The World's Greatest College Weekend, In Memoriam 2011
Another Little 5 has passed, and once again we want it to never end. This is our Holiest Week’s eulogy for 2011. Like a mythical phoenix she will rise from her ashes in precisely 364 days and reign once more. This isn’t an end, but a beginning of the preparation for Little 5 2012.
There’s a bike race that happens on one Saturday every year, in a small Indiana town.
The Little 500.
Let’s not lie, though, the race’s most common nickname “The World’s Greatest College Weekend” is a tragic misnomer.
It’s a week-long event.
And it gets longer and starts earlier every year.
Alcohol flows freely from kegs, cheap vodka bottles, and jungle juice coolers from First Street to North Jordan. It probably wouldn’t be a gross overstatement to say that more alcohol is consumed during this week than a medium-to-large sized school (think Ball State) can imbibe in a semester. Random hook-ups and waking up on a stranger’s couch are the measuring sticks that we use to determine just how great our week turned out.
Fraternities invest heavily in both booze and security presence (both real and pledge-provided) and dividends are paid out nightly with some of the most raucous, racy, loud, dirty, and possibly damning parties this side of New Orleans in March, Chicago on St. Patrick’s, or Oktober in Munich.
Those who never pledged a house aren’t left to fend for themselves, either, and mini-fraternities and sororities are formed for the week in the form of a good group of friends sticking together and mass-purchasing volumes of liquor that would make an Irishman blush. Beers are bonged off of front porches, pong is played in the street, and shots are consumed with alarming speed. A three-keg party might last a few hours, and frantic trips to the liquor store to purchase reserve quantities are planned in advance.
As friends from other schools across the state travel to Bloomington to experience just a small part of the world’s finest week of 18-to-25 year old debauchery, free couches and open floorspace become commodities, vacancy signs flicker off, and Kirkwood Avenue transforms into a thoroughfare overnight.
Drinking establishments schedule their best live performers and DJs in succession in this week of weeks, where a cover charge can make you thousands, and drink specials are sought and repeated dozens of times by each patron. Bartenders sleep in the booths to prepare for the intoxicated rush that will come knocking on the doors at 7:30am the next day. Kilroy’s makes breadsticks in batches of hundreds, Nick’s famous spicy fries are deep-fried by the thousands, and the amount of grease used to cook the best kind of food in the world (bar food) can only be measured in the hundreds of gallons. When the 3 am last call finally arrives, it serves only alert the students that the party isn’t over, but instead to inform them that the party is changing venues.
Shots at 4:30 am are required participation, and the 6 am bedtime is followed promptly by 9 am alarms and breakfast options that include Kegs and Eggs, Beereal, and Captain Morgan Crunch. Lunch will inevitably be forgotten, and dinner often comes in flat boxes delivered by flying superheroes or anthropomorphized fungal lifeforms. Classes are either experienced in a drunken haze or skipped altogether, and evil professors who choose to schedule assignments and tests during our holiest week lower their expectations. The professors with a grip in reality cancel classes and reschedule exams, and rewards those who do attend with copious extra credit participation points, regardless of the relative sobriety level of their pupils.
Champions are crowned from street to street, house to house, party to party as Beer Olympics and drinking games are organized to pass through the sunlight hours. Seeing friends dressed in ridiculous costumes is commonplace. Theme parties spice up the night life, and white t-shirts accompanied by fluorescent writing utensils become standard attire. Kilroy’s t-shirts become elusive captures, and scalper’s prices that could rival a whole night’s bar tab are paid just to hang a piece of fabric in one’s closet.
Concerts fill the week with the performances by the best acts in the country, and every year the roster improves. Marijuana smoke fills parking lots, auditoriums, lawns, basements, and even the venerable Assembly Hall to the point of contact high, and nary a stray glance is shot from a security guard when the aroma presents itself. When the concert ends, the party never dies, but only dissipates into a thousand smaller parties.
The revelry isn’t assigned solely to the undergrads, either, as hordes of alumni venture down as the week reaches its climax, bringing with them stories of keggers and epic house parties, frat theme parties, beer runs, bar crawls (sometimes literal), and a spirit (and finally the pocketbook) to contribute to the current class’ degeneration and delinquency. There is no maximum age after which someone can no longer enjoy Little 5. @KentSterling will attest to that, and his blog posts documenting his “Top 10 Little 500 Moments” are canon for younger readers to memorize, worship, and try with all their might to emulate, modify, and experiment with.
Words will never completely encapsulate the experience, and the thousands of stories that will populate the collective mind of the undergrad population for years to come can only serve to conjure up half-memories of better days and add to the lore that is the Little 5. The specific stories, details, names and faces will be lost in the ether, but the World’s Greatest College Week* will never die.
Venerable Indiana University. An institution of Light and Truth to the citizens of our 19th state since 1820, innumerable in praises be upon thee. In thy infinite wisdom, please accept my analyses of our fanbase, as I have spent over 3 hours typing this tonight. In the name of Tijan, his Liger, and the candy-stripes, Amen.
Recently on mgoblog, a blog post by MVictors was brought to light, in which they dissected and analyzed the Skunkbear fanbase. Although it was hard to understand why anyone would Hail to the Mother ****ers in Ann Arbor, I thought it would be better to perform a similar analysis on the Hoosier Nation. Why? Because "It’s Indiana." Also because I’ve been thinking of starting a blog about IUBB for a while but never had that “dynamite piece of analysis” to start it with.
