Welcome, everyone, to the weekly One Foot Down listicle! Each week on Friday, Matt Greene and I will alternate providing for you all a listicle of the greatest/top/best Notre Dame Fighting Irish-related things we can think of. They might be more serious, but mostly they will probably be wacky (what else would you honestly expect from the two of us?). We are AMPED to provide these for you each week.
Let’s Head Into the Long Weekend With Something Light and Fun
The way things have been progressing, I think most of us saw it coming — but that didn’t make it any less glorious on Wednesday when Notre Dame announced they’d be holding football games in 2021 in front of a full capacity crowd at Notre Dame Stadium.
We’ve waited a long time to say this…— The Fighting Irish (@FightingIrish) May 26, 2021
… welcome home, #NDFamily.
☘️ All 77,622 seats open, intending for Notre Dame Stadium to be full capacity
￼ Outdoor traditions will resume (yes, this means tailgating!)
After a year with only students, faculty, and players’ families in the House That Rockne Built, this news was truly a wonderful, shining beacon of better times ahead after what was certainly a weird, dark, and frustrating last 14 months.
Considering we’re about to head into a long weekend to kick off what will undoubtedly be a much-needed summer of letting loose and learning to be social once again, I thought I’d stay topical with this week’s listicle and indulge in an excited look ahead to the fall, ranking what I’m most looking forward to now that we know football season will be full-go.
So, I’ll go ahead and dive right in here — all I ask is that you, per usual, sound off in the comments about how wrong I am or about how I missed some major thing you’re looking forward to for the 2021 ND football season. This shouldn’t just be about my joy in imagining all the wonderful things I’ll now get to do on and around campus — we should all share this happiness together.
Things to Look Forward to Thanks to a Full-Capacity Notre Dame Stadium in Fall 2021
For the purposes of this not being compleeeeetely predictable, I’m going to take “literally watching the Notre Dame football team play football in-person” off the table for this list. I doubt anyone reading this wouldn’t have that at least in their top 3-5, if not number 1. It goes without saying, ya know? And just to clarify — this does not take out other aspects of attending games in-person in the stadium. Only the actual fact you’re watching the team play from within the stadium...because no shit, that’s the ultimate reason we do what we do as fans.
With the above said, I’d like to quickly shout out some specific things I’m super looking forward to, but couldn’t justify placing them somewhere in the Top 7.
- Getting that feeling you get when the PA announcer says “Here come the Irish!” and the team gallops out onto the field, helmets shining in the sun and the crowd yelling in approval
- Watching HERDS of strangers scattered across Library Quad take pictures with their arms up in front of Touchdown Jesus
- Hearing my friend Bill chant-sing “Blaaaaack Cherry Whiiiiiteclaaaawwwwww” multiple times per tailgate
- Just walking freely around campus in general — seeing the library, the Basilica, the Grotto, good ole Stanford Hall, etc.
- Arguing with strangers in nearby seats in the stadium, either because they’re opposing fans and I hate them, or because they’re ND fans being stupid and I hate them
- CROWD TOUCHDOWN PUSHUPS AS FAR AS THE EYE CAN SEE
- Taking a crowded South Shore train from Chicago to South Bend on Saturday morning, tossing back some beers and enjoying the build-up to game day
- Occasionally eating concession stand food or drinking hot chocolate/coffee if it’s cold — despite none of it being actually high-quality, there’s something about a soft pretzel or nachos or a hotdog or a box of popcorn after a long day of drinking that just makes it hit the absolute spot
- Having pretty solid odds of accidentally attending a Chicago concert
- Hearing the music they decided to pump in over the loud speakers and watching whatever videos they’ve put together for the jumbotron — and if we’re lucky, getting “Crazy Train” on a 3rd down
- Hearing my fellow Notre Dame fans start super ill-timed “WE ARE! N-D!” chants, especially in moments when the Irish are actively losing (this is sarcasm, I am not actually looking forward to this all-too-common occurrence at both football and basketball games)
- Not having to do as much worrying about ND players testing positive for COVID and being last-minute scratches from the lineup (hopefully — I guess technically they could still test positive for the virus, and it’ll come down to what the protocol is for vaccinated guys with no symptoms)
- Singing “This Hamm’s Is Your Hamm’s” with my friends
- Probably lots of other stuff, but you get the idea
Okay, now for the things I’m REALLY looking forward to...
The Top 7 Things I’m Looking Forward To, Thanks to Full Capacity
7. Walking Into the Stadium in a Mob of People
Sometimes in the past this was a frustrating experience — maybe you stayed at the tailgate a bit too long, and now you’re caught with all the other stragglers trying to get into the stadium at the last minute, potentially missing some of the pregame rituals or maybe even kickoff, depending on what time it is. And yeah, this seems like an odd choice for something to “look forward to.”
