Upon Further Review
5:26 PM EDT, October 17, 2011
I was at the last night game played at Notre Dame Stadium. September 15th, 1990. I'll never forget it.
It was the height of the Lou Holtz era.
The Irish were #1 in the country, and it was the season-opener against #4 Michigan. Tony Rice was gone, and Rick Mirer was about to make his first career start.
I was a 13 years old and about to catch a break that any kid my age who loved Notre Dame would die for.
I didn't have a ticket, and when I woke up that morning I wasn't planning on going to the game. My dad was an usher at the Stadium, and had heard about an opening for a stadium messenger when he showed up to the stadium that afternoon. Messengers are like ushers, except younger. A quick conversation and a phone call home, and I had myself a job. But not just any job. Messengers, like ushers, are assigned to various posts around the stadium.
My spot, the tunnel!
My job was to hang out at the tunnel entrance outside the stadium in case the ushers had a message they needed to be run to another gate (which rarely happened). Once the game started, I was free to go down and watch the game from the end zone.
This was before the stadium had permanent lighting. Remember those portable lights that sat outside the stadium and peeked over the wall to illuminate the field?
The best part about the night game was the anticipation. Standing outside the stadium, watching the throngs of people on campus. As the sun began to set, the band marched into the stadium. I remember it being so loud. Granted, I was standing three feet away, but it was impressive. This was back before the stadium renovation, and the tunnel was tiny. One long chute, and two doors, one on either side leading to the locker rooms. Notre Dame used to cram as many guys as they could by the doorway down there and intimidate the visitors when they took the field. Then the band got going. It was so loud and so intense, that it’s no wonder the players looked ready to run through a wall when they took the field. The fight song echoed so loudly in the tunnel that it almost hurt my ears.
Game time. My work is done. Time to watch, from what I thought was the best seat in the house – field level in the end zone.
I've since come to realize, that this might be quite possible be the worst seat in the house. There is no depth perception. The only way to tell the difference between a 4-yard run and a 40-yard run is that the 40-yarder takes longer. You learn to lean on the fans' reaction to tell you how good a play is, especially on the far end of the field. But there's a charm to watching on the field too. From the end zone, you can see holes open in the line. And when a touchdown is about to be scored in the end zone right in front of you, it's so close, you almost flinch.
I don't remember the specifics of the game that night, but I remember Notre Dame won. I remember recalling how awesome it looked when the lights bounced off the helmets, and how brightly they shined. I remember how boisterous the crowd was, undoubtedly a mixture of great football and an entire day of tailgating. It turned out to be the beginning of a great career for Mirer.
I hope that’s the atmosphere we’ll experience again THIS weekend when USC comes to town.
And I hope it won’t be another 21 years before they do it again.
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