Monday, September 18, 2006

Hail to the Visitors

We rolled into South Bend around 1 o'clock, ditched our stuff at Matt's mom's house, then proceeded to the tailgate scene outside of the stadium. Two friends from Ann Arbor, Dave and Jill, had driven down separately and joined us there. After some TD Christ and the Two Davesbeers and dogs, Dave, Jill, and I decided to take a quick tour of the campus. Touchdown Jesus, the grotto, the dome, and so on.

Then it was game time. Dave and Jill sat in a different section from Matt and me, so Matt had only to endure one delirious asshole next to him instead of three. Well, not counting the two Michigan students directly behind us. (The dude in front of us was a different -- and thoroughly confusing -- story. He wore a Colorado hat and a North Carolina shirt, said he was an Ohio State fan, and was at the Notre Dame-Michigan game. Uh. Citizen of the world?)

Things did not seem to go right for Notre Dame even before the game started. As the final strains of "The Star Spangled Banner" filled the stadium, all eyes looked upward in anticipation of the thunderous jet flyover. There was nothing but the quiet haze of a warm, late-summer Indiana afternoon for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 seconds. Then the jets, flying too far overhead to be truly thunderous, made their languid, unimpressive way from one lip of the bowl to the other.

Of course, any thought of that as an omen would have been overwhelmed by our palpable anticipation of kickoff. Notre Dame wins the toss, elects to receive. The crowd of roughly 81,000 makes more noise than is typically heard from 110,000 at Michigan Stadium. I am a little jealous of this.

The rest is known to all. From the third play of the game, it was mostly heartbreak for the Irish faithful. From our seats 44 rows up from the Michigan band, I had many opportunities to stand, high-five the Michigan students behind me, and sing "The Victors" in unison with them to the great consternation of the many Domers around us. There was only one tense moment late in the game, as one of the students, after yet another terrible Brady Quinn pass, yelled, "There goes the Heisman!"

"Hey, remember where you are, son!" warned a stern-faced (and obviously frustrated) Domer.

"So what? I can say what I want."

"You want to bring it? Bring it."

The student then wisely clammed up and allowed the potentially violent guy to quietly stew in his team's broth of suckitude.

This meathead was far from representative, however. I encountered very little hectoring or, really, anything other than politeness and graciousness before, during, and after the game. As I was on the way into the stadium, one guy wondered about my shirt. "Michigan English," I said. "As in Ron English, whose defense is going to kick Notre Dame's ass today."

The contingent of Michigan fans in the south end zone under the scoreboard was great, chanting the de rigeur "Overrated!" and the more creative "Why so quiet?"

Sandwiches, bitches!Matt, for some reason, didn't want to stick around for the second half of the 4th quarter, so I had to catch the Quinn fumble on a tailgater's TV in the parking lot. Cute girls in Michigan shirts were coming up to high-five me. I wanted to explore that phenomenon more, but we kept walking to one of Matt's friend's house and had some more beers. The mood was somber, quite the opposite of mine. Right then I wished I was back in Ann Arbor, especially after visiting the couple mullet bars we wound up in later.

47-21. Who knew?

Flickr photoset here. My Sandwich of Victory pic is making the rounds on Mgoblog here (scroll down). (For explanation of "Sandwiches, bitches!" see here.)