Monday, September 13, 2010
When going to the stadium, I always felt a little like Rudy when he said I have been waiting for this my whole life. If you are a football fan, there are certain stadiums you must go to as part of your sports bucket list and the Notre Dame Football stadium has to be high up on the list. Luckily for me I won Tickets from on online contest done by Every Game counts. The day started with a short 2.5 hour drive from just outside of Ann Arbor to South Bend. Luckily for me, my sister in law went to St. Mary’s so I got a few insider secrets about going to a game. This was more than just my first Notre Dame game; it was also my first away University of Michigan football game. I could not think of a better place to go for my first away game or a better stadium to go to. The best place to park by far is St. Mary’s. It is right off of 80/90 and the best part is when you are getting off the highway it says general admission parking to the left, ND hang tag to the right. This works out great because the line is shorter going to right because of this and there are a lot of spots open at St. Mary’s because of it. They let you tailgate in the parking lot and even have an area where you can park in the grass and this makes it even more fun to tailgate when you have a football with you.
After parking, there is a short walk that is about 15 minutes from the stadium. One may end up stopping a few times between their car and the stadium for some before the game festivities. There are always great tailgates that you can buy tickets to. The best ones are around $125 and have everything for you from ribs to brats. If you want to go the budget route, there are some great places to stop and get a burger, hot dog or brat. Check out the prices though, one stand had hot dogs for $2 and brats for $3 and an identical stand on the other side of the quad had hot dogs for $3 and brats for $4. Everything was $1 more per item. After getting a good brat and dog, we headed over to the Knights of Columbus tent to grab a steak sandwich. Man, this was awesome! It was so tender and juicy and it came straight off the grill and had a marinade that kept the steak juicy until they put it on your bun. It was definitely worth the $6 with a drink included.
While grabbing some great grilled food, we also came across some of the pre-game activities. We had just missed the Notre Dame Football players making their famous walk from the Cathedral to the stadium. If you are unsure what time any of these pre-game festivities are, just ask someone walking by. It seems like most everyone has been to a ND game before and they have the schedule memorized in their head. Luckily for me, I was wearing a zip up hoody over my Michigan jersey so I was not told the wrong directions. Everyone was so nice and helpful. Walking down the quad, even 30 minutes before the game, you could hardly tell there was a game going to be played that day. There were good signs of it though with the Marching band playing in the background and fans playing catch in the grass. It was interesting to me how many people walking in twos were split between one person wearing Notre Dame gear and the other wearing University of Michigan gear.
The golden dome was a cool place to go check out both inside and out. It was also where I found out where seasoned veterans use the restroom instead of waiting in lines elsewhere. There is a pretty remarkable painting inside the golden dome which was pretty breathtaking. The golden dome acts as a campus compass when walking around. If you are lost, just find the golden dome.
One of the highlights before the game was going to Badin hall to check out the band. Luckily, I was able to follow a couple of students working there up to the front and was able to see everything and capture the Irish fight song as a video. The Notre Dame Fight song has always been special to me because it was my high school’s fight song. I guess it is the band geek in me.
After catching what we could before the game, we hurried and made our way to the stadium. Walking in, you could feel the presence of something great. The Irish have won the most national championships in college history and you could tell this by walking around the stadium. You really felt special being there the moment you walked into the gate. Tradition was in the air with every step you took. The stadium had interesting ways to add more seats without putting in suites like most stadiums have sold out for. The University of Michigan finally sold out and upgraded their stadium. Sometimes I think tradition is disregarded and the only item of importance is how to make the most money. One cool way they added more seats was by having field seats. Most stadiums have a ten foot wall around them. Notre Dame does also but right in front of the wall are bleachers at each side of the end zones. I could hear people talking about it fondly, “I got those seats once”, they would say. The seats are not fancy and padded, they are all bleacher seats made out of wood. This is all you need when you only sit during TV timeouts which Brian Kelly negotiated with NBC to be 15 seconds shorter this year. One of the things I liked most about the stadium is that they had a concession stand and bathroom under the bleachers for every three sections. It made it a lot more organized and you were able to run down and grab something or go to the bathroom during one of those famous TV timeouts and not miss a lot of the game waiting in line. The prices were not even that bad. $4.50 got you a brat and it was definitely worth the extra price compared to grabbing one from one of the student organizations. You could tell the taste difference in a real Johnsonville brat. For 6 bucks, you could get a huge souvenir cup that was probably as big as a big gulp.
Now for the game, it was one of those remarkable games that you could never forget with Michigan winning 28 to 24. It was special to be able to see Nate Montana, the son of Joe Montana, who was a senior that had walked onto the team 4 years earlier, be able to play when the starting quarterback was out with a concussion. You definitely cannot forget about Denard Robinson’s 502 all-purpose yards with 258 of those being rushing yards. Denard put himself into the records books recording the longest rushing play at Notre Dame Stadium, running 87 yards for a touchdown. Now most of the day it was raining and part of the way through the game the sun decided to come out and there was a rainbow. The Irish were at the 5 yard line and had 95 yards to go and the person behind me said, “Look, there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and that pot of gold is the end zone”. The very next play, Kyle Rudolph snuck behind the Michigan Defense and scored a 95 yard touchdown. Then I heard my son say “Where did the rainbow go?” To my amazement, as soon as Notre Dame scored that touchdown, the rainbow had disappeared. With the Irish up 24 to 21 and about 3 minutes left in the game, a part of me thought the game was over because Michigan had not scored since it was 21 to 7 at halftime. Denard Robinson proved he was a Heisman candidate when he marched the Wolverines down the field and scored his 3rd touchdown of the game.
It was truly a game to remember and if you get a chance you should go to a game at Notre Dame. It is one of those experiences that you will never forget. After the game, we were able to hang out with the players leaving the field and even got Rich Rodriguez to take a picture in front of Touchdown Jesus.
-Michigan Sports Guy