I told y’all we’ve been traveling a lot lately–one trip each month since May–and last weekend was our October trip. Thanks to the generosity of one of my oldest and dearest friends, we had tickets to the Notre Dame vs. USC game, so we headed up for some football and a visit with Teddy, who is a Junior now.
This was my third visit to Notre Dame–John and I brought Teddy up to begin his college career, and then I returned that Spring for Moms’ Weekend. John was the one who drove him up to see the campus when he was in high school, and he’s been up briefly to pick him up a few times, but since Teddy has a car now we hadn’t had any reason to visit since his first year.
We left on Friday with the idea of arriving early. Can I laugh at our hopeful plans? First we couldn’t even make it out of Knoxville for one reason or another until almost two hours after we left our house. Then en route we had to sit unmoving for 1.5 hours because of a wreck that shut down the bridge over the Ohio River. So it was after 9 p.m. when we finally arrived. We blundered about a bit because I was driving and I can’t see so well in the dark until we were able to find the parking lot where Teddy wanted to meet us so we could have a late dinner together.
I got my hugs, which is my favorite part, and we had a good time talking over supper. Teddy probably would have been good to hang out some more but we are old and tired and still had to get to our hotel (12 miles away because football).
The football game was a night game, with kickoff at 7:30 p.m., so I asked Teddy what time we would need to arrive at the game. He said tailgating started by noon (actually, it starts even earlier!). I asked who was having a tailgate? “Everyone,” he answered. I asked which ones we were going to, and he replied, “All of them.”
Well, that turned out to be an exaggeration, but it was still pretty amazing. We made a trip to the bookstore first–which was predictably a zoo, but I needed a sweatshirt–and then spent about five hours taking in the spectacle that is Notre Dame tailgating.
The pictures really don’t give a sense of the full scope of the thing, with an enormous parking lot pretty much completely given over to revelry. Tents, televisions, generators, tiki bars, rows and rows of porta-potties, food of all kinds (we sampled brats, burgers, and burritos, to name just a few), and naturally freely-flowing alcohol (insert Irish stereotype here).
I’m not a seasoned tailgater, so perhaps the above isn’t so unusual, but there were definitely some uniquely Notre Dame touches:
The tents we visited were hosted by parents of Teddy’s friends, many of whom attend all the home games. It was good to meet them, and also to talk to Teddy’s friends and hear them say nice things about him. And to see him get irritated when they heard us calling him Teddy instead of Theo (his preference) and tried to follow suit.
We were ready to head to the stadium before Teddy was, him having no interest in the pre-game activities. So around 6:30 we left the party and headed over. To me it was a thrill just to enter the stadium. Not that anything can top Neyland Stadium here in Knoxville, but there’s just something about Notre Dame football.
It was sunset when we arrived, and not too cold yet, but that was soon to change.
We were pleased with our seats–we had a good view of the field and of the famous Touchdown Jesus.
All colleges have special traditions and ways of doing things. Notre Dame may have more than most. Of course I appreciated that when the players run out onto the field they all fall to their knees at the end of the field and pray before the game begins. Yet there was no invocation before the game–perhaps that’s a Southern thing? Every time they announced their fight song they let us know that it’s the best one ever (I forget the exact words they use but the phrase is always the same). In general, Notre Dame fans and for that matter their alumni seem more insanely devoted than people from other schools.
Anyway, we enjoyed the new experience–and the win–but not the rapidly falling temperature; it was 37 degrees by the time the game was over and we went to find Teddy. There was still some tailgating going on–one of our hosts sang an Irish tune for us before we headed back to our car. Thankfully, Teddy lives off campus just a short walk away, and was able to get us free parking there; non-residents normally pay $35 on game days.
The next morning we drove back to campus to hang out with Teddy for a little while, which gave me an opportunity to take some Fall pictures:
We ended up at the Grotto to say a prayer before heading back to Knoxville.
There were no blocked bridges on the way home, thankfully.
We will visit Notre Dame again for Junior Parents’ Weekend in February, after which you will likely be seeing some pictures of a snow-covered campus!