Indiana fans are a kooky bunch.
Despite almost 20 years of disappointing fans, Indiana University Basketball still engages alums and Hoosiers at an extreme level. More Ken Pomeroy subscribers claim IU as their favorite team than any other program. More Ken Pomeroy subscribers claim IU as their favorite team than Penn State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Rutgers, Northwestern, and Notre Dame combined.
While IU has escaped national relevance for most of the last quarter century, fans are still heavily invested in both the history and the current product.
On social media, Twitter feeds fill with gameday moans, groans, cheers and exultations.
Explaining the craziness of Indiana fans is pointless, but we can compartmentalize them into four equally troubled groups. Here are four kinds of Indiana fans who suffer from derangement – but in strikingly different ways. Each group enjoys yelling at the other three on social media as well as in bars.
Grim Reapers – These haughty basketball aficionados always sees the worst in the Hoosiers. They are elitists who feel smart because they can see clouds that surround silver linings. If Indiana wins by 30, they yelp about a poorly set cross screen set with 10:08 remaining in the first half. They crow about advanced analytics without having any understanding what the term “advanced analytics” means.
Cheerleaders – they believe Indiana should aways be supported – win or lose. When asked to name their Mount Rushmore of favorite Hoosiers, they name Tim Priller, Matt Roth, Freddie McSwain, and Troy Williams after pondering and naming every other player they have ever seen in candy stripes. They remain upset Tom Crean was fired while also being staunch supporters of Archie Miller. Kelvin Sampson was railroaded for violations that are no longer against the rules, according to these nuts. When reminded that Sampson’s violations were self-reported by Indiana, their eyes spin like pinwheels as they order another craft beer.
Contrarians – Third comes the sect that moans about all wins and sees the bright side of losses. They enjoy arguing with resultists, who have the temerity to enjoy wins and voice disappointment with losses. They differ from results in that they allow for good to be taken from losses, while the first group is always disappointed with anything but perfection, which is by definition impossible.
Indiana Cultists – Winning is not enough to them. Indiana must win, sure, but with a primarily homegrown group. And Indiana must while adhering to a standard of behavior that exists far beyond NCAA rules. Oh, and all players must earn their degrees. This group points to the Bob Knight Era as the high water mark, not just for Indiana Basketball, not just college sports, but athletics in total. Knight always said that driving more than an hour and a half to recruit a point guard was a waste of time, so cultists believe it too. Last week, they were made happy by Khristian Lander’s commitment, despite the 90 minute rule being made possible only because of the I-69 extension which has turned the drive from Evansville to Bloomington a mini-Cannonball run.
If you’re looking for a reason Indiana Basketball remains a popular topic of conversation despite mediocre results, dissension among its fans is a pretty good place to start. Half of their fans believe Miller is the right coach. Half believe Devonte Green’s good outweighs the bad. Half believe Indiana needs to recruit its home state to win. Half believe Assembly Hall is a basketball temple. Half believe the Hoosiers will finally emerge from their competitive coma next year.
Passion drives arguments, and arguments drive passion. When IU fans gather, they are usually one sentence from entering into a conversational wormhole. Nice way to spend a night over buckets at Nick’s.
These are fascinating times for basketball fans in Bloomington because times are always fascinating to Indiana Basketball fans.