The University of Notre Dame du Lac: Part 3

Waking up in South Bend (or in my case, Mishawaka), Indiana on a Notre Dame football game day is different than waking up anywhere else. You know that your day holds something special.

So we just kind of waited around for a few hours, watched TV, until it was time to head back over to campus. There is very little parking available to the public on campus on game days, so we had to park just a little ways up the road and walk to campus. All the way from God Quad to South Quad, we walked. (For a campus with so few students, it’s very spread out.)

When we got to South Quad, we went to the football practice field. I stood there for a moment and remembered Declan Sullivan, so I said a quick, silent prayer in memory of him. After that, we went across to Joyce since we wanted to see the parts of the Monogram Club we missed the day before. They have something from every sport up there, and it was quite the sight to see. From awards, to equipment, to photos displayed, the entire history of Notre Dame Athletics is up in that lobby.

Then we went down to get something to eat and walk around some more. Walk around was all we really did until 2 o’clock, when we went to the outside of the Gug for the players walk.

It was hellishly windy when we got outside. Clouds were starting to appear, and the temperature had definitely dropped. So we stood there in the cold, biting wind and waiting for the players to step out of their headquarters.

A few minutes later, we heard cheering. I looked up, and holy crap! There they are! I’d only ever seen them on TV (spare Bennet Jackson and Manti Te’o, now).

First the police escorts, then... *trumpet fanfare* Coach Brian Kelly, David Ruffer, Dayne Crist, Tommy Rees, Mike Floyd, The Golics, Cam McDaniel, Cierre Wood, Harry Smith...you name him, I saw him.

And then we went to the stadium. Our seats were a ways up right on the north 35 yard line. When we got in there, the kickers and punters were stretching and practicing, and the QBs were throwing. I used my telephoto lens to try to see which players were (and weren’t ) out there yet, but, while it zoomed in pretty well, my dad’s new camera was so much better. It zoomed 60x in....uh. Yeah. If you don’t know anything about cameras, here’s a look at what I mean....

This first one was taken with my dad's camera on full zoom. Diaco is standing on the sideline across the field from me.

This second one taken with my telephoto also on full zoom. Diaco is standing next to the sideline closer to me.

So....yeah. Mmm hmm. It was pretty good.

As time passed, more people filtered into the stadium. The band played, and then they had their Senior Presentations. It makes me sad to see some of those guys go. Slaughter, Floyd, Ruffer, Harrison Smith, Mike Golic, Jr., Ethan Johnson....Correction: it makes me sad to see all of those guys go. I hope they do well for themselves, but with an ND degree, chances are that they will.

(I’m writing this in the car on the way home. Just drove over the Mississippi River!)

And the game began. My first ND game in person. I’m not going to lie, when the band played the National Anthem, I started to cry.

The people sitting around us were annoying and stupid. They’re the kind of people who think they know more than the Coach and yell at EVERYTHING! I wanted to turn to all of them and yell, “Shut up and watch the damn game!”

The family in front of us were ND fans, but they were dumb. The dad tried to correct me on players’ names, but his mom sitting next to him didn’t even know Cierre Wood’s name. Cierre Wood. Wood. Not that hard. She kept saying, “Woods.” Plural? No ma’am! If you can’t say it right, don’t say it! (Pet peeve.)

The family behind us were Boston College fans. That was miserable. They also thought they knew more than the refs. The dad sounded like Norm MacDonald, but he wasn’t being sarcastic or funny. He was being an idiot. “Boston! You’re a 3-7 team! You can do better than this!” Wait. What? Do you know how DUMB that sounds? JUST STOP TALKING, YOU IMBECILE!

And everyone will always sit near a yelling asshole. “WHAT A STUPID PENALTY!” “COACH! YOU IDIOT!” Excuse me, sir, have you ever coached college football? If not, don’t call the coach stupid, Stupid! Yeah, that’s right. I just renamed you Stupid. Deal with it. And stop cussing because there’s a little kid right in front of you! Also, quick question: Was the ref stupid for calling the penalty or was the play that caused the penalty stupid? Hmmm?

