The Notre Dame Way Part 4

Before I began this post I managed to dig up some fun and interesting stuff on the band and the Irish Guard, so will be editing my last post, ND Way Part 3, accordingly. Please go back and read it again!

"Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore their names are Death, Destruction, Pestilence, and Famine. But those are aliases. Their real names are: Stuhldreher, Crowley, Miller and Layden". ~ Grantland Rice, October 1924

When last I left off, we were headed into the stadium for the game. I got a crick in my neck just looking around at the plaques of all the gridiron greats who attended or coached there. Heisman Trophy Winners such as Johnny Lattner ’53, Paul Hornung ’56, and Tim Brown ’87. NFL Hall of Famers like Joe Montana, Curly Lambeau, Dave Casper, and Nick Buoniconti. Legendary, storied coaches like Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian, Lou Holtz, Knute Rockne. And what of the 4 Horseman? This 1924 backfield remains Immortal. And their influence – indelibly stamped on every Fighting Irishman (and woman) since. My goosebumps got goosebumps. ( and that’s saying something- for someone who ISN’T a die -hard football fan)

We made our way in, and up -to our seats. The bench seats are narrow and extremely hard. Trust me, when you no longer have a “cushion” built into your tushie, you feel it – so I was grateful for some extra padding, and that my Uncle had the foresight to bring some mini cushions. I spent the next half hour or so just gawking at everything. We had nosebleed seats, but good ones – in the corner on the broadcast booth side, right across from “Touchdown Jesus”. And there we were -80,000 strong- sweltering in the early September heat. And I do mean SWELTERING. I’d made the mistake of wearing long jeans, and a lycra Fighting Irish Leprechaun top. All of which literally stuck to me like glue. I looked like a drowned rat. Our neighbors were just as sodden, but very nice – and we settled in for an enjoyable afternoon. Several private jets flew low and slow over the stadium on their way out of South Bend. Some military jets (F-16’s I think) did a fly over on ‘burner. Most impressive!

Segue to game time, first quarter, and picture this: Me, on my feet, screaming like the proverbial Irish Banshee “GET HIM”! “RUN”! “GO!” I have absolutely no idea who I was screaming to, or what I was yelling about. Those around me hid their amusement at the NKOTB well. At least, they didn’t laugh out loud at me. My only defense at this display of Irish Fever is it seemed to be the right thing to do at the time.

Sadly, our boys on the field of battle were not doing so well. This may or may not have contributed to my frenzied vocalizations (I’ll never tell!)The University of Southern Florida had come to kick ass and take names. Those boys are used to playing in the heat – and it showed. My Irish had become desperate and there began a flurry of violation calls from the refs. Off sides, helmet-grabbing, and false starting to name a few. Don’t ask me what they mean, suffice it to say things were not going well. The grumbling in the stands began. “Thats not the Notre Dame Way!’ was something I heard over and over. And then as we wound our way to halftime, the sky started getting dark, VERY dark. The grumbling in the stands became matched by the rumbling in the sky….

Sure enough, it was announced that a severe thunderstorm was on its way in, and the stadium was being evacuated (!) as a safety precaution. Notre Dame is sensitive about safety. Particularly after 2010 – a student photographer up on a standing crane lost his life (taking pictures of the team from above) when the crane toppled over in a freak wind gust. This marked the FIRST TIME EVER that the game was being delayed on account of the weather, and the first time the stadium had ever been evacuated. So there we were, all 80,000 of us, soaked to the skin between the sweat and the rain -patiently waiting to leave. It took 45 minutes, by the way. No fuss, no pushing, no cussing, no rude behavior. The Notre Dame way – INDEED.

Rather anticlimactically, we decided that we would head back to the pub to have a nice supper (Shepherd’s Pie and Guinness, anyone?) and watch the rest of the game in relative comfort. However, the game was still going on when we finished our meal, so we headed on home. The delay was significant enough that we got back before it ended, and finished watching it on TV. I forget the score (we lost) but I will NEVER forget what a great time I had. Not only did I learn to like college football, I met some amazing people on the way.

So, just what is the Notre Dame Way? Its about Courtesy and Respect, certainly. Its about giving back – to the school and the community. As shown by the famous alumni who return game after game and sign autographs for hours on end. Its not about self-promotion. In fact, the members of the Irish Guard do not talk about their accomplishments on or off the football field. Its about friendship, a sense of belonging, and family. I saw this clearly in every student’s smiling face. And on every Blue T-Shirt in the stadium that day. They made this Northeast Yankee Girl feel like part of the family -AND IT WAS AMAZING!



Links of Interest: Fighting Irish Band

Notre Dame University

Notre Dame Bookstore

The Fiddler’s Hearth

The Four Horsemen

The Notre Dame Way Part 3

What’s a football game without the Marching Band? Boring at half-time at the very least. A great marching band will get the students, alumni and the crowd all fired up for the team, throughout the game. The best of them put on a great show pre-game and at half time. The Fighting Irish Band and the Highland Guard do just that. Did you know that Notre Dame’s Marching Band is the oldest University band in the US? We got to see the band give a pre-show for their families because my Uncle knew what time and where to go. The traditional Concert on the Steps! What a treat! I even geeked out and had my picture taken with the kids. They were all charming, and gracious to a fault. (courtesy being one of the more important elements of the Notre Dame Way) The camaraderie of the crowd was amazing. EVERYBODY knew the fight song of course, and everyone was singing and swaying to all the music. Seniors in the band were introduced by name ( I think this only happens at the first home game of the season, but it was touching to watch).


