucket falls in for the Miami Heat. Sometimes, he has to lean on the mantle over his fireplace when the game gets too intense.

He wears a Miami jersey or T-shirt, eats pizza, drinks Coke Zero and is cheering as fiercely as anyone for the Heat to cream the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals.

And he’s doing it inside Celtics coach Brad Stevens’ old house.

Wakefield, 88, took his usual spot Wednesday inside his home on Northview Avenue as the Heat took a 3-1 lead, much to his delight. He’s been rooting for the team since 1995 when he moved to Miami to teach at Florida International University’s graduate writing program.

The author of five novels and 11 nonfiction books, Wakefield is an Indianapolis native and acclaimed writer. He was one of Kurt Vonnegut’s best friends and went to high school with Richard Lugar.

His best-selling book, “Going All The Way,” about coming of age in Indianapolis was made into a movie. So was Wakefield’s 1973 novel, “Starting Over,” starring Burt Reynolds. 

But his wordsmithing, Wakefield said, only began because he loved basketball and was too slow to play. 

So, he started writing about the sport. And then he made a career of writing, leaving Indianapolis for 57 years, and spending nearly 15 of those in Miami through the team’s heyday in the late 1990s into the 2000s…

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Listen to the new Naptown podcast with Susan Neville

In these 10 episodes you’ll hear how my life intersected with major figures and events of the late 20th century.

Naptown podcast Season One cover

Last year I sat down with fellow writer Susan Neville to talk about my life and working as a writer from the 1950s on.

In these 10 episodes you’ll hear the stories. The interviews were conducted at Butler University’s Irwin Library and on my front porch on Northview Avenue in Indianapolis. They were finished in May, 2020, the week before my 88th birthday.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

These podcasts were made possible by grants from Indiana Humanities, the Ayres Fund of Butler University, and the Demia Butler Chair Fund.

A Dominique Weldon, Rory Deshner Production

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Oversexed in Indianapolis

Kurt Vonnegut’s 1970 review of Dan Wakefield‘s Going All the Way

Kurt Vonnegut's 'Wampeters, Foma and Granfalloons'
Kurt Vonnegut’s review of Dan Wakefield’s Going All the Way originally appeared in a 1970 issue of LIFE magazine and is currently published in his book of essays Wampeters, Foma and Granfalloons.

Dan Wakefield is a friend of mine. We both went to Shortridge High School in Indianapolis—where the students put out a daily paper, by the way. His publisher is my publisher. He has boomed my books. So I would praise his first novel, even if it were putrid. But I wouldn’t give my Word of Honor that it was good.

Word of Honor: Mr. Wakefield has been a careful and deep author of nonfiction for years—Island in the City, Revolt in the South, The Addict…The Atlantic Monthly gave him an issue all his own for Supernation at Peace and War. Word of Honor: He is also an important novelist now.

Going All the Way is about what hell it is to be oversexed in Indianapolis, and why so many oversexed people run away from there. It is also about the narrowness and dimness of many lives out that way. And I guarantee you this: Wakefield himself, having written this book, can never go home again. From now on, he will have to watch the 500-mile Speedway race on television.

This is a richer book than Portnoy’s Complaint, with wider concerns and more intricate characters, but the sexual problems are much the same. Wakefield shows us two horny young Hoosiers, and it is easy to imagine their meeting Alexander Portnoy in a Howard Johnson’s—midway between Indianapolis and New York. If they were candid with one another, they would admit that they were rotten lovers, and they might suppose mournfully that rotten lovers were not welcomed by women anywhere.

Going All the Way is a period of piece, incidentally—set in ancient times, at the close of the Korean War. And every book is a period piece now—since years or even weeks in American no longer resemble each other at all.

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This book is full of belly laughs, but I am suspicious of belly laughs as entirely happy experiences. The only way to get a belly laugh, I’ve found, is to undermine a surface joke with more unhappiness than most mortals can bear.

After a series of low-comedy sexual failures, for instance, one of Wakefield’s heroes cuts his wrists lightly with a razor blade, “…so that rivulets of blood began to flow together, forming a thick little puddle.” That isn’t funny, and the scene becomes less funny as it goes on.

He started smearing the blood over his face and over the front of his torn shirt, like an Indian painting himself to prepare for a ceremony—a battle, a blessing, a death.

So much for sexual comedy. Nobody dies in the book, but a lot of people would like to, or at least wouldn’t mind. Wakefield’s reportage of life in Middle America, as one might expect, is gruesomely accurate and enchanting. His sex-addled fools tool their parents’ automobiles through a vast pinball machine whose bumpers and kickers are strip joints and taverns and gas stations and golf driving ranges and hamburger stands. They see whorehouses, which, it turns out, have been closed for years.

They return home periodically to their smug and vapid parents, grumpily declining to say where they’ve been. Their stomachs, already churning with hamburgers and beer, twist even more grotesquely when their parents want to know when they are going to settle down to nice jobs and nice wives and nice houses in Indianapolis.

Finally—there is a tremendous automobile crash. And, finally again, the wildly sexy novel isn’t a sex novel. It is really about a society so drab that sex seems to the young to be the only adventure with any magic in it. When sex turns out to be merely sex, the young flee to more of the same elsewhere—and they play dangerous games with, among other things, automobiles and razor blades.

How old are Wakefield’s protagonists? About the same age Ernest Hemingway was when he returned to Middle America as a quiet, wounded, authentic hero of World War One.

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Dan Wakefield

Dan Wakefield