“This is the most beautiful site these eyes have ever seen.” In the 1993 film Rudy, this was the reaction of Rudy’s father to seeing Notre Dame Stadium for the first time. Many Notre Dame fans have a similar reaction when they see a game played at Notre Dame Stadium. For a fan who has never had the good fortune of seeing a Notre Dame Football home game, words can not do it justice. If I were to describe what it is like to see the band march out and to see those golden helmets shining in the afternoon sun as the team makes its way onto the field, words would come to mind like “spectacle,” “unbelievable,” and “remarkable.” However, even those high praises would not be close to enough to describe the atmosphere at Notre Dame Stadium for a home game. No, I would say it is an experience like none other…
The moment you walk up to the stadium you are greeted with a smiling face as an usher scans your ticket with the tagline “Welcome to Notre Dame!” Even that small moment gives you affirmation that you are about to enter hallowed ground. As you make your way through the concourse, you are constantly reminded of all the greats that once played and coached here from George Gipp and Knute Rockne to Tim Brown and Lou Holtz.
Once you find your section and make your way through the tunnel out into the seating bowl, it is almost as if the outside world slowly drifts away. You can leave all the stresses of work and school at the tunnel for the next 3-4 hours. All that matters is the game you are about to watch.
Before the game even gets under way, you are entertained by the oldest university band in the United States, the Notre Dame Marching Band. The field is empty and fans are sitting in anticipation. Then you see the Irish Guard walk out onto the field, and the anticipation builds even more. After a short introduction over the PA system, the band’s announcer Jon Thompson exclaims, “And now here it is… the band of the Fighting Irish.” You then hear the crashing of cymbals and the beating of drums as the band begins to pour out of the tunnel out onto the field.
After the band plays some of its great songs, they then form an “N D” along the north end zone as everyone in the stadium waits for the team to run out on the field. For a few seconds everyone quiets down until they see the smoke rise and the Notre Dame players charge through it to the playing of the Notre Dame Victory March as the PA announcer informs the crowd, “Here come the Irish!”
The start of the game is finally upon us! If the crowd was not excited before, a new tradition that was started a few years ago will ignite the fans. As both teams prepare for the opening kick off, the recording of Chicago native, singer/songwriter Cathy Richardson belting out the lyrics “And there’s a magic in the sound of her name, here come the Irish of Notre Dame…” is played on the PA system followed by Dropkick Murphy’s famous song “Shipping Up to Boston.” The crowd, especially the student section, goes into a frenzy with this and lets the team know they are ready to cheer for them when they scream “Go Irish” as the ball is kicked off.
At Notre Dame Stadium, fans are as much a part of the game as the players. The energy and, more importantly, the noise the crowd creates gets into the opponent’s heads, making it near impossible for them to concentrate (although sometimes they find a way around it). All of the cheers, chants, and dances the crowd has makes for an electric atmosphere, including the Celtic Chant, the Rakes of Mallow, and the 1812 Overture. When Notre Dame scores a touchdown, take a look at the sea of people in the stands and you will start to see what looks like waves as fans lift other fans up above their shoulders for push ups. They do as many push ups as Notre Dame has points so if it is a high-scoring game be prepared to do a lot of push ups.
At halftime, the Notre Dame Marching Band steps back out onto the field for a halftime show that everyone will enjoy as they play some of their great songs in addition to their versions of some popular modern songs as well. They have even performed with the band Chicago at halftime before. In the second half, be prepared for even more loud cheers and exciting play as the game nears to an end. When the third quarter ends, the recording of former Indiana State Police Sgt. Tim McCarthy comes over the PA system reminding people to drive home safely with a joke that always has people laughing. McCarthy did these announcements for Notre Dame for over 50 years. While his final game was in 2015, Notre Dame still runs the recordings to remember the legacy that McCarthy created and give everyone in the stadium a good laugh.
Then as the final seconds tick off the scoreboard and the game comes to an end, the team has one more tradition that you must stick around for no matter what— The Notre Dame Alma Mater. Win or lose, the team always goes over to the student section and sways back and forth to the playing of the alma mater so to honor the University as well as a sign of appreciation from the players to the fans and from the fans to the players. “Love Thee Notre Dame.”
The best part about football weekends in South Bend is that there is so much to do in addition to going to the game. Click here for some hidden gems on campus during football weekends and click here for some fun things to do and attractions to see outside of campus in the South Bend area.