I recently got to cross an item off my sports bucket list, as I was able to able to attend a Notre Dame home football game. It was everything I thought it would be and more.
For reasons I can’t really remember, I’ve always been a huge Notre Dame fan. Yes, yes, I root for the Hogs, and the Bears, and now the Warriors. And I also root for every other instate college, but my favorite team has always been the Fighting Irish.
We flew into Chicago on Friday and took the South Shore Line into South Bend on Saturday morning.
It’s a two-and-ahalf hour train ride that makes more than a dozen stops picking up Irish fans along the way. The train ride revealed a part of South Bend that looked just what you would think an aging Midwestern city would look like. But the campus was absolutely breathtaking.
A friend who is an alum gave us some tips on what to be sure to see and do, including of course the Golden Dome, Basilica and campus bookstore. Also recommended were the pregame steak sandwiches sold by the Knights of Columbus, which were fabulous.
It was a day game, which is the way Notre Dame football is supposed to be played. It started off overcast with a little light rain, but it soon became sunny, breezy and cool.
As I walked up the tunnel and saw the field, I had my I had my Ned Beaty moment from "Rudy," when he came into the stadium the first time to watch his son play and said, "this is the most beautiful sight these eyes have ever seen."
Notre Dame Stadium is old, but that is a big part of the allure.
It was completed in 1930, in time for Knute Rocke to win his final national championship before dying in a plane crash that next spring.
Parts of it look and feel and flow like Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium, which opened in 1948. Notre Dame completed a major renovation in 1997, including an upper deck. Touchdown Jesus is now partly obscured, but you can still see him from many areas of the stadium.
The restrooms in our area had the old-style trough urinals, reminiscent of the men’s room at the late, great Ray Winder Field.
The stadium holds 80,000, and I did not see an empty seat until the game got out of hand after halftime, as the Irish beat Nevada 39-10.
Jon Bon Jovi was at the game to watch his son, who plays for the Irish. In the fourth quarter, probably not coincidentally, the Notre Dame band played "Living on a Prayer."
It was a trip I’ll never forget. Now if I can just score some tickets to a Packer game at Lambeau Field.
(Guest columnist David Grimes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)