UConn-Notre Dame: Like No Other

Nearly two years passed from the announcement that UConn would play Notre Dame until this past Saturday.  During this time the conversation over these teams focused on sports business issues.   Why wouldn’t Notre Dame play UConn at Rentschler Field?  If UConn played Notre Dame at Giants’ Stadium, how would the gate be split?  If UConn played Notre Dame at Gillette Stadium how would the State feel about lining Robert Kraft’s pockets, after he committed to move the Patriots to Hartford and later reneged?  What gave Notre Dame the right to insist upon such special treatment? 

On Saturday, none of those business issues mattered.  UConn fans were spotted all over Notre Dame’s campus.  Huskies fans were walking around the quad.  Shopping at the enormous Notre Dame bookstore.  Praying at the Basilica and the Grotto.  Taking pictures of Touchdown Jesus.  Tailgating in the parking lots.  And Notre Dame fans and staff treated UConn fans with hospitality that defies explanation.  We were no exception. 

While waiting in line for former Notre Dame QB Tony Rice’s autograph, a Notre Dame staff member approached us to make sure we were enjoying our visit.  When we disrupted the line by asking for a picture with Rice, the security guard didn’t only allow us to stop the procession – he took the picture for us – but not before asking former Irish running back Allen Pinkett to jump into the shot.

Sitting square in the middle of Irish country at the game, the Notre Dame fans couldn’t have been more courteous (although their displeasure with the state of Notre Dame football was overwhelmingly clear).  After Dixon had not one, but two, fourth quarter scores called back for holding, a couple of fans apologetically explained that should the Irish win, it could only be because of good luck.  After Dixon’s game-winning touchdown, the fans in our section stated that UConn deserved to win and wished us well.  We didn’t hear a single fan use profanity during what was a frustrating game for the Irish faithful.

On more than one occasion, I’ve noted that the allure of playing Notre Dame is unbeatable mystique but a beatable football team.  UConn  proved the latter to be true.  As to mystique,  where else do the stadium ushers approach you and ask if they can take your picture, and even direct you so that the best angle of the stadium is captured?  Where else can you meet a national championship winning QB, view seven Heisman trophies and then say a prayer at the Grotto or Basilica?  Where else can attending a football game be such a fulfilling experience?  Only at Notre Dame.

Notre Dame has more than mystique.  Notre Dame and its fans have a genuine appreciation of the game of football and that appreciation extends to the treatment of the fans of the opposing team.   That much was evident on Saturday.  UConn fans not only witnessed the arrival of UConn’s Division I football program but did so with a historic and unparalleled backdrop.

Following the game, we stopped for a burger and beer at the legendary CJ’s Pub in South Bend.  I emailed a colleague who was at the game, and asked if he was enjoying himself.  His response: “Like no other!”  He could have been talking about the game or the experience.  Both were unforgettable.

Comments

  1. My family and I got there Thursday and soaked in every ND tradition – a campus tour (Grotto, Basilica, library, quads, statues) from a sophomore who worshiped the school, its “community”, the dorm rivalries; the Bookstore with employees wearing “remember 6 Jasper Howard” ribbons; the employee who gave me her ribbon when I thanked her for wearing it; walking down the tunnel to “the most beautiful sight these eyes have ever seen”; the Fri. luncheon with 3 seniors whose off field accomplishments dwarf their playing ability; seeing the newly renovated Purcell Pavilion; the College Football Hall of Fame with John Toner’s plaque; the band step off followed by their practice in the parking lot; trumpets under the dome; welcoming the UConn team to their Friday walk through; the Fri. pep rally with CT native Mike Golic telling all to “crush UConn”; dinner in the South dining hall with all the students; watching a DVD of Rudy Fri. night; midnight drums and flaming cymbals; meeting Randy’s high school English teacher while throwing a football on their practice field; the player walk after their pre-game Mass; the pre-game band concert; my kids asleep in the rockers on the porch of Corby Hall; “welcome to Notre Dame” from every employee or usher; seeing the stands 90% full 20 minutes before kickoff; the GAME; the euphoria among the UConn sections when we won and leaving the stadium; how many times can they play the Victory March; the sunlight streaming thru the stained glass of the Basilica during 8am Sunday Mass –

    Like no other!

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Trackbacks

  1. […] Considering that Edsall typically refrains from making controversial comments to the media, we should assume that his comments were calculated.  It appears that Edsall believes that UConn football has arrived, and should receive the proper allegiance from Connecticut’s high school coaches and players.  After all, UConn sent a number players to the NFL last year and beat Notre Dame in front of a national audience.  […]

  2. […] isn’t viewed more favorably by other conferences.    It wasn’t too long ago that UConn went to South Bend and beat Notre Dame; beat South Carolina in the Papa John’s Bowl; and appeared in a BCS Bowl against Oklahoma.  […]

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