Notre DameEd: The photos in this post have been lost to the ether.
This past weekend I attended a Notre Dame vs. Pittsburgh game in South Bend, Indiana. The odds were long against Pittsburgh, so I should have bet on Notre Dame, a team I found to be as frustrating as the Vikings. Change the colors and environment and you have any number of Vikings’ games from the past couple years. Heartbreaking (for Notre Dame fans).
The game was my first Division I football experience. I haven’t even been to see the Gophers in the dead Dome. We were high up so I’m sure some of the crowd impact was gone due to physics, but I was unimpressed with the participation of the fans. I don’t know if it is the Catholicism or if it is the reaction of a fan-base that has been disappointed after decades of dominance. The fans were polite, and a lot were not strong homers, just occasional attendees. One person in my group made the comment that it was similar to attending a game at Wrigley field. The crowd never gets too into it. They are just there to be there and spend a day outdoors watching a game.
As the second half progressed, the fans began getting involved, ramping up the decibels to a respectable level and participating in a few whole-stadium chants and cheers. Cool, yet I was still unimpressed. There were at least three defensive holding/interference calls in the half that negated Notre Dame third down stops. At least two of those appeared to be horrendous, one where the receiver fell down on his own, untouched. The crowd was unhappy, but only for a short time and they calmed after a few plays.
The game was outstanding, especially considering we were quite far from the action. An offensive shoot-out was ideal for us, as a defensive battle would be lost to our eyes. We were seated at one endzone and we witnessed several touchdown plays develop. I will say I want to get whoever Pitt’s tight end is on my fantasy team next year. He had an outstanding game. Pitt’s quarterback also looks to be the real deal, as he is only a sophomore.
Our endzone was thankfully opposite “Touchdown Jesus.” We got to see him (Him?) blessing the Irish for the entire game, and honestly he is the only unique part of Notre Dame’s stadium environment. His pose is pretty funny when you think about it. The history of the school and team was not too overwhelming at all. We walked around campus in the dark after the game, and it did seem that it was probably beautiful and expansive.
The true highlight was the tailgating after the game. We met three Pitt fans before the game and talked a bit, promising to meet after for some drinking and conversation. Arriving at our vehicle, we were provided with grilled chicken wings and burgers to go with our beer and we discussed sports, regional dialects, and personal histories for a couple hours into the night. It was a great example of the power these mass sporting events have to bring people together.
The morning of the game we went to the College Football Hall of Fame in downtown South Bend. I was unimpressed, but of course I’m not a college football guy. It was interesting to see the amount of influence the University of Minnesota had on the first half of college football’s history.
South Bend was kind of a hole of a town. I’m wondering if it has something to do with the whole industrial downturn. It has over 100,000 people, but still felt like a town. It has at least 4 colleges, yet there didn’t seem to be any nightlife.
Whenever I travel near Chicago, I find it interesting to see the sheer number of overweight guys with moustaches. It’s uncanny.