A visitor’s guide to Ball State
Alan, the editor in chief at the excellent Ball State blog “Over the Pylon” has kindly created a guide for visiting fans, something I’m working on duplicating here. For the convenience of anyone making the drive down to Muncie tomorrow, here’s what he has to say.
What’s that you say? You are undertaking the mythic journey of following your team to an away game against the Ball State Cardinals? Then you, my friend, are in for a treat. Do we have the pageantry of the Auburns and Alabamas? No. Do we have the coeds of the USCs and Arizona States? Unfortunately, no. Do we have the cultural explosion of a road game at Miami? Definitely not. You also don’t have excellent odds of ending up in a bathtub full of ice in a seedy motel missing a kidney. Life is all about trade offs.
Pop culture references to Muncie include the likes of:
- Norville Barnes (played by Tim Robbins), the lead character in the 1994 movie The Hudsucker Proxy is from Muncie, Indiana.
- The 1986 movie Hoosiers, by David Anspaugh, about a small-town Indiana high school basketball team that wins the state championship was based on the 1954 Milan High School basketball team that beat the Muncie Central High School team from Muncie.
- In Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Richard Dreyfuss’ character is in Muncie when he sees the UFO.
Let the record show that The Hudsucker Proxy is an awesome movie, an underrated modern classic by the Coen brothers, and, incidentally, was the first time I heard of Muncie. To this date, I rarely think of Ball State without mentally singing “Fight on, fight on, dear old Muncie; fight on, hoist the gold and blue; you’ll be tattered, torn, and hurtin’, once the Munce is done with you…Goooo Eagles!”
Some places (not Muncie) are a vast array of places to stay depending on your budget, your desires, or your need for comfort or luxury. While we don’t have the Gameday Condos that so many SEC schools have, we do have a Best Western, and dammit, that’s enough. This isn’t a place with bed and breakfasts or hostels, so unless you know someone close by, the answer to the above is a resounding “Hotel”.
Ultimately your food experience in Muncie will oscillate greatly depending where it is you’re coming from. Heading to Muncie from an area with lots of local eateries, tons of independent local flavor, or an atmosphere where the rib shacks, seafood places, or steakhouses are plentiful may leave you a bit underwhelmed. However, if you’re journeying from Lynchburg, VA (where I have in fact lived) and your choices range from The Cavalier for burgers to Yellow Submarine for some sandwiches, you may find Muncie to be indeed “Everything You Need”…
If you are one of those fans who like the dependable things that an Applebees or a TGI Friday’s provides, that’s awesome for you. However, I would rather spend a week as Courtney Love’s maxi pad than settle my hind quarters into a booth that is exactly the same as I could anywhere else in America. That isn’t living the dream when you travel, and you’ll have no opportunity to interact with the very people that will drunkenly tell you how bad your team sucks. And really… what sort of road trip doesn’t culminate with some good-natured hops-fueled smack talk.
Muncie, Indiana: A Drinking Town With a Football Problem
While I would love to sit here and regale you with tales of the cultural explosion in Muncie, Indiana while tossing out tons of cool little things to do around town that doesn’t involve a frosty beverage that simply isn’t the case. Perhaps it’s just my love for hops brewed deliciousness, but if you’re looking for Shakespeare in the Park or some sort of murder mystery dinner theater, you have come to the wrong place. What follows is OTP’s recommendations of some things to do and places to check out while you’re spending your time waiting for the game or after the game is over…
In the words of Uncle Jemimah, “Do you like drinkin’? Of course you do! Who the hell don’t?!” And you’re in luck with your stay in Funcie. There’s a little something for everyone to experience, whether you’re gunning for upscale classy to the lowest of the dive bars, and not surprisingly, Edge and I have tried just about all of them.
Perhaps most famous, though, is Ball State’s most famous son and perhaps most vocal and notable alumni, David Letterman. Dave is clearly our bread and butter when it comes to national exposure, whether it’s lauding the football coach or applauding President Gora’s legs. I reckon having a national talk show host as the person who mentions you the most is a pretty neat thing. And in true Dave Letterman style…from the home office in Wahoo, Nebraska… the Top 10 things you must see on Ball State University’s Campus:
10.) Shafer Tower: Look down McKinley and you’ll see it. This 150 ft. tall free-standing bell tower has 48 custom-made bells in the top and chimes every 15 minutes between 7am and 7pm.
Like most schools of Ball State’s caliber and size, another fairly important intangible to keep in mind is that the gameday experience is directly proportionate to the success of the team in the given season. The season closer last year  against Central Michigan in the midst of a 2-10 season was very different than the Western Michigan game a year earlier  as the Cardinals went for 12-0. That is unfortunately, the breaks of the MidAmerican Conference football game, but it’s manageable if you know that going in. It’s economies of scale at its most basic, and the fact remains that the alumni support and local interest in a Ball State program that has been mediocre at best for the duration of its existence hasn’t reached the level of a BCS conference caliber school.