A Weekend in South Bend, Notre Dame

Being a Canadian, not many of my friends enjoy watching the pageantry that is NCAA College Football.

I fell in love with the sport during the last hockey lockout and have never looked back. If you ever get a chance to watch a game, I highly recommend watching any game that is on Saturday nights, I know blasphemy especially during hockey season, but on commercials or during intermissions, instead of watching analysts debate something that no one cares about, switch over to college football, you might like it.

Getting back to topic, I’ve been to two college football games in my life. The Fiesta Bowl a few years ago, with my brother, his friend and my cousin. I enjoyed the game, but it was missing something, the traditions that make this sports great.

Then, last weekend, my Dad called me up and said he could get a pair of tickets to the Notre Dame hosting USC. I’ve always heard that this rivalry was intense, especially when they play the game at the University of College Football in America, or Notre Dame to the lehmans.

So, I answer yes in approximately 0.00035 seconds and we are set to head to South Bend, Indiana, and USC vs Notre Dame.

We pack up the car on Friday night and head to Flint, Michigan where we spend the night. We plan to drive the rest of the way in the morning, to arrive at around Noon for a 3:30 kick-off time. We had a tailgate planned with some friends, and all we had to do was show up at the place, park the car, and grab a drink.

Everyone around us is dressed in Notre Dame, but there is a few Trojan Fans. More have clever T-Shirts with sayings that are a little off colour, Google them if you’re really interested in what they say, but add to the lustre of the game and the event.

About an hour before game time, we head on campus to go through the tailgates with all the students. Like most other US Colleges they don’t allowing drinks in the game, so most people sober up during the game. Which removes all the drunken idiots you normally see at NFL or any other sporting events.

Back to the story. When we approach the Notre Dame Stadium, my Dad tells me that we should head over to where the marching band parades in. I wanted to take in as much of the atmosphere stuff as I could, so I wanted to get there as early as possible and get a good seat. It did not disappoint.

First come the cheerleaders, both male and female. The males walk in second and chest bump and individual that hops out into the walkway. Unfortunately I didn’t know about this, so I didn’t react quickly enough to join. Then the band, playing the fight song march in, everyone around me is singing, then when they finish the fight song, they play more songs, and everyone continues singing. I unfortunately don’t know the words. Eh, I learn them for next time.

Following the parade, we head into the Stadium and are greeted by the friendly staff, who say personally to everyone who walks in, “Welcome to Notre Dame Stadium”. A far cry from the intrusive cavity search that on any other occasion would require dinner and a movie, at all other stadiums.

We find out seats, and it’s something a park bench would find uncomfortable. I know people many years ago were smaller, but come on. The electric chair is more comfortable. But I understand why the seats stink; you don’t use them that often.

Pre-game both bands play, before the players are introduced. The Notre Dame band plays all the songs, generally led the by the students who show all the motions as well, different hand movements that you should go to a game to experience.

And right before the home team heads out on to the field, the students begin a cheer. I didn’t understand it at first, but then I looked at the scoreboard and they kept repeating, “Hear come the Irish!” It started faintly and reached a peak when you saw the team peaking out of the tunnel. I’ve never experienced anything like it before.

Notre Dame fell behind early and making it look more and more likely that they would get blown out by a better USC team. But they fought back and when they score a touchdown, most females in the student section are picked up similarly to crowd surfing, and they do a push-up for every point scored. It looked like they would only have to do seven, until the fourth quarter.

The Notre Dame defence makes a few plays and get it to within four yards of sending the game into overtime. Great plays from Jimmy Clausen and the Notre Dame receiving corps, made the game go from dud to stud. Following the game, the entire team stands on the field with the band as they play the alma mater for the school. In the stands, every student is locked arm and arm, swaying back and forth. It is a sight you need to see, nearly a full stadium moving back and forth. Breathtaking.

Then we drove back to Michigan spent the night, and drove home the rest of the way on Sunday morning. The game was wicked, but the time spent with my Dad, who doesn’t normally like going to football games, was amazing. One of the best weekends of my life.

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