We also got to see the newest Highland Guards “recruits” go through their initiation inspection – and let me tell you it was rigorous in the 90+degree heat. (You try wearing a 100% wool uniform and kilt in that heat and tell me what happens. . .). One poor guy’s legs were shaking so badly he almost collapsed. They are supposed to maintain a stoic non reactive demeanor and have their uniforms and helmets perfectly adjusted at all times. 60+ young men at least 6’2” tall may try out but only a few make it. After inspection, former members of the Guard are allowed (ENCOURAGED!) to try and make the “newbies” laugh. This was quite enjoyable as you can imagine. Unfortunately we could not get through the crowd to get pictures of the Highland Guards from the front. The picture below shows two former members doing their best to make the new guys lose their composure. The second guy in from the left is the one we thought was gonna faint. Oh and you can’t see it but the new guys’ heads are shaved. . .


Once the inspection was done, my intrepid tour guides strongly suggested we head over towards the stadium behind the engineering and metallurgy buildings to watch the band process into the stadium. We lucked out and managed to find a shady spot under an arbor to wait.

Let’s Go Irish!

And here’s my Uncle, attempting to “hide” and cool off at the same time. .

Found You!

And then. . . . it was time to head into the Stadium for the main event…… more on this later. . . .

The Notre Dame Way Part 2

When last I left off, we were arriving on campus.  I got out of the cab and walked straight into a wall of humidity.  My Uncle calls these types of days “steamers” and thats for sure what it was.  He proudly showed me around campus, and shared some stories of dorm life and college in the early 1960’s.  You’re probably thinking “Animal House” but this was and is a Catholic University- so thats a big negatory.  We grabbed hot dogs and soda from the student “tailgater” booths on the quad.  Each dorm building had its own booth.


Tailgating on the Quad

After lunch we decided to head over to the bookstore so I could get some souvenirs and all that fun stuff.  The bookstore was huge, I almost got lost several times.  In addition to academic tomes, the store had a TON of Fighting Irish Everything.   However, my day – already spectacular – was about to ping off the charts.  One of the things the University does at home games is set up for its athletic alumni to have tables in the bookstore for “meet and greets”.  These guys (because Notre Dame used to be a men’s only campus) have their books for sale and will chat you up and sign their books very happily.  My Uncle and Aunt happen to be good friends with several of them, so we stopped at that table.  Thats when I met Mr Neil Worden, ND Class of ’53.    Here’s his stats:

“Worden went to play for Notre Dame from 1950 to 1953. At Notre Dame he played under head coach Frank Leahy, who was the former line coach for the Seven Blocks of Granite. Here, Neal played Fullback behind an all pro line of Tackle Art Hunter, Center Jim Schrader, and Guard Menil Mavraides as the main blockers for Heisman Trophy winning Halfback  Johnny Lattner.[1] His Senior year, the 1953 Fighting Irish finished the season 9-0-1 and was runner up to the National Championship,[2] and had an unprecedented 12 players drafted to ’54 NFL.  Neil Worden finished his Notre Dame rushing carrier with 476 attempts for 2039 yards and 29 Touch Downs. He was selected by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1954 NFL Draft and played in the 1954 and 1957 seasons”. (source: Wikipedia)

Neil (and I’ll call him Neil because he said I could) is one of “The Forgotten Four” – whose exploits I read about when I purchased the book of the same name. (link: I managed to get Mark Hubbard who wrote the forward; as well as Neil to autograph it for me.  I also got the opportunity to use my newfangled iPhone and take a picture of us.  (reminder: I need to email this to him).  He and his wife are absolute sweethearts by the way.

Such an Honor to Meet Him!

I just love this picture   🙂

While the schmoozing was going on, there was lots of other activity happening at the booth next to us.  It was some football “great”from the mid-1970’s (I forget who they said it was).  He was “meeting and greeting” and getting his picture taken with fans every few seconds – for a fee. This guy was raking in the bucks for personal profit.  Neil and his compatriots were quick to inform me that this was NOT “the Notre Dame Way” .  A true hearted “Domer” would never do that.  IF they charge a fee for a picture or autograph then the money should go to charity.  Otherwise, autographs and pictures should be supplied for free upon purchase of their book or other item.  Neil and his friends were not too happy at this violation of the unwritten code of conduct.  Needless to say, I steered clear.

We then strolled over to the other side of campus to see some of the other sights:


We hadn’t even been close to the stadium yet, but the day was still young.  More to come next post.

The Notre Dame Way Part 1

I was recently fortunate enough to spend a long Labor Day weekend with my aunt and uncle in Indiana, and attend my very first college football game. A biggie, like tremendous even…. First game of the season in South Bend with the Fighting Irish! My uncle’s an alum- class of ’64, and got the tickets via the university’s lottery system. I had the choice of going to the game, or attending ReggaeFest 2011 on the beach the same day. Kind of a no brainer, even for someone like me who’s not a huge football fan. Let’s Go Irish!
People travel to the game in style

We took a regular vehicle though, lol. My aunt and uncle have a system when they go to a game. They park in downtown South Bend across from their favorite Irish pub, the Fiddler’s Hearth,</

20120124-192221.jpg. Our cab driver was the usual Midwest-friendly, pointing out places of interest along the way. The house pictured above recently sold for over 750K. Its the most expensive piece of real estate in the country by square foot, and is directly across from the campus main entrance.
And then, up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light 😉 – it was the Dome. I knew this was gonna be fun!

20120124-192552.jpg. Will post more on this tomorrow. Are you a football fan? Do you like to travel? Let me know!