Okay. Enough with the metaphorical sci-fi posts. Let’s take a break from the “Irish” bashing for a day. Tomorrow is a national holiday, after all …
The fact is, despite all the fun and games we have here, I have much respect for Notre Dame football. One of the best experiences I’ve ever had as a USC alum and college football fan happened in South Bend. No, it wasn’t last year’s epic game … long grass … fourth and nine … Bush Push. Sure, that was a classic. And for anyone who was there, it was a special privilege.
But the most fun I’ve ever had at a USC away game happened not one, but three years ago during my first trip to Notre Dame Stadium. I’ve been to our Rose Bowls and Orange Bowls. I’ve been to USC games all over the Pac-10. I’ve been to the Yale Bowl and other “historic” venues, too. And, of course, the Los Angeles Coliseum is our home and No. 1 in my heart by any criteria. But, something about Notre Dame Stadium is special, and as a Trojan, I have no problem saying so.
A lot has happened since the 2003 season. USC has won two national championships, two Heisman Trophies, and 41 games, to rattle off the obvious. But for USC fans without pre-ordained tickets to away games, perhaps the most important thing that’s happened is the increasing rarity of available tickets on site.
My buddy and I found this out three years ago. Like a lot of fans, we’d gone to many games without tickets, walked around the stadium with two fingers up, and found someone willing to unload a pair together. Simple and easy. In South Bend in ’03 … not so much.
With about 30-minutes before kick-off, when most available tickets usually start to emerge from scalpers, we were panicked to find ourselves wandering outside the stadium amongst what seemed like hundreds of other people with fingers in the air.
Luckily, we had a tailgating friend with mixed loyalties who happened to have a block of ND season tickets with him. He suggested that since the design on the tickets for each game looked very similar, maybe we could get in using two of his ND-Florida State tickets by passing them off as a pair for USC. “What?” I thought. But we were desperate, so we gave it a shot.
Sure enough, it worked … sort of. As we walked up to the gate, clad in our full USC game day gear (that is sweatshirts and hats, no face paint), we were met with a smile by a very nice man who looked like he’d come straight from the set of a Bartles & Jaymes commercial from back in the day.
“Welcome to South Bend!” he said, as he glanced at our Florida State tickets and let us through the turnstile. “You guys are wearing the wrong colors,” he added with a grin. “It’s gonna be a great game, don’t you think?” We nodded and smiled and walked on through.
Maybe it was our stress and panic that was just released as we strolled in, maybe it was guilt for having duped such a nice man, but at that moment, as we made our way in to view the field, a tremendous sense of “right with the world” warmth came over us. There was a sense of history and tradition and a kind of pageantry with purpose that was something to be appreciated. It was indeed the perfect place for a college football game, and my buddy and I understood. The clear sunny skies and temperature in the high 60s didn’t hurt either.
Our seats were great, too. On the five-yard line across from the press box about 10 rows up. So, we sat down to enjoy the game … until the people who were supposed to sit in our seats showed up. “Doh!” (Why didn’t our friend who gave us the FSU tickets not have corresponding USC tickets with the same seats? Why the hell didn’t we try to sit somewhere else, thinking that somebody, somewhere laid claim to the seats? I don’t know.)
We tried to play dumb with the usher, who had to look at our tickets three times for 10 seconds before he read “Florida State” on them. He took us back to the gate and kicked us out, but not before apologizing to us: “I’m really sorry about this, guys. These tickets are kind of confusing, huh? Have a great day!”
At this point, we were sunk and obviously more desperate than before. Still, I felt the glow of South Bend in my heart, and I had a sense that something good could still come out of the day. So, my buddy and I came up with another plan.
Faking as if our "wives" required us to leave the stadium to fetch something very, very important from the car, we scouted out the ticket takers and targeted the oldest, kindest looking man we could find. We went up to him, five minutes before game time, and said something like:
“We’re very, very sorry but we already went to our seats but my wife made us go back to the car to get something very, very important for her and we forgot our tickets with our wives at our seats and we know there are rules about re-entry into the stadium and all but we made a mistake. Is there any way you can let us back in? We came all this way and like we said we have tickets …”
To this, the kind, old ticket taker said: “Oh, you know I’m not supposed to do this, but you look like nice young men. Enjoy the game fellas. Welcome to Notre Dame!”
(Really, this is a true story.) So, my buddy and I went back into the stadium. But this time, having learned our lesson, we headed to the newer, upper part of the stands with less-defined bleacher seating. And, we did indeed enjoy the game …
It was a 45-14 route that included four TDs and 351 yards passing from Matt Leinart, scoring catches from Mike Williams and Keary Colbert, and one of the first displays of greatness by Reggie Bush, who ran for a scorching, ankle-breaking 58-yard touchown.
It was great fun, meeting my buddy in South Bend to see our Trojans trounce ND in the shadow of Touchdown Jesus. Thanks to some quick thinking, a little bit of chicanery (albeit borne out of desperation), and the warm kind hearts of some nice old ticket takers, we were able to enjoy it all. We remain indebted to the Football Gods and with much respect for South Bend and Notre Dame.
However, let's not get carried away here. The fact remains that Charlie Weis is a fat guy who says lots of stupid stuff. The Domer Hype Machine is a primary element of the Axis of East Coast Bias. And, our “anonymous” friend is, in fact, an idiot.
Safe travels to anyone going anywhere today. Have a great Thanksgiving!