16-14 loss to a 1-4 Stanford team was not the experience I hoped to have for my first ND football game.
Yet as I walked out of the stadium late Saturday night en route to the White Field Shuttle line, I couldn't help but smile.
It didn't matter to me that I had to wait 30 minutes to get onto a crowded bus full of disappointed ND fans. I didn't care at all that I still had a 5-hour drive back to the east side of Cleveland... And when a group of angry ND fans carrying a campus trash can shouted "Drew Pyne coming through" I couldn't help but laugh.
The on-campus experience was everything I hoped it would be and more. I felt all the cliché things you hear about game day at ND. The band, the choir, the team walk through campus, The Grotto, Basilica, the trees changing color, even the #1 sign was lit up. You could really FEEL the entire thing.
The whole experience put the season into perspective and reminded me that ND is bigger than one new head coach struggling to find his footing, its bigger than one disappointing season, and its damn sure bigger than one football game (even an especially bad one). Its easy to forget that when viewing the team through a box hanging on your living room wall or listening to the national sports media dog your favorite team week after week.
Also, its not lost on me that someone who has had the opportunity to see multiple games on campus might not see things through the same rose-colored glasses as I did. But if you've never been to a game before or its been a while, I cannot recommend it enough. I found it to be a very cathartic experience in what has otherwise been a tough season to watch.
Shout out to OFD and Josh for the ND game day guide, we were able to see A LOT of what a game day in South Bend had to offer.
Also, we had great seats.