There is certainly something special about college football. The tailgates provide an interesting aroma of grilled meat and alcohol, while fans try to convince each other why this is the year their team could win it all. The NFL Sunday games have their own place in America’s heart, but in terms of atmosphere and game day experience, there is nothing that compares to college football Saturdays.
Two weeks ago, Maggie and I were fortunate enough to join our friends, Jade and Patrick, for the Notre Dame-Stanford game in South Bend. Maggie and I woke up early, and I grabbed some donuts from our local Donut Shop and Starbucks to fuel us for the upcoming day. The weather was less than ideal. Cold and rainy, with a high of 37. Not your picturesque October weekend. The weather was not going to stop our excitement, though. The Stanford Cardinal was coming to South Bend, and the teams could not have been more evenly matched.
After dropping off our crazy dog at Maggie’s parents’ house, we made our way to South Bend. We made it near the stadium and immediately searched for a place we could park. Finding parking on game day is like finding a seat to a wedding you’re ten minutes late to. Fortunately, we were able to find a spot and began our trek to the stadium.
After stepping out of the car, we were greeted by freezing wind gusts, and I began to realize my rain jacket and Nike Frees weren't going to be enough to prevent hypothermia. I began to think, If I die today, the last words I am going to hear will be my wife saying “I told you to bring your gloves!” She was right.
We went out to find some food, and thanks to Patrick’s previous history as a baseball player at Notre Dame, we were able to eat for free in the Monogram Club. It was a room full of former athletes, rehashing old war stories and connecting with long lost comrades. I was just happy to have a hot dog and a warm place to watch ESPN. With full bellies and thawed faces, we made a quick trip to the congested bookstore and headed off to the stadium.
The walk up to the stadium - any stadium, really - is one of my favorite moments of attending sporting events. There is such a rush to scanning your ticket and seeing the grandness of the field. Recently outfitted with turf, Notre Dame Stadium was looking beautiful.
Maggie and I bid a temporary farewell to Jade and Patrick who were sitting elsewhere and found our seats. Only problem was, it had been raining off and on all morning, so these bleachers were already drenched. When I first sat down, it sent a chill from my bottom cheeks to my top cheeks. But we slowly became accustomed to the elements. Fortunately, we were outfitted with ponchos and a quilt to keep us relatively dry and warm; the only problem was I couldn’t stop my nose from running the entire game. I had my hands warmly tucked under our quilt and really didn’t want to navigate my hand through the maze of layers to wipe my nose every five seconds, so I would just blow air up from my mouth to my nose to get the drips off. (Apologies to the little girl next to me for the friendly fire in the 2nd quarter.)
The game itself was predictably sloppy. Plenty of turnovers without many touchdowns. But a drab three quarters made way to an exciting fourth quarter, which was punctuated by a game-winning touchdown pass by Notre Dame with less than a minute to play. After sitting and shivering for much of the game, I barely noticed the weather as the game ended. Notre Dame had won and everyone lost their minds. I saw grown men cry. Lil Jon’s “Turn Down For What” turned the stadium into a party, and I couldn’t help but get caught up in the excitement. The raucous atmosphere made way to a peaceful comradery as the fans left in the stadium all put their arms around one another and sang the Notre Dame Alma mater. It’s a beautiful song, and I couldn’t help but feel this was the best way to end a frigid, drizzly, yet electrifying afternoon in South Bend.