ND is all it’s hyped up to be and more

I swear it was a scene out of a movie.

South Bend, Ind. Population 108,000.

Getting off the freeway in South Bend, you enter this fantasy world where everything revolves around college football.

Now, I knew Notre Dame was supposed to be one of the best places to visit in college football and, by all accounts, a true sight to see — even a mecca for the sport, if you will.

But this? I could’ve never imagined it.

A short 90-minute drive from Downtown Chicago takes you across a time zone and into another world. You take the Interstate 90 from Downtown, paying about seven bucks in tolls along the way, and suddenly, just off Exit 77, you encounter a line of cars stretching to — you later find out — Notre Dame Stadium.

I’m pretty sure every car I saw had some type of Notre Dame insignia on it.

And in the midst of that line-of-all-lines, you slowly drive through a couple streets, some with suburban houses bordering them on each side. There’s another college, a high school. They look nice.

You’re at least a mile and a half away from the field, but scores of people stroll the sidewalks on each end.

And the trees. The trees look like they were Photoshopped to be perfect colors — blends of orange, red and brown sticking out in my mind.

You know that Brett Favre commercial for Wrangler that seems totally unrealistic, where they play in a huge grass field and look all happy? Take out Favre and substitute another Notre Dame fan, and I witnessed it. People toss the football around in almost every driveway or yard.

Then there’s the stadium.

Touchdown Jesus is certainly a sight to see, and the Golden Dome is beautiful. But the biggest thing to me was the manner in which I — a visitor — was treated on the Notre Dame campus.

I’ve never felt more welcomed in my life.

I must have heard the words “Welcome to Notre Dame,” at least 30 times from ushers and elevator staff to random old guys on the sideline and the woman serving the broccoli and cheddar soup — when I asked her if I should pick the cheesy concoction or the “Texas Chili,” she told me the soup was so good it would make me want to slap my mom.

So there’s a rivalry between USC and Notre Dame, but, as I discovered firsthand this weekend, it’s not the same rivalry we’ve grown accustomed to. There’s true mutual respect between the two teams.

USC has a rivalry with UCLA. I’d say Cal, too. We don’t like them and they don’t like us.

It’s different with the Fighting Irish.

There was one key moment that demonstrated this to me.

I spent the majority of the game standing on the Notre Dame sideline, around the 20-yard line. There were four or five guys around me that seemed to be huge Irish fans, truly devastated when McKnight ran the ball in to make the score 34-14 in the beginning of the fourth quarter. But even as their spirit seemed to die out, they kept watching.

And then, as you know, the Irish made a dramatic late-game comeback. With nine seconds left, it almost looked like they could win.

The guys were excited, of course, albeit nervous. During the review of the would-be final play of the game, they were confident that they would get another chance.

They did, of course. And I’m sure that those guys thought Notre Dame would pull it out, beat USC for the first time in eight years, and get to celebrate.

But the telling thing was what happened when junior quarterback Jimmy Clausen’s throw fell incomplete and the Trojans rushed the field, celebrating victory.

The guys clapped.

Even in a time of pure devastation, they supported their school with pride and class.

Now, certain things in life are hyped up to be a lot more meaningful than they actually are.

But there are a few that exceed the hype, those select few events that surpass your own already-inflated expectations.

And South Bend was definitely one of the latter.

Color me impressed, Golden Domers.

“Looking Past the X’s & O’s” runs Wednesdays. To comment on this article, visit dailytrojan.com or email Pedro at pmoura@usc.edu.

20 replies
  1. laves
    laves says:

    I am an undergrad Domer, and as soon as I graduated I headed to USC to study film. Though you’re only 19 once, I do respect and love USC. If we didn’t play them, I don’t think I would have even gone and checked them out. I’m so glad I did. It is a fabulous school.

