I guess I need to make a couple of things clear to get this started:
1. I am not a ND fan. I am a OSU booster and season ticket holder. I bleed scarlet and grey. Family members make fun of me because most of my non work clothes are OSU related and or scarlet or grey. As a matter of fact, some of my work clothes are OSU related. At least I am not so much of a homer that I don't realize I might have a problem.
2. I do not hate ND. Maybe I should (more later), but I have no axe to grind with ND.
3. My girlfriend is a catholic who grew up in Indiana and you guessed it, a lifelong ND fan.
So, my girlfriend and I have discussed going up to South Bend for a ND game for the last few years. She grew up a fan and I wanted to see the campus and the stadium. I may not be a fan of ND, but I am a fan of college football fan and love history, so why wouldn't I want to go, right? I checked my calendar and saw that ND was hosting Michigan State on the same weekend our boys were playing FAMU and I had to be in Chicago the following Monday. Seemed like a good time to go, so I got on stubhub and found some sweet seats close to the field. I paid through the nose, but at the time, ND was undefeated and you can't put a price on memories.
We arrived in South Bend and were greeted by a Police Officer directing traffic with a little YMCA spirit thrown in. That's a pretty good start. After driving around a town neither one of us had ever been to for about 30 minutes I found a construction parking lot with free parking and one open space. Sweet!! Try that at OSU.
We walked up into this little plaza that reminded me of a miniature South Campus. We found a place to drink and grab a burger. My first observation was that there were lots of ND fans and MS fans side by side and no one was even being a little chippy. That is so foreign to me that it didn't feel right.
After our fair share of beverages and good polite service we started the walk to the stadium. As we got close to campus we began entering the tailgating area. I could not believe how quiet this area was. I swear to god you could have a discussion in the middle of the crowd without raising your voice. As a long time OSU season ticket holder, this really shocked me. My GF was also shocked at how tame the crowd was. Maybe that's because I have been taking her to OSU home games for 4 years.....
We walked around the stadium and I must say it is a beautiful area. I have never been on a campus so clean and well kept. When it came time to enter the game we picked the nearest door expecting to be able to able to find our way just like we do at the Shoe. Big mistake! The gate we walked into was for a few sections only. We had to go up several ramps to the top of the stadium before moving to the next set of sections. A good way to wear off the beer and burgers I guess. This is the way the stadium is laid out. Make sure you go in the gate marked on your ticket......
We found our seats and they did not disappoint. The ND stadium does not have a track around the field nor could it if they wanted it too. The stands go almost all the way onto the field. If you ever go up for a game, don't buy expensive seats because I don't believe there are any bad seats. It really felt like you could stack two of the stadiums on top of one another and you might end up with a stadium the size of the Shoe. I know ND is supposed to hold 80k, but it just doesn't seem big. Now the bad. The bleachers are old thin wooden benches. The drunken lady who sat next too me was almost on my lap. If you go, expect to be very cozy with your neighbors. Another thing that shocked me was there was not even one jumbotron and nothing that displayed scores from other games. No replays and no updates except for breaks in the game. Weird.
The ND fans that were around me were especially negative. I understand this year is a big letdown for them, but my god. They were sarcastic and whiny. The crowd did not have any motivational chants like O-H-I-O, and they were not loud even when MS was on third down. As you can tell, by this point, with the game being pretty boring and the crowd being negative and unenthusiastic, we were beginning to become very disinterested. Did I mention that the ND fans booed the B1G officials when they were announced as opposed to the ACC officials? WTF? Guess I do have an axe to grind.
Needless to say, we did not stay for the entire game. Both teams were playing like absolute garbage, it was cold, and the environment was bland at best. We left to go see the rest of the campus. We got pics of touchdown Jesus, the golden dome and went inside the Basilica. My daughter graduated from OSU last May and I am a frequent visitor on OSU campus. I can honestly say I have never seen a more impressive campus than ND. OSU included. It's clean, the buildings are historic, the grass is perfect and it really is amazing. I would highly suggest going up for a day, game or not.
1. Don't buy tickets for outrageous prices on Stubhub. They were scalping tickets for $30-$40 all over campus. A loss will do that to you though.
2. If OSU ever plays at ND by all means wear your colors. The ND fans are about as aggressive as someone asking to borrow your grey poupon....
3. Make sure you have the juice to take a lot of photos because there is a ton to see and photograph.
4. Head to the Linebacker bar after the game. It's a great place to party and is very inclusive. The later it gets the more it smells like an outhouse. We left after a few hours to check out an irish bar down the street. When we came back an hour or so later we had to leave because we couldn't take the stench.
5. Book a room in advance. I was on my way to Chicago for business the following Monday so I didn't bother getting a room. Big mistake. The motel 6 in town was $150 a night and the manager told us we would have to drive to Chicago to find anything cheaper. I checked around and he wasn't kidding. We slept in the car in a rest area. Not the first time.......
6. Concessions were not nearly as expensive as OSU games.
In short, I was very disappointed in the ND fans and so was my girlfriend. She actually stated that she may not be a ND fan much longer. Ha ha ha ha, the conversion is almost complete:) The campus is amazing and well worth the trip. I'm glad I went and wouldn't mind going again given the lessons learned.
Finale thought: We have it very good at OSU. Big games are electric, fans are excited and the facilities are top notch. If nothing else, this trip showed me just how good we have it. O-H