However, after a year away, I’ll definitely have a new appreciation for that moment when all the ND fans are slowly descending on the stadium’s gates like a louder and drunker horde of zombies. I love the thrill of either trying to polish off whatever beers you brought with you from the tailgate lots, or trying to find a way to stash them in your pants/shirt/coat so you can enjoy a “mid-game snack.”
I love the occasional chants that spring up as fans mingle together, anxious to go have an actual sporting event to yell at instead of just a seemingly never-ending line of people. There’s a certain camaraderie that somehow happens when you’ve been standing in line with the same people for a few minutes, and that can often lead to some fun conversations and maybe even some fleeting friendships.
Long story short: I’m so excited to once again be fighting my way through a big mass of drunk people to get into the stadium and to my seat in order to see my favorite large adult sons play football live.
6. Hearing that Beautiful Notre Dame Marching Band Play All the Hits In-Person
Does the piped-in music occasionally work for me, despite what many of the elder ND fans think about it? Absolutely.
But nothing hits the spot, aurally speaking, like that greatest of all university marching bands playing all the hits we’ve come to know and love: The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside,” Cascada’s “Everytime We Touch,” Taio Cruz’s magnum opus (and all the political/conspiratorial feelings that brings up), etc.
There’s no replacement for that in a COVID world where you can’t be at the game. Whether it’s hearing the band through the TV, playing your own playlist on Spotify, or trying to force all your friends to learn a different instrument in quarantine so that you can form your own band and play those songs yourselves every Saturday, none of it compares to hearing that wonderful crew led by Ken Dye, Larry “Intro to Jazz” Dwyer, Sam “Great Britain” Sanchez, etc. That’s what gets the crowd going, folks.
That, and seeing the band incorporate fire extinguishers into their halftime show.
5. Hugging and High-Fiving Strangers Sitting Near Me
Speaking of getting the crowd going, something very specific I missed last season was being able to get swept up in emotional, unbelievable, intensely positive Notre Dame football moments in such a way that it drives me to interact with strangers in somewhat/very intimate ways.
I do not like interacting with strangers, for the most part. I’d prefer if we left each other alone. But when I’m at Notre Dame Stadium and something special happens — maybe Stepfan Taylor gets stonewalled at the goal line, or Everett Golson finds Ben Koyack in the corner of the end zone on 4th down, or Will Fuller scorches the “fastest player in the country” on the first ND play from scrimmage, or Josh Adams rips through the USC defense for a back-breaking long TD run — at the absolute minimum, I’m going to seek out high-fives from every single person wearing blue and gold (or green) around me.
Some of those moments, like I said, even require a more physically-intimate interaction. I vividly remember hugging multiple strangers after Koyack’s TD, all of us wearing rain jackets/ponchos and celebrating like we’d just won the Super Bowl. And of course when Taylor was stopped on that overtime goal line stand for the ages in 2012, I got to know some strangers VERY intimately when I landed on them as a number of us leapt/fell down multiple rows of bleachers in jubilation.
That kind of spontaneous and physical interaction with strangers is absolutely beautiful, and it really doesn’t happen anywhere else except in sports (and maybe at some concerts?). COVID robbed us of that last year, which was especially a shame for the November Clemson game. So color me excited to be at least slapping hands with people I don’t know, if not more.
4. Sgt. Tim McCarthy’s Beautiful Recorded Voice Serving Up One of His Classics
I’m not sure if you guys were aware, but I like puns. So, naturally, I absolutely LIVE FOR the safety message from Sgt. Tim McCarthy that we all love to listen to in between the 3rd and 4th quarters.
After a year away and with McCarthy’s passing last fall, that first recorded safety pun they play from him will be especially fantastic — a heartwarming reminder of how much joy he’s brought to Irish fans’ lives for more than half a century, and how GREAT it is to be able to give his one-liners a collective exaggerated chuckle-and-cheer with thousands of people who get why it’s such a wonderful tradition.
3. Singing Along to Cathy Richardson and the Dropkick Murphys with 77.6k Other People
This will also not come as a surprise to you all, but I absolutely ADORE Cathy Richardson’s “Here Come the Irish,” which started as a laughable song occasionally played on gamedays and then over the years morphed into a song that legitimately gives me goosebumps and has become an absolute staple of Notre Dame sporting events.
There’s simply nothing more goosebump-inducing than being in your seat for a big home game, anxious for the action to start, and then Cathy’s melodious voice begins to trickle in over the loud speakers as you sing the words EMPHATICALLY with thousands of others around you. Oh, and then the immediate upping of the ante with the transition to “Shipping Up to Boston,” a song that just inspires violent domination of an opponent? I’m getting all sorts of emotional just THINKING about it.