I think I’m done ranting and typing here what I wanted to say in person.
Now about the game.

Yikes. I mean a win is a win, and all, but that was a bad win. One touchdown? That’s no good. Thank God for Ruffer.

Second half was more like a Punt Fest. Ben Turk must have been getting tired.
I’m finding out it’s harder to remember a game when you didn’t watch it on TV, which is why I had my Mom record it back in Wichita for me to watch when I get home. Hoorah!

OH! When Boston College was huddled up and a player dropped and was “hurt” just to give more time for a play call....Oh. My. God. That was just low and stinking and dirty. Asshole.

Halftime was great. Chicago played “25 or 6 to 4” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” And then Jon Bon Jovi showed up! Whoa-oh! We’re halfway there! WHOA-OH! Livin’ on a prayer! Take my hand, and we’ll make it, I swear! Whoa-oh! Livin’ on a prayer!

Cool beans.

And every game has to end. Fortunately this one ended with Notre Dame up on BC 16-14. I’m done talking about the game though, because it was less than perfect.

It’s Stanford Week now. Beat the Cardinal!

After the game, we had to head to Tinley Park, IL immediately, so that was the end of my time at the University of Notre Dame du Lac....for now.

I will be back.


The University of Notre Dame du Lac: Part 2

Wake up on Friday morning, shower, get pretty, head back to campus, see it for the first time in daylight. Still beautiful.

I checked in for my 10 AM information/tour session, but it was still 9:15, so, with time to burn, I went inside the Basilica for a few minutes and walked around North Quad. I instantly recognized Zahm Hall for its stapled bed sheets hanging outside with, “GO IRISH!” written on them. (I do love the Zahmbies.)

And then it happened. I saw my first football player in person!

And of course I blanked. Oh my life!

I recognized this human, and thought, “Oh! I know who that is! It’s...it’s....oh Lord! What’s his name?! BAHHHH!” He passed me and then started talking to someone else I recognized, whose name I knew instantly, because who wouldn’t recognize Manti Te’o? BENNET JACKSON! That’s who that was! But they were talking, and I didn’t want to interrupt, so I didn’t. Regretting that now. Stupid me.

By then, it was time for me to head back to the Dome for the information session. They talked about this and that...things I’d learned a month ago when an admissions rep came to my high school, but the tour guides did not come to my school, so that was something new and exciting.

The ND students all introduced themselves, told about their activities and studies at ND, and then let us decide who we wanted to walk around with.

If it were a competition I would have won. Here’s why: I wanted to go around with someone who was in Mendoza since I want to study at Mendoza, and one of the guys was a finance major in Mendoza. Well goody! Here’s the second reason I won: he was so freaking cute, and quite the friendly human being. Win. Win. Win. (And if he goes to ND, he’s obviously smart. Win.)

So we went around campus. I got to see LaFortune Student Center (or LaFun as the students call it), Hesburgh, the tunnel of the stadium, and basically everything else on campus. It was pretty fantastic.

After the tour was over, my dad and I just walked around for a bit. We saw the Monogram Club in Joyce Center and Purcell Pavillion and went to Hammes bookstore (where I got a new shirt and hat). At that point, since we were pretty tired, we decided to go back to the hotel and reboot. After a nap and a snack, we went back to campus for the pep rally, which I absolutely loved. (Coach Diaco was looking quite handsome in his argyle sweater.) Harrison Smith and Michael Floyd gave short-but-sweet speeches, as did Coach Kelly. And as we were leaving Purcell, we saw Mike Golic, which was huge for me since I listen to his and Mike Greenburg’s radio show every single morning on the way to school.