    I made an amateur DVD of the weekend (50 mins). It shows the Golden Dome, the Basilica, Fair Catch Corby, the Grotto, the band concert in Front of Bond Hall (Fight Song, Alma Mater), the players marching to the Stadium after Mass (Golden Tate, Jimmy Clausen), warmups, the pregame Band Concert (USC and ND), America the Beautiful, The National Anthem, the ball brought by Army paratroopers (Special Opps) during the National Anthem, the runout of the teams. Then the game, shot from the 50 yard line, just the highlights, Half time show by ND band, that last push, the last play (last 54 secs, it was close, 34-27), The Alma Mater, The Fight Song, and then the all important USC cheerleader show (15 Min. Most ND fans never even know it happens).

    If you go to http://www.ebooks2die4.com (600 to chose from) and buy a $2 book (paypal only) and leave me a message and I’ll send you the DVD. My pleasure. Copying allowed, but please no publishing.

    Also, I guess you all know that the ND USC game is in Godfather II.

    Thanks for telling me where Knute Rockne is buried. I’ll put it on my tour next time.

  2. Connor
    Connor says:

    I’m an ND grad and want to thank you for this article. I love the USC game – I’m consistently impressed every two years by the number and enthusiasm of the incoming ‘SC fans. That’s a lot of dedication to fly halfway across the country for a football game!

    If you’re in for the game in 2011, and can make it out even earlier, I recommend visiting the gravesite of Knute Rockne out at Highland Cemetary. A group meets every year before the USC game (8am, I believe) to pay a tribute to the coach and hopefully wake up some echoes and shake down a little thunder.

    Glad you had a good experience. Good luck on the season.

  3. Rick Wasoski
    Rick Wasoski says:

    Thanks for the great article. I am an usher of 27 years. (no old man though, 48) This game is our game of the year. I look forward to it like my kids look forward to Christmas. SC fans are a class act. No one ever gives us grief, just respect. It makes it easy to welcome them. Boston College fans on the other hand. I need not say any more. I am not a huge fan of SC, my dedication is to ND, but I am a bigger fan every time they come to town. Good Luck with the rest of your season. “GO IRISH”

  4. steve
    steve says:

    As a Notre Dame Usher I love to hear how we helped make the experience more memorable for every fan, home & visitors alike. I can tell you that I take great pride in making people feel welcome & important to the university & I genuinely hope everybody has a great time at each & every home game & comes away as in love with the experience as I am. That passion for the experience is what drove me to want to dedicate my Fall Saturdays to Notre Dame football & donning the gold cap & jacket, taking tickets & saying “Welcome to Notre Dame!”

    Side note in response to an above comment – I’m hardly an “old man” usher at age 35. Go Irish!

  5. AMT
    AMT says:

    Well, this Domer is all verklempt now. Thanks for your kind (and true) words! We pride ourselves on showing visitors, no matter whom, a great time. We welcome you back anytime. GO IRISH!

  6. Mike
    Mike says:

    Thank you for writing this article. As a double-domer I swell with pride knowing that visitors, even rivals, experience the same larger-than-life saturdays as Irish fans. Best of luck on the rest of the season.

  7. Mark White
    Mark White says:

    Enjoyed reading the article. Glad the gentleman had a great experience. I may have to make the trip up there sometime with my big ND friend Jim Oppman. Roll Tide!

  8. john meaney
    john meaney says:

    Very well-written and accurate article. My multiple gameday experiences at ND have all been indelibly memorable and pleasurable. I’ve heard similar reactions from fans and writers from many other universities. ND people are indeed classy and treat visitors extremely well. You don’t always get that welcoming feeling everywhere else… Plus the campus in late October will knock your socks off, it’s so beautiful.

  9. slowleftarm
    slowleftarm says:

    As a recent graduate, allow me to say that South Bend may be a pleasant place to visit the 7 days a year it hosts a college football game but it’s not so great the other 358 where it’s a symbol of rust belt decay. Drive in from Chicago in February when it’s 5 degrees out, it’s snowed for 10 straight days and the roads still haven’t been plowed and tell me how awesome South Bend is then.