Watching that video, and various others like it, just gave me actual, honest-to-God goosebumps. I even dug up a video on my friend’s Facebook page of our final “Here Come the Irish” in our senior year of 2012 — it’s gonna be so glorious to experience that song combo once again this fall — I can’t wait.
2. BACKER, BAYBEEEEEEEEE
Continuing the trend of ranking things highly that will not at all be a surprise to you all, returning to the most crowded, sweaty, humid, and wonderful place on earth is very nearly the thing I am most excited about with this announcement of full capacity.
No bar was less built to withstand COVID social distancing protocols than the Backer, whose charm is that you CANNOT go there on a Friday or Saturday night in the fall without having multiple beers spilled on you and without sweating out nearly as much alcohol as you consume while inside.
I won’t go into incredible detail here, but instead will simply point you toward a few things I’ve written about the Backer in case you need a better understanding of why I can’t wait to be able to return to that heavenly watering hole:
- I miss singing and dancing to Backer music so much
- I miss ingesting way too many Backer Long Islands almost as much
The vast majority of us here that understand the Backer, though, can all agree that Lou summed it up best:
1. Tailgating and All the Weird and Wonderful Things That Come As Part of That Experience
I have a feeling a lot of you will agree with this choice for #1. Tailgating is just such a huge part of the gameday experience for Notre Dame football, and especially because of how social it inherently is, we all desperately missed it during the 2020 COVID season.
That wonderful pregame event is where you catch up with old friends, make new ones at neighboring tailgates, and where you decide to play “Monster Mash” every hour, on the hour, because that’s the type of friend group you have.*
*Pat Rick Note: We call it “The Witching Hour” and it’s an absolute hit with our tailgate and our tailgate alone
I also didn’t realize until I sat down and thought about it just how many things I love about tailgating are big-time no-nos in the midst of a pandemic.
For instance, my group of friends loves to “christen a Hamm’s,” a ritual in which we play Cathy’s “Here Come the Irish,” pop open a can of Hamm’s JUST as the song kicks into gear, and pass that single can around in a circle for everyone to drink from until both the beer and the song are finished.
Another game I’ve played with friends on numerous occasions, called “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt” (often shortened to “John Jacob”), involves singing the song “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt,” but in between lyrics people are
asked encouraged ordered-in-a-supportive-way to take a shot of whatever bottle of liquor we have on hand. To help you picture this, pretend I (Pat Rick) am playing John Jacob with my friends Mike, Hux, and Sergi. Here’s how that might go:
All of us, either chant-singing or whisper-singing: “JOOOOOHN JACOB JINGLEHEIMER SCHMIDT; HIS NAME IS MY NAME TOO”
Someone, or sometimes everyone, shouts: “TAKE A SHOT, HUX!”
*Hux takes a swig from the bottle of liquor*
All of us, chant-singing loudly: “WHENEVER WE GO OUT, THE PEOPLE ALWAYS SHOUT, THERE GOES JOHN JACOB JINGLEHEIMER SCHMIDT! DA DA DA DA DA DA DA”
*everything restarts from there and it’s likely that myself, Mike, or Sergi would be told to take a shot next*
There are plenty of other tailgate activities I miss that, again, were not made for a mid-pandemic world. Our group loves to play both Slap Cup and Stack Cup, two games that involve a lot of touching of a lot of cups that anyone could drink from at any given time — and then reusing those cups game after game. We also typically like to purchase big platters of chicken tenders from Meijer, and again, big shared platters of food certainly are not exactly practicing good COVID safety.
I even miss waiting in long lines for porta-potties, in close contact with tons of strangers and everyone using the same toilets with little ventilation and rarely washing their hands — I’ve made some great friends and also some significant enemies waiting for porta-potties, and that’s just a unique experience you couldn’t replicate during a more restricted time, COVID-wise.
Tailgating is just the absolute best part of gamedays, and COVID stole that from us last season. With the announcement that everything is good to go for 2021, it’s safe to say that posting up in the parking lot with a lot of food and even more Hamm’s is what I’m looking forward to most this season.
What Do You Think?????
I realize that waxing poetic about playing a John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt-based drinking game maaaaay not be the most universal or relatable experience for all y’all, so I implore you to please vote on what you’re most looking forward to with games being full capacity once again, and please go into more detail in the comments.
Let’s just have a great time here getting ourselves excited about the awesome season to come.
What are you most looking forward to now that football games will officially be full capacity?
This poll is closed
Hearing Cathy Richardson and Dropkick Murphys in the stadium once again
Sgt. Tim McCarthy’s puns
Hugging and high-fiving strangers on good ND plays
Hearing the ND band in-person again
Being part of the mob walking into the stadium just before kickoff
Something else entirely — I will expound on this in the comments