I think MVictor’s analysis of a fanbase in general (80-10-10) is a little bit off. I think: About 70% of fans are casual fans (i.e. they watch the games on TV, wear IU garb, and generally don’t have any extreme views about the team) About 20% are serious fans (will get into lengthy discussions about the team, and may have a deeper view concerning IU) And about 10% are hardcore fans. (Generally the ones that participate in the liveblogs during the game, post on Peegs, and spend a lot of time “actively trying to sway influence over other fans.”)
With the general guidelines being laid out, here’s how i see the Hoosier Nation:
The Crimson-Colored Glasses (15%)
Fiercely reminiscent of IU’s former glory, they believe that nothing but instant success following He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named’s firing is acceptable. Their worldview is skewed by the banners in Assembly Hall, and can be heard shouting from blocks away every time Jeremiah Rivers turns the ball over. (BALL CONTROL-BOBBY KNIGHT WOULDN’T ACCEPT THIS) Despite their pessimistic views of the way CTC runs his offense, they attend a large number of games and sit with the Crean-and-Crimson behind The Barrier. Generally have a middle-to-upper tier IU degree and signed memorabilia at home.
The Bloomingfoods Crew (1%)
The professors and their friends who ride their bikes to campus and spend their saturdays at the Farmer’s Market. Have never actually seen the IU basketball team play and probably couldn’t identify CTC from a lineup, but really enjoy how peaceful downtown Bloomington is when there’s a football game. (H/T MVictor) Almost always hold advanced degrees and a box at the Musical Arts Center.
The Red Sweaters (4%)
These are the fans that sit in front of the concrete in Assembly Hall. Generally have an upper-tier IU degree, preferred parking, and an account on file at the IU Foundation. Glass generally knows these boosters by name. A large number of Red Sweaters defected to join the RMK clan after 2000, but the ones that remained enjoy a much greater prominence among their ranks. They still play golf with their RMK alumni, but the conversation never strays post-Davis.
The Drunk Students (10%)
Although their presence may wane with the number of losses on the record and the particular opponent, their voices are always the loudest and most vulgar in Assembly Hall. They sit rather dispersed in the student section, unless they have courtside tickets. Usually show up 10-20 minutes late and leave after flags. Generally only attend games if they have homework due in the morning that they want to put off.
The “General Admission” Line (35%)
The GA passersby live in mid-to-southern Indiana, and grew up watching the IU teams of yesteryear. They generally don’t have an IU degree, but will shout down an opponent with innumerable facts and figures about the 1987 Steve Alford-led championship squad. Their children likely went to IU, or soon will. Considered the “blue-collar” IU fan. Only comes to one game every few years, but remembers every player from the last 20. They generally sit in the cheap seats under the balcony. Though they attend rarely, their massive numbers ensure that seats will get sold at Assembly Hall.
The Connected (7%)
Because they are by design ”future-oriented” in nature, when IU struggles, they automatically resort to calling on the promise of next year’s recruiting class as a sign of better times. They generally use their mornings to check ITH and Scoop, and spend an inordinate amount of time on Peegs at work, never hesitating to dispense their views. Almost always have a middle-tier IU degree and an unlimited data plan on their phone. The Connected come to a few games every year, but never miss a game thanks to BTN and ESPN.
The Jellisonians (3%)
Generally a subspecies of the GA Line, these fans think that the best players on the court are the ones that… to put it nicely… can’t jump very high. Unfortunately, due to our midwestern location and public school status, these fans are greater in number than we’d like to admit. Obviously led by their fearless Noblesville Times sportswriter Don Jellison, they light up every time Taylor Wayers gets in the game. Their diaspora, however, covers all ranges of education, from GED to multiple-PhD owning professors. Rarely come to games but always have an opinion on the players.
The Crean and Crimson (25%)
The more modern, middle-age IU fan. Always wears the newest Official Adidas IU gear and owns at least two IU polos, and probably drives a Nissan Maxima full of 3-4 young kids from their home in suburban Indianapolis. Definitely owns a set of IU golf headcovers, but rarely uses the clubs inside them. Generally has an middle-to-upper IU degree and high mortgage. The local C&Cs come to a couple of the home games every year and sit in the seats behind the concrete.
The Robert Montgomery Knight loyalists* (percentage incalculable)
Many of the RMK faction have been fans of Texas Tech University since late 2000. Their degrees say “Indiana University” but their sweaters have two interlocking T’s. My sister’s cheerleading coach in high school is an RMK loyalist, and named her first dog BK but her second one (post-2000) comes when you call out “Lubbock.” The RMK refuse to attend any games in the Hall, and only come around to pine for the renaming of AH to “Branch McCracken Court at Robert Montgomery Knight Hall.” Definitely have an lower-to-middle tier IU degree, but got it in the 60’s and 70’s and are therefore retired or very close to it.
*Although not technically “IU fans,” they are indubitably tied to the IU program. Their support wavers with the win-loss column, although noticeably muted. Consider them as the “Hong Kong” to IU’s China. They are by definition Hoosiers but have their own customs and rules, and spent so many years underneath the rule of RMK and are so set in their ways that they find it hard to re-assimilate with the rest of the Hoosier nation.