Life As The Enemy: A First-Hand Account Of Being A Michigan Fan In Indiana’s Student Section At Assembly Hall
I. The Bar
I’m not walking around campus with you. You’re going to get absolutely s*** on. It’s going to get dirty. Dirtier than the shower drain [ed. note: his shower drain was really, really dirty].
My IU friend was right. We left Bloomington draped in feces, figuratively speaking.
I entered Kilroy’s bar sporting my blue Trey Burke jersey, alongside my fellow 5’7″-ish friend in his own Michigan jersey. It was about 3:00 p.m., six hours before game-time. Everywhere I turned, there was a red Kilroy’s tank or a red Hoosiers jersey or a red-faced drunk starting a “Hoo-hoo-hoo. HOO-SIERS!” chant to which the entire bar chimed in. There were hundreds of people. They were all hammered.
Some dude, draped across his grinning friend’s back because he was too drunk to walk, his face matching his Hoosiers t-shirt, got in my face, and screamed. Something along the lines of “get the f*** out of our house, you virgins!” without a trace of irony. It went on for a full minute, when his friend finally piggybacked him out of the bar, presumably so he could try and achieve the unachievable — sobering up enough to watch the game. I would’ve been scared if his brain was capable of signaling his arms to punch. I then fell for a different fan’s well-played fake handshake. I should’ve known better.
We looked for our Indiana friends — enemies then, but even angry familiar faces were comforting at that point — swimming through the crimson sea, which reeked of light beer, or maybe it was piss. First, it was a “F*** you,” then a “F*** Michigan,” then a few more, all greeted with a grin but no words from myself and my friend, who we’ll call Johnny. It was Big 10 basketball, it was No. 1 vs. No. 3, and it was Bloomington. We knew what we were getting into when we decided to make the trip months ago.
People stayed plastered to the sticky floor, drinking, yelling and chanting, while we pushed through, gently enough so that we wouldn’t get jumped. We couldn’t find our friends. We tried to wade through to the back, when we were met by a short, red-headed, candy-striped-pants-wearing dude who was making everyone look sober. His BAC begat the slight smile he was wearing, but he was legitimately pissed off. It took him about five seconds, but he stuck his arm out to his side, blocking the few inches of space in between the floor and the raucous, Hoosier-infested stage that we were about to squeeze through.
“No Michigan fans allowed!” The words took another ten seconds to come out.
We rolled our eyes. “Ok, man. We just want to get through to our friends. I get it. Just talk your s*** and let us through.”
He didn’t budge for a few minutes. Johnny got feisty. I got feisty. He cursed. I cursed. Candy Pants’ friend told us to f*** off. We weren’t getting through the bros without a physical altercation, and we weren’t getting out of Kilroy’s at all if we started one. We walked away, and Candy Pants started a rousing chorus of “asshole” and “faggot” chants. We walked all the way around through the other side, soaking it all in. Look at these virgins! Tell them to get f***** laid!. Apparently, that’s a Michigan stereotype.
We found some Michigan friends, a few speckles of maize and blue in the crimson clusterf***. We exchanged tales of our received taunts. They called most of us assholes, but our friends had the honor of being labeled as needledicked, too! They were also commanded to suck someone’s “Asian dick” at one point. Johnny had a drink spilled on him. The culprit giggled, claiming it was “too crowded,” then yanked my jersey, forcing Johnny and I to shove him off and move on.
Eventually, we found my Indiana friends, upstairs, posted up in the corner of the bar, where there was actually some room to breathe. My friends graciously spoke and drank with me, only taking a little crap from fellow Hoosiers. We heard some more f*** yous. A gay slur here, a harbinger of humanity’s bleak future there. There was a college-aged kid who claimed he’d been to every IU road game the last 17 years, which meant that to him, our presence did nothing to show true dedication. He also cited a massive bet he had made on IU winning by double-digits, because he would have been stupefied if they didn’t win by 20 against the top team in the country. While the rest of campus celebrated Indiana’s 81-73 win that night, I assume he hid in his basement, door chained shut, with a bowl of Ramen and a bottle of eight-dollar vodka, clutching his nigh amputated right leg.
