Bears fans' behavior shows value of Hoosier hospitality

January 25, 2011
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Indianapolis tourism and convention officials spend millions of dollars each year marketing our city to travelers. And by all accounts, those efforts pay off in hundreds of millions in economic impact each year.

But there’s a secret weapon this city has.


And most people aren’t even aware they’re part of the equation.

But it occurred to me how much of an impression residents of this city make on visitors after reading about Green Bay Packers fans getting yelled at, pushed and punched during their victory in Chicago on Sunday.

One man wearing a Cheesehead hat said after the game that one Bears fan threatened to push him down a flight of stairs. “And I think he meant it,” the Packers fan said.

Another fan reported to police that he was punched in the face after the game. He had a bloody nose to prove it.

Reverse to two weeks ago when the Indianapolis Colts lost a last-second heartbreaker to the N.Y. Jets in the first round of the playoffs.

Anyone who knows NFL football knows Jets fans travel in considerable numbers. So there was no shortage of green-and-white clad fans screaming, “J-E-T-S Jets! Jets! Jets!” before, during and after the game.

But it was what one New York fan told a local TV reporter after the game that really caught my attention. “The Colts fans here are the best, most polite, courteous ever.” Then the fan went on to say he wouldn’t hesitate to come back, and promised his Jets would beat the hated Patriots for us.

When I ran into a group of a dozen New York City firefighters at a downtown restaurant two days before the Colts played the Giants earlier this year, I asked what brought them to Indianapolis. I knew they came to watch the game, but you don’t often think of New Yorkers flocking to Indianapolis—not for a regular season game.

The answer floored me. “We love it here. The people are so nice. They’re awesome!”

As a native Hoosier, I suppose I often take the notion of Hoosier hospitality for granted. After all, isn’t everyone like that?

The answer, of course, is “no.” And my relatives in California, Colorado, Tennessee and Nebraska tell me that often.

“Hoosier hospitality is palpable,” said Chris Gahl, Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association spokesman. “It’s seen. It’s felt. The way people act here and treat others is a very important extension of what [local hospitality and tourism officials] are trying to do. It’s a critical element in how we want to represent this city.”

As I watched Bears fans jeer frightened Cheeseheads, it occurred to me—more than a shiny, new hotel; convention center expansion; or a big, fat steak and delicious shrimp cocktail—that Hoosier hospitality may be the very most important element in defining this city to others.


  • Amen to that!
    I agree wholeheartedly. Hoosiers are so much friendlier than your average American. I forget it until I travel elsewhere. Smiling at strangers here is completely normal, but in other states, it's totally weird.
  • Agree But
    I agree on the Colts game, but someone needs to figure out what to do about the teens at Circle Center weekend nights. 2 shot last Saturday. Not good when our main area is becoming the OK corral.
  • No where else but Indy
    I had a conversation with a group of Jets fans at the Colts v Jets game in January. One guy tells me the story of his meeting a Hoosier on the NY to Indy flight. At the airport after landing in Indy, fellow Hoosier has offered him a ride to his hotel at the Westin. NY guy accepts the offer, offers him a couple of bucks for his trouble. Hoosier guy refuses, just says something like "Welcome to Indy. Hope you have a great weekend".
  • Agreed!!
    I happened to be at the last game in the old Hoosier Dome when the Coltse played against the Steelers (whose fans are also notorious for bad behavior)in the 1st playoff game and which we lost. As all were all quietly exiting the stadium I recall one Steeler fan, no doubt expecting some yelling etc by the Colts fans becasue we lost saying, "Wow you Colts fans are really nice" to which I quipped, "Yes we are! After all it's just a football game!"
  • 2009 AFC championship game
    I remember reading about a j-e-t-s fan having to stay in an indy hospital for several days after an altercation from a colts fan.(Most likely a thug looking for trouble) Funny, I beleive that story didn't make the Indy news, but I saw an article from a ny newpaper about the incident. The mother of the victim couldn't praise the indy hosptial staff for their efforts. It's unfortunate that it takes one idiot "fan" (maybe the offender wasn't even a colt fan). Either way it only takes one person to ruin a great image / perception of Indy's fans.
  • sounds fishy
    Dave, that story sounds fishy for several reasons. First, if the incident is reported, there's going to be a police report. There's no way the police turn a blind eye to something that high profile where someone is injured at a Colts game to the point where they go to the hospital. Second, if there's a police report, I know there are at least 6 local news organizations that scour those police reports every single day. There's no way those news organizations (all of them) turn a blind eye to that type of police report. For one thing, a Colts fan injuring a Jets or any other visiting fan to the point that they need to be hospitalized is an incident not to be ignored in this town. And even if one news organization had an inclination to turn a blind eye, they wouldn't for fear of getting beat by other news organizations on such a story. There's hell to pay from editors and news show producers for missing such a story that your competitors get. And then it turns up in a NY newspaper. I don't think so! Somebody here isn't telling the truth. Besides, in Chicago we're not talking about an isolated incident. We're talking about a number of fans acting out in this way. That, collectively, shows the mentality of the town.
    • Just sayin'
      Remember "fan" is short for "fanatic". Just Sayin'.
    • A couple of random shootings is not going to scare off most visitors, unless they are from Farmers Corners, Iowa. Heck that is a nightly occurence in most major cities.

