Sunday, September 25, 2005

A Chill In the Air

So despite my grand dislike of cold weather, I actually do kinda like the first couple of nights that end with a slight chill to them. The sign that fall is approaching. This can only mean one thing...

Football season. More specifically, college football.

One of the things near the top of my "Things to do before I die" list, is to visit some of the major college football stadiums. Places like Notre Dame stadium ( checkmark, as you'll read ), The Swamp in Florida, The Rose Bowl, Happy Valley ( checkmark, perhaps another post ), Oklahoma's stadium, etc.

Two years ago, Will and I made the trek down to South Bend for a game. Before I get into how cool that weekend was, I would first like to say that I used to hate Notre Dame. They were just too good. They would never lose when I started following college football in the 80's. That's why I really don't like the University of Miami's team, or like any of the state of Florida schools for that matter. Same goes for Duke basketball, just can't stand 'em. But it's not a bad thing, I'm just happy when they lose. So I disliked Notre Dame. And then I went there a couple of years back for work. I used to help a guy who would work with athletes, and make them faster. We worked with a couple of ND football players. I took ONE step on that campus, and was an INSTANT convert. From that moment on, I became the biggest ND fan.

So forward on to the season of our trip. Brock and Anthony ( the two ND athletes we worked with ) share the same agent. I was able to get in touch with him to secure what I thought was going to be 4 (four) tickets for the ND/USC game. At this point I called another friend and huge ND fan, Chris, to invite him to go with us. So now, you've got myself, Will, and Chris. Now all we need are two things; another person to go with, and a place to stay.

So we call up our friend Lee. I've previously mentioned him as "Sky Dork", well, because he's a pilot. Since South Bend is a small town, hotel rooms are quite difficult to come by, especially when there's a football game. But here's the beauty of the phrase "It's not what you know in life, but who you know." Lee pointed out that hotels HAVE to reserve rooms ahead of time for incoming pilots. And it just so happened, that his airline flies to South Bend. So, in exchange for a ticket, he re-worked his schedule to fly into South Bend that morning, and fly out the next day. It's like the whole trip was meant to be.

That is, until a week before the trip. At this point, I'm only sitting on two (2) tickets. You might remember, I was promised four (4) tickets. After a few phone calls and emails, I'm told that I'm only getting two tickets, and I should be happy I got those. Ut-oh. As Will said on the phone when I called him about it, "Lee and Chris aren't going to be happy."

And I'm sure they weren't, but they didn't show it. Chris still wanted to go down to South Bend with us, just for the atmosphere, and Lee couldn't change his flight at that time, so away we went. Lee lived in Chicago at the time, so we spent Friday night by him, and took him to the airport early Saturday morning. The ND/USC game was a late afternoon game, so we knew we'd have plenty of time to get there and look around.

We actually got to park pretty close to campus, and Will, Chris, and I wandered around the campus for a few hours before the game. Wow. The leaves were turning fantastic colors, students playing catch on the yards that surrounded the dorms, bar-b-ques everywhere. The band plays all sorts of songs on the front steps of an academic building before every game. It was awesome. I don't know how any recruit of ND does NOT sign with them.

So it gets to be game time, and a sad, puppy faced Chris has to walk off campus to the bar that he's going to meet Lee and his crew at. They went to 'Corby's', which is where the bar scene in "Rudy" was filmed. As we walked into the stadium, the older gentleman that took my ticket extended his hand for a handshake, and said "Welcome to Notre Dame". How cool is that? A personable greeting upon walking into the stadium. Our seats were in the endzone opposite of 'Touchdown Jesus', but the view is not what it used to be, due to stadium expansion.

I'd also like to point out, that it's sometime in October, and it was in the 70's for temperature. Couldn't be any more perfect. At least until just before kickoff. The Golden Knights, a unit in the Army, parachuted the game ball INTO the stadium. They jumped out of their plane, and were so high, you couldn't tell it was a person. Very cool start to the game. As for the actual game, the first quarter saw ND and USC trade touchdowns back and forth to the tune of 21-14 USC lead at the end of the FIRST quarter. It didn't get any better for ND, and USC went on to romp their way to victory. I believe the final score ended up being 40-20. Will and I actually wanted so see a bit more of the campus, and knowing we had a ways to go to Corby's, we left with about five minutes left in the ballgame.