II. The Game
We got to the game an hour early, bought some food, and since most of the drunken students hadn’t arrived yet, explored Assembly Hall mostly un-heckled. The floor and surrounding bleachers looked like the 50-year-old high school gym you’d expect (though Assembly Hall opened in 1971). Fans in the front row were basically close enough to alter Michigan free throws with a drunk hiccup. The non-bleacher seats shot up vertically. With each row you climbed came an exponentially-worse view. But the design also trapped the ear-splitting noise and all but directed it to the ears of star Michigan freshmen Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III, who basically pooped their pants all game long.
The students stumbled in, and the game started at 9:00 p.m., after relatively tame introductions. The yelling started, and it virtually never stopped until after the game, when we threw our miserable selves onto my friend’s miserable couch that had been defiled by hordes of frat bros.
The “asshole” chant — a heckling classic — was the most popular burn thrown at myself, Johnny and the random six Michigan fans standing in front of us. We probably constituted a solid five percent of the Michigan contingent in the 17,000-plus seat arena. We brought on the “asshole” chants with aplomb, pointing at ourselves, motioning for more. Choosing to watch the game with Michigan jerseys in the Indiana student section was our decision. We were basically prisoners of war who paid an exorbitant fee to be captured and tortured.
Considering that we didn’t hold a lead after 3-2, it was impressive that we stayed “assholes” for the entire game. That was the crowd consensus, anyway. But there was another small faction, the vicious fans who insisted that we weren’t assholes – we were actually gay virgin fags. Our biggest detractor, a bro, who according to the nice, rational die-hards behind us was in the “douchebag frat,” didn’t get the irony of hurling homophobic insults at me with his nose bordering mine.
Johnny and I knew not to talk crap, since we were probably going to lose. Indiana is basically unbeatable at Assembly Hall, and they were five-point favorites. When we heard a few emphatic “Michigan sucks” from Douche Hoosier regarding an Indiana lead, Johnny politely informed him of the game’s circumstance.
“You guys are favorites. We don’t suck for trailing the number-three team in Assembly Hall.”
Considering he met that with a “Yeah, that means we’re winning by 15! You idiots! How stupid are you? You guys are s***!” we knew there was no use trying to convince him. His “we wouldn’t take Trey Burke,” “Michigan is overrated,” and “Mitch McGary is a pussy” howls had to be ignored, as would his lengthy explanation to his friends of how dumb we are for not understanding his vast knowledge of point spreads. For the rest of the game, we had no choice but to remain “gay fag virgins” cheering for the most overrated team in history, losing in a thrilling game as underdogs in one of the toughest places to play in sports.
Indiana fans are insane. Michigan has the Big House, but the Big House isn’t built to puncture eardrums, and the noise level doesn’t approach Assembly Hall’s. You can criticize Indiana fans’ manners and creativity (seriously, how many gay slurs can you lob in a day?), but you can’t criticize their intensity. If Victor Oladipo had converted what probably would’ve been the greatest alley-oop of all-time, Assembly Hall’s 41-year history literally may have crumbled to the ground. Even the miss gave me a migraine.
The theme of our experience in Bloomington was Indiana fans zigzagging the line between rabid fandom and overzealous dick-measuring-turned-explosive-homophobia. But that’s not unique to Indiana – that’s just sports. The Hoosiers fan who hollered at Johnny and me from a distance as we entered our section wore a crimson jersey, but he just as easily could’ve been wearing maize and blue – or any other color, as long as he was drunk, douchey and at a game. He saw our jerseys, being worn properly, displaying our bare arms like the legions of players and fans before us, and couldn’t help but try and put us down, ever so effectively.
How much do you bench, bro? 125?
I don’t know if I’ll ever stop laughing, bro.