We received this e-mail from a Kentucky fan who would like to remain anonymous. It’s a story of his trip to the Kentucky-Indiana game on Saturday and the ruthless encounters he experienced while in Bloomington.
Allow me to preface by saying I visited Bloomington countless times as a UK student and always had a tremendous time. Though the campus and its student body were vastly different from my alma mater, I found IU to be a beautiful place and a lot of fun for a college man. Naturally, when I bought 6 tickets from the IU ticket office back in October for my Dad, brothers, a friend, and me, I was pumped to go back.
We arrived in town around 12:30 pm Saturday and parked near Kilroy’s, a pretty standard college bar. Walking past the first storefront a college kid opened the door to offer us a warm reception.
“You’re going to get your ass kicked wearing that blue.”
We laughed it off and kept walking to Nick’s, the “alumni” bar and pizza joint that is loaded with Indiana regalia and lore. A really cool place that reminds you a bit of Two Keys. In that 3 minute walk no fewer than 3 separate groups shouted from their cars and/or across the street, “F*** Kentucky!” It became obvious to us at that point the phrase would be the tagline for the day, and it was.
After throwing down a couple large pizzas downstairs (excellent, friendly service), we made our way to the 2nd floor which is a large open room with a bar in the center. We filed in one-by-one and were met with a chorus of boos from the 99.5% IU crowd, boos that we took in stride. It was actually really funny and almost felt like a friendly welcome, strange as that may sound. We had no idea that would be the only moment of light-hearted banter from the Hoosier fanbase we would get all day. The day turned very dark shortly after, and I will never forget the almost surreal experience.
As we enjoyed cheap domestic drafts, IU fan, after IU student, after IU alum berated us with “Kentucky f*ggots,” “Leave hillbillies,” “F*** Kentucky,” and “You are not welcome here.” Man and woman, boy and girl. If we were keeping statistics it would not be hyperbole to state we heard something along these lines once every 10 minutes, and we estimated that 1 in 7 Hoosiers we came across the entire day verbally assaulted us. It was the most uncomfortable I have ever been in an American town. Frankly, it didn’t even feel American. We couldn’t fathom the abuse we were taking nor where it was stemming from. It was that vitriolic.
Here is what was perhaps most bothersome. I have visited a lot of college towns following the Cats: Tuscaloosa, Athens, Columbia, Oxford, Nashville, Knoxville, to name a few. Though each of those trips included experiences with confrontational folks, it was always isolated and invariably there were reasonable, friendly “hosts” who would buy you a beer, tell you to forget about it and to have a good time. And perhaps it’s just an SEC thing, but most folks will even thank you for making the trip.
The difference this weekend was that the entire fanbase were of the confrontational variety. There were no friendly faces, nobody with any concern or regard for the small number of Kentucky fans that were flat under siege in their proud town. Not one time did an IU fan step up and check their counterparts (save for a very close IU friend who did so repeatedly). Not one time did any ask if we were enjoying ourselves, or if we were being treated okay, or offer to buy a beer. The 6 of us were basically the “untouchables.” Subhuman Kentuckians that somehow found shoes for the weekend. It was obvious; to them we weren’t just the opposition, we were inferior people.
There are too many incidents to even begin to write them out. It was constant. Most all are best left alone at this point, frankly. Unprovoked near fights. Middle fingers point blank to our faces. Looks of disgust. People walking up and mocking us with ridiculously exaggerated southern accents. It goes on and on.
I would only say this to Kentucky fans. If someone thinks so highly of Kentucky and Rupp Arena to spend money to follow their team to Lexington, be hospitable and respectful. Even if in Volunteer Orange or Cardinal Red, they are fellow college basketball fans, and that shared passion is literally enough to start a friendly discussion over a beer. I thought we would find that in Bloomington given their program’s rich history, alas what we found were thousands of hate filled, cold, nasty people that ruined what should have been a grand day for college basketball. Even still, next December when Indiana comes to town, treat them with dignity and perhaps they’ll “get” what college basketball should be about.
Shockingly, that’s my little brother’s hope for what good can come out of the profound misery that was our day. After the game as we made our way through a packed Kilroy’s, a chant of “Asshole! Asshole! Asshole!” came roaring down on us, along with dozens of fingers pointing downward in our direction. It lasted for a good 2 minutes, long enough for a Hoosier to pour his beer out on my brother’s head and for another to throw something cumbersome enough to leave a bump and bruise on his forehead. Even still, the Kentucky “hillbilly” whom was ironically told all day has “no class,” stated this morning that he wants Indiana folks to visit Lexington next year for the game. He has no doubt that they would be treated properly, have fun, and perhaps they’d return the favor next time Kentucky travels to Bloomington.
That will be for one of you other hillbillies to discover, however. This one won’t be going back. Just don’t forget your shoes.