      I have noticed that midwest is friendlier than the coasts. Went to Purdue v Wisconsin in Madison in our Rose Bowl year. Wife and I wore Black and Gold and took some good natured ribbing as we walked past fraternities and apartments. At the game we were surrounded by Badger fans who ribbed us, but we gave as good as we got. Purdue won on a last second field goal block. Many other places we would have been in fear for our lives. They were all friendly.

      Change location to the coasts and they do look at you oddly if you smile or say hi. Almost like they expect you to try to take advantage of them.
    • 50% of Colts Fans
      Don't have the passion to sustain their desire to attend during the down times. It's coming when Manning leaves. When the team is losing more than it's winning will the 'nice' fans show up for games? NOPE. The die-hard, passionate ones will. The ones who will punch you in the face for disparaging their team. The ones who'll make the visiting team fans not want to come back. They are the ones' who'll remain. Had the Bears beaten GB in GB Bears fans would have been roughed up there. Count on it.
      • Seriously...?
        You people honestly believe an imaginary line that seperates the states makes people nicer? Are you telling me that if someone in Hammond packs up and moves up the street, across this invisible line, and settles in Lansing, IL... they would cease to be a nice person and instantly morph into a jerk?
        Gimme a break. People are the same wherever you go. Nonsense!
      • annexation please
        We'd like you to please annex Hammond, and the rest of "the region" for that matter, into Illinois please. Most Hoosiers would rather not claim that area. And most people from "the region" have the mistaken notion they're from the big city of Chicago anyway.
      • "Fans"
        The reason why is b/c Colts fans don't have near the history, tradition, nor rivalry of other teams in the league. I'm not excusing the behavior but there are still lots of Hoosiers who remember Indiana prior to the Colts and many others who just don't care that much about the Colts. GB/Chi is one of sports oldest rivalries. It's pathetic how those fans in Chicago acted. Never forget "fan" is short for fanatic. Unfortunately, there are some dillusional Colts fanatics out there.
      • Not saying that person crossing into Illinois will be instantly mean, the Illini will make him that way. After being taken advantage of treated poorly, he will adapt to the way of the Illini?

        Colts do not have rivalry's? Have you attended a Colts Patriots game? or Jacksonville, Titans or Texans game? How about Jets? When you dominate for so long you end up with some serious rivalries.

      • Truth
        Actually, there were not that many Jets fans at the playoff game this time. There were far less than there were the prior year and not even as many as you saw for more than one visiting team during the regular season this year.

        Also, the incident involving a Jets fan being beaten in a private parking lot by Colts fans a year ago really did happen and was reported in the media at the time. It received extensive coverage in NY media but very little here.

        I'm a huge Colts fan and Indy supporter but I'll quickly admit I've seen plenty of drunken Colts fans behaving badly towards opposing fans over the years. Is it as bad in other cities? Maybe not, but it's laughable to think it doesn't go on quite often. Also, the Colts have not lost much at home during the Manning era so you tend to see happy fans on better behavior than after a tough loss.
      • fans
        I think it's possible to be a die-hard Colts fan--or fan of any team--without being physically threatening to fans of other teams. Fan violence or intimidation has nothing to do with the outcome on the field.
      • Fan violence has to do with small minded and small manhooded fans trying to overcompensate.
      • Jet's fan in hospital - AFC 2010 game
        It's not the Indy star or NY TImes, but it's a legit article.
      • The Empire Plunders Hoosier Hospitality
        Roger “Palpatine” Goodell and The Empire Plunder Hoosier Hospitality  

        It's not all Sweetness and Light

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