  10. Lisa Sheller
    Lisa Sheller says:

    My kids have gone to both schools and although USC fans are not unfriendly, they’re not welcoming either. I LOVE all the old men ushers who keep saying “Welcome to Notre Dame”. There is mutual respect between the two schools but Notre Dame wins in the friendliness department!
    PS I was at the Ohio State game this year in my USC t shirt and altho one person cussed me out as I walked by them, another congratulated me on the USC victory as I walked out of the stadium.

  11. Mrgigs11
    Mrgigs11 says:

    Great article. I made the trip myself with 2 other guys from Buena Park, CA . WE meet up with 5 other guys for a tailgate party. The entire Notre Dame experience is unbelievable. THE BAND, When the Band roared by me the first time, if felt like a runaway fright train. I got choked up, and my buddy was crying. If you love Collage Football, like my crew and I do, Notre Dame HAS to be on your Bucket List.

  12. Kevin
    Kevin says:

    Great article… As an ND student, it is great to hear feedback like this. We try to be intimidating and welcoming all at the same time. Look forward to our visit to y’all’s home turf next year!

  13. Deirdre Wilson
    Deirdre Wilson says:

    Thanks for this GREAT article. I am a lucky ND alumnae who had the privilege of spending the weekend with amazing ND friends of 25 years and watching a fabulous game. Your sincerity and appreciation of the experience is admirable. Thank you for keeping an open mind and good luck with your writing career!

  14. MG
    MG says:

    There’s a university that could learn a thing or two about class from Notre Dame and their initials are UCLA. It was a great game this year unlike the past few years; almost gave me a heart attack, but it was fun to watch. I hope to visit their stadium one day.

  15. HD
    HD says:

    I agree that for the most part Notre Dame fans are a very classy bunch.

    I had great conversations with their fans before and after the game (which says a lot after a loss).

    I had to comment on the Ohio State fans though. I was also honored to attend this game, but had a terrible experience.

    I could not walk 15 feet without hearing an insult or comment about our team or our school. I did not take it personally but I would say what makes the difference in a team’s treatment of other fans is a two main factors.

    The first is the overall culture of the fan base. This can range from a party atmosphere where the other fans are strictly enemies, to a fan base where the game is an experience and an opportunity to meet great new friends (I would say we are the later but like to party hard as well).

    I think the second is what kind of rivalries your school has had. If you are a school who has rivals that you constantly mingle with, such as ND whose fan base travels really well, or USC and UCLA who is in close proximity to other schools and fans you tend to be not as intense. If the school is far from its rivals, and there tends to be a monopoly of fans in their area I would say that lends to a more harsh fan base since they don’t interact with other fans as often (ex: the state of Ohio and Ohio State being the end all team there for college football).

    I have always touted out fans as being very nice, and although some of our fans are not, we should work toward being noted as the best fans in the land. What all of us can do is be models of this in our own right and tell those obnoxious fans to cut it out and be courteous to all other fans!

  16. Rich
    Rich says:

    Yes, it’s true, ND people do live up to the hype. I’m a ND grad.

    My youngest son, Joe, graduated from USC in May of this year. It’s also true that USC people live up to the hype. I have become a fan of both schools.

    While attending a game at USC his freshman year, I walled through the tailgate lots while wearing my ND hat. I was welcomed by USC fans to food, drink and many great stories. I was truly impressed.

    Clapping in the Midwest for both teams.


  17. Phil
    Phil says:

    Nice article. I actually experienced the same thing when I went up to Ohio State. I guess the people in the midwest were brought up in a better way.

    • Rich
      Rich says:

      i ran into some pretty rude people at Ohio st all weekend. I got the feeling they didnt like us at all. I felt the people at the Auburn game were more welcoming…AFTER the game.

Comments are closed.