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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cross Notre Dame Stadium Off the Bucket List

So, with my hectic schedule, I only have time to blog about really life-changing events – like Jake choosing Vienna or my giraffe obsession. Well, this installment features a monumental event. I was recently able to attend a Notre Dame football game and even better, the opponent was the Utah Utes.

It all began with my friend and college roommate, Tracey, who is to Ute football what Gino is to the Boston Celtics. She is the ultimate fan, and along with her husband, they were making the pilgrimage to South Bend following the Utes. Fortunately, this journey took them through Chicago and allowed us to have a night out on the town the Friday before kick-off.

We were heading downtown for dinner and I picked them up around 6. Now the time is important to note because those Chicagoland natives will realize we were heading directly into rush hour traffic. Apparently, I-15 from SLC to West Jordan doesn’t back up like the Eisenhower. I kept reassuring Tracy and Scott that traffic would be opening up just around the bend. For you locals, we were at the Manheim exchange and I thought it would get a little better once we got passed the SuperTarget. Unfortunately, we didn’t pick up to 35 mph until Rush Hospital.

At dinner (Pizano’s), Scott asked me why I wasn’t going to the game with them. I explained that I had looked into buying a ticket on stubhub but they were super expensive. So, Scott went to work texting the football coaches to see if he could track down a ticket. One of the coaches got back to him and said he wouldn’t know until the morning. We had a great night reliving the glory days of Stadium Way #47 over deep dish pizza and capped the night off with cake shakes from Portillo’s.

More on this later, but Scott is basically a Genie – he makes all your wishes come true. Case in point, my phone rings at 9 am on Saturday morning and Tracey tells me to get my red on and start driving to South Bend. So, I got dressed, looked in the mirror and realized that while my Donna Karan sweater with the fur collar was fabulous, I would be a mere mortal at this event and actually sitting outside instead of in a press box. I changed into a hoodie and hit the road.

Once I got to South Bend, there were sooooo many people trying to make their way to the game. I just pulled into the first parking lot I came to, paid my $20 and called Tracey. They were in line at will call and it turns out everyone in the party needed to be present to pick up the tickets. I took off as fast as I could and headed towards campus. Tracey was checking my progress and let me know they were at the front of the line letting other people go ahead.

At this point, I put my cell phone in my back pocket and took off running towards the band music. I ran through tailgate parties and right into a concert on the quad that the marching band was playing. At this point, I asked some guy wearing a gold wig and green face paint to point me towards the stadium. . . . I figured he would know. I resumed my sprint knocking several small children over in my wake. When I finally made it to will-call, there was Tracy in all her fabulousness. Decked out in Utah bling and a red cowboy hat complete with red fringe. Scott was busy selling his University of Utah hat to a fan for $30. See, you need a hat, for $30 all your dreams come true. Genie.

Then we entered the cathedral that is Notre Dame Stadium. It really is quite humbling to be in such a historic venue. The only thing literally putting a damper on the game was the rain. But Tracey provided me with this outerwear known as a rain poncho. It’s basically a garbage sack with sleeves and a hood. This was my first experience wearing biodegradable polythene film, but it was crucial. So, crucial in fact that Scott provided the Ute fans behind us a couple ponchos to help them stay dry. Genie.

A few highlights from the game: There was an F-14 flyover after the national anthem. The Notre Dame marching band is spectacular as they should be with 165 years of practice. They are known as college’s first marching band. I loved seeing the Utes take the field and watching all the former SUU coaches and players, who now work for Utah, in action.

Our seats were in the corner endzone facing Touchdown Jesus. As Utah would drive towards us, Tracey would yell, “You can do it Utes, Jesus is behind you.” It was hilarious. Also, Tracey is like the Wikipedia of Utah football. She would point out different players to me and give me their stats, injury status, and eHarmony report. I know exactly which football players are taken and who is on the market as well as how many yards rushing they average.

I didn’t have time for breakfast before hitting the road for the game. So, by the third quarter, I was getting hungry. No worries though, next thing I know, Scott has the fans behind us heading down to the concession stand for a couple game day brats. Genie. It was a rough game for the Utes, after taking a 3-0 lead, several false start penalties kind of knocked the wind out of them. Speaking of wind, the rain and wind kept up the majority of the game until about four minutes left in the fourth when we caught a glimpse of the sun.

Unfortunately, the day ended in a Ute loss as the Irish took home a 28-3 victory. We made our way down a maze of ramps and prepared for the long, cold walk back to our cars. And after a day sitting in that rain that chills your soul, the hike to the cars was going to be a frigid one. But next thing I know, Scott is handing me a mug of hot chocolate. Genie. Tickets, food, and drink. My three wishes were complete and it was time to say goodbye. And this is where my adventure begins.

So, when I entered the stadium it was daylight and when I left it was dark. Due to the mad dash to the stadium, I was pretty unaware of my surroundings. Basically, I was completely disoriented at this point. But I decided to just follow the crowds because the chances were that someone had parked in the same place I did. Well we eventually came upon a parking lot, however, it was not my parking lot. Fortunately, I had glanced at the ticket they gave me for my dash when I parked, so I knew I was parked in White Field. I hunted down a security guard in the current parking lot and asked for directions. He got out of his golf cart, put both hands on my shoulders and said, “Oh, honey.”

Turns out, I had walked about two miles in the wrong direction. He said, “Go back down to the intersection and that should be Holy Cross. Take Holy Cross until you come to Juniper Street and take a right. Keep going through campus until you come to St. Mary’s path. Follow St. Mary’s till you come to a fork and take the path that leads you through the trees. Stay on that path until you get to the street and then head towards the credit union. White field is behind the credit union.” Wowza. Then he patted me on the back and said, “Good luck,” as if I was Frodo embarking on a quest to find a lost ring.

At this point the crowds were thinning out. And let me just tell you that with all that Gothic architecture, Notre Dame is pretty freaky in the dark. It has a very priests-come-out-at-night feel. St. Mary’s path through the trees could be a future location for a Criminal Minds episode. I did make it to the road and luckily there was a policeman there directing traffic who got me to the right place. I’ve never been so happy so see Marcus Murano in my life! The best thing about my great Notre Dame Adventure was that by the time I got to my car, traffic had dispersed considerably.

All in all, it was an amazing weekend. It meant so much to me to get to catch up with Tracey. She is amazing and thanks to facebook we are reconnected. It was so thoughtful of Tracey and Scott to help get me the ticket. It was fantastic of Jeff Rudy, former SUU T-Bird football star, to add me to the coaches’ pass list. But that’s how it is with Thunderbirds – we stick together.