Emphasis on the "We Are" part, because if you're a Notre Dame Fighting Irish fan, you're in a family.
I was definitely made to feel that way when I got to Notre Dame. Allow me to regale you with the tale of the greatest night of my holiday.
South Bend isn't normally the place you got out of your way to visit. I was there for the sole purpose of watching Notre Dame Football. Prior to the trip, I had been in Chicago for two days dining on the local delicacies and sampling the beers as I planned my trip to South Bend. I had found a train that would take me from Chi-town to South Bend for a few sheckles (who am I?) so I jump and got on board.
It was unsure of my plan of attack once I got to SB, as it is in all it's glory a small mid-western town with a college there. I figured naively that I'd got there and have a drink in a bar for a few hours, walk around the tailgate, watch the game and find a place to sleep or catch the last train home. Simple and Boring.
On the train there was a group of youths also heading to SB who were joyfully getting into the gameday spirit, playing the Fighting Irish fight song from a fanny pack and drinking copiously from disguised soda vessels. So when I got off the train without the faintest idea of where to go, naturally I had to ask these guys and gals where to party!
Cue the awkward "Hi I'm from Australia alone looking for a place to pre-game, have you got any tips?". After a moment of disbelief of actually having an Australian here to watch football, I was graciously offered to tailgate with the crew and introduced to Elise, her husband Dan, Annie, Sulli, Kosey, K-mart, Natalie, and her bf Joel; later to be joined by Badger and Nick-Dawg who's father Lou wasn't Lou Holtz (UND Coaching legend), much to my chagrin. All University of Notre Dame Grads (one from St. Mary's) and some of the coolest people ever. We piled into a cab, blasted some tunes from the Jammy Pack (K-mart's nickname for his music playing fanny pack), drank some liquor and got acquainted.
Arrive on campus and start the tail gate. The concept of a tailgate was completely foreign to me, allow me to paint a picture. Take a group of people; pack a picnic with extra food, a grill, meat and lots of alcohol; arrive at the carpark and set up a BBQ area; eat and drink; talk shit about the opposition; play cornhole; all while being very hospitable to strangers by offering them free beer and food. Crazy right?! It's a family affair; everyone comes to party. My hosts were adamant that it is the best part of gameday! That was my afternoon in between entertaining audiences with my accent and explaining why I was in South Bend. Trust me it could of been worst, I loved every minute of it.
I was given a tour of the campus by the crew, who show me their old dorms and told me about how they all became friends, making me wish that I went to Notre Dame too. It's not hard to get caught up in the magic of it all, from the large lawns in the North and South Quads to the mural of Touchdown Jesus reflecting off the water feature adjacent to the library entrance.
Gametime! Fostering a nice buzz provided by the tailgate, we broke up and found our seats, I made a beeline for the merch stand and colored up ND style, if you gotta cheer, do it in style right?
The stadium is something else. 81,000 fans packing out the house and on their feet for 3 hours cheer on the home team and intimidating the opponents. At this point I should say, we were versing the University of Michigan and their cocky QB #16 Denard Robinson. During the pre-game the talk was all about stopping #16 being the key to victory. We did it. ND #5 on the defense, Manti Teo came up big despite having a horrow week (grandmother and girlfriend dying in same week) to win us the game. In that stadium, in that moment, I felt at home. The atmosphere was like no other, without doubt the greatest sporting experience I've ever been apart of. To see the joy, relief, and drunkeness on the face of my new friends was priceless. This game had meant so much to them because UM has had the monkey over ND for the last 3 years.
After the game we partied, danced and shot beer pong in a college apartment (like I really went to ND!). I was being introduced as "the stranger we met on the train", I didn't mind at all.
The party was over, and a limo was organised to take us back to Chicago (I know right? We be ballin'!). Dranks be flowing in the limo all the way back to the Chi.
As I told the other American guys at the hostel my ND experience, they couldn't believe how lucky I was to meet such great people to spendmy game day with. Trust me I know it. See you guys next year?
Of course, photos (I didn't take too many cos i spilt some beer on camera and didn't want to get it dirtier):
I'm really behind on posts I might do Chicago and LA recap together when I get back to Melbourne.