Then came the hockey game. In the brand new, state-of-the-art Compton Family Ice Area, which smelled of roasted peanuts and kettle corn, the #4 ranked Irish took on the #3 ranked Boston College Eagles, and I got to watch. But not only that, but I got to watch from the press box, seated next to the team chaplain and just below the television announcer. No big deal. The game was goooood. Tied 2-2 at the end of the third period, which led to a five-minute overtime. The last minute of OT looked like the game would end in a tie, but then the Irish scored in the last 1.1 seconds to win. It was huge! If I were permitted to watch only one hockey game for the rest of my life, that would be the game I’d choose.

After the game, I had the opportunity to go to the interview room adjacent to the team’s locker room. The team had the bass pumping like crazy, and we just waited. Bryan Rust, who helped make the last goal, came out of the locker room, still in his under-armor and uniform pants, and answered some questions. Then Coach Jackson, and then goalie Mike Johnson. They all seemed very nice, and very down to earth. After the media session ended, though, I hung back to interview Eric Ringel. He very graciously answered my questions. All I could think was, “Wow. This is different.” Honestly, what teenager has an interviewing job, gets a press pass to sit in the box of a hockey game, and is allowed to interview a member of the team after the game? (HUGE shout out to TNNDN for giving me that job!)

After the interview, it was off to the Dome for the Midnight Drummers’ Circle. I got there 30 minutes early and got to stand around in the cold and wait, but everything is better with good company, which I had. The performance was very cool! Once again, it’s something you don’t get to see every day. Thus, my Friday came to a close. Next up was game day.

Part three to come....


The University of Notre Dame du Lac: Part 1

The trip began at 7 AM on Thursday, November 17, 2011.

From Kansas, to Misery...excuse me, Missouri...to Iowa, then Illinois, and then Domeward bound to Indiana! Some may ask, “It’s Indiana. What’s so special about it? You’re not going to NYC.” Correct you are, sir! It is nothing like New York City (or so I’m assuming, since I’ve never been to New Yawk). But Indiana houses what is now my favorite place in the world....

The University of Notre Dame du Lac.

You hear about the storied campus and its traditions, but stories are just stories until you live them. Then, they become part of you.

The Golden Dome. The Grotto (at night). The ceiling of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. The quads. Touchdown Jesus. The marching band. The football team. The stadium. The Gug. Joyce Center. A Pep Rally. A hockey game.

I’m getting ahead of myself.

After 12 hours of driving (technically 13 since we lost an hour due to the time difference), my dad and I arrived in South Bend at dark. While we were passing the University to the North, I caught a glimpse of the Dome. A glimpse of beauty and fame. A glimpse of legend and awe. A glimpse of the future I hope to have. The glimpse brought me to tears.

But it was just a glimpse.

We had to go to the hotel, check in, settle down, etc. But I had to see the campus.

A glimpse of Notre Dame : Anna :: A quick sip of wine : an alcoholic.

After some convincing my dad, he finally caved and we headed to campus.
I have one thing to say about my first impression of campus: What do you say about something that’s older than sliced bread since you can’t say it’s the best thing since sliced bread?

As we drove on campus, I saw buildings that I’d only seen in pictures. I probably sounded like an idiot in the passenger seat gasping at each one and saying, “THE GUG!” or “TOUCHDOWN JESUS! AND JOYCE CENTER!” I don’t care though. I think passion is mistaken for idiocy far too often.

We parked in the Notre Dame Stadium parking lot and walked to God Quad. When we got there, my face was completely numb*.

*Double entendre. It was 21 degrees with a biting wind, so my face was literally numb, and I was excited and couldn’t stop smiling, so it was figuratively numb.

The dome is GORGEOUS at night (see figure 1.2), but compared to the Grotto...my God, there is no comparison. Tears again. There is nothing, I repeat, nothing like the Grotto at night. The cross-campus walk in 21 degree weather was worth every minute of seeing something so breathtaking.

Figure 1.2

After that, it was back to the hotel to get some rest for the next day.

I didn’t get any rest. The hotel we stayed at was...eh. The heater was loud, and so was my dad. Three cheers for sleep apnea! In short, I had a very un-restful sleep and still feel like a zombie. That lack of rest would not, however, let my energy fail me the following day.

To be continued....