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Sports Business

Bears fans' behavior shows value of Hoosier hospitality

January 25, 2011
KEYWORDS Sports Business

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.


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