The campus was EMPTY. Quite an opposite look from just a few hours earlier. And as we're walking around, we spot two students walking, and asked them if they could tell us a few good bars to go to. We explained that we were from out of town ( obviously ), and were looking for the 'cool' places to go.

Student - "Oh, you're from out of town? Cool. Hey, wanna have a beer with us here?"
Me and Will - "Uhhhhh, YES. Yes we do."
So we walked over to a parking lot, where there was a truck with a few coolers of beer in the bed. We hung out and talked to them and a few of their passing friends as the game let out. After a while ( and a few unanswered calls from Chris and Lee wondering where we were ), one of the students introduced us to a grandparent. Upon learning that we were from out of town, the grandmother reaches in the truck, and pulls out a tupperware box FULL of pizza, and offers it to us. How cool is this? Drinking beer on ND's campus, and an old lady just offered us pizza!!!! I love this place!!

After that we made our way over to Corby's, to find Chris, and the non-pilot portion of Lee's crew pretty drunk at this point. So we had a great time at Corby's until it was time for Lee and his crew to go back to the hotel. Lee's been playing babysitter to the flight attendant the whole time, so I think he's kinda happy to be calling it a night. Will and I are going to be going back out after taking them to the hotel, but for reasons still unknown to this day, Chris decides to get out of the car, and stay at the hotel.

Will and I ended up closing out Corby's. Bar time in Indiana is a little later than here in Wisconsin, and we had a great time. We met a few of the Golden Knights that had parachuted on in earlier in the day. Very cool guys. Actually, everyone there was really cool. It just seemed too perfect, but in a good way.

Much to Lee's dismay, the bar closed, and we came back to the hotel like two bulls in a china shop. Did I mention we'd been drinking or at a bar since about 5PM?

Me (in what I thought was a whisper) - "Shhhhhh. Lee's sleeping!"
Will (in what he thought was a whisper) - "I AM being quiet, you're the one that's gonna wake him up!!!
Me ( still not whispering ) - "Don't slam the door!! It'll wake him up!!
Will ( still not whispering ) - "Dude! I thought you closed the door!!!
Lee ( in so NOT a whisper ) - "Oh MY GOD guys, I'm awake already!"

We then felt the need to tell him everything that happened while we were out at the bar. Now, he's a good enough friend, that I know deep down, he was interested. Just not at 3:30 in the morning, when he had to be up at 5 to leave for the airport. It also didn't help that Will and I were going to sleep on the floor, and Will sometimes snores. VERY LOUDLY. Lee said later that he had yelled at Will at almost the top of his lungs to try to wake him up and stop the snoring, and we didn't even flinch. We didn't even roll over when he threw pillows and a comb at us. I don't see what the fuss was all about. He said those planes practically fly themselves anyway. ( I have alot of respect for pilots, but I like to make fun of the one I know personally )

Sunday started with Chris loudly knocking on the door at nine am to wake us up because he wanted to go to the College Football Hall of Fame. We found out the hard way that it's closed on Sundays. That was the ONLY thing that went wrong that entire weekend. I couldn't believe it. If you would have told me before I went, that all those things would happen, and I would have one of the best weekends ever, I wouldn't have believed you.

And understand, that even though this is the longest post I've ever had, the weekend was even better than what I've described here, if you can imagine that is possible. I cannot imagine going to any other college, and having that magical of a time. Even the Penn State weekend, as cool as it was, just wasn't as magical of a place. Sometime I'll have to tell you at least what I can remember from that weekend. I'll get some pictures from the ND weekend up on the web, and give you a chance to see them. GO IRISH! GO BADGERS! And GO ANYONE playing against Miami!!


At 3:53 PM, Blogger Will said...

The Greatest Trip Ever.


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