Make no mistake: I’m no sports fan. The last time I watched a full hockey game, the Nordiques were still a thing. When I get invited to a Super Bowl party, I usually have to look up who’s playing beforehand. And I still have no clue how offside works in soccer.
So when my girlfriend Ashley invited me to join her and her family on a road trip to South Bend, Indiana to go see a Notre Dame Fighting Irish football game, I wasn’t sure I’d have much fun.
I was very wrong.
Holy crap, do Americans love their football. Someone had told me that the Notre Dame stadium held 80,000 people. I knew that was a lot. But it wasn’t until I climbed the steps leading to our section that I got a real sense of what that number really looks like. Or sounds like. Or feels like. Confronted with the roar of 80,000 diehard fans, I couldn’t help but get swept up in the fervour.
Of course, a little liquid encouragement courtesy of hours of pre-game tailgating plays its part too. Nearly important as the games themselves, these booze-fuelled country-style carnivals start early and take over the city. Beer, barbeques and sunburns fire up the masses, and those still able to stagger to the stadium do so chanting at the top of their lungs.
Inside, the zeal rises to a fevered pitch as opening kickoff approaches. Eighty-thousand fans yell “Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh” as the kicker moves toward the ball, followed by a deafening cry of “IRISH!” after the ball is sent skyward.
The craziest part is that you’ll see these massive crowds and this level of intense fandom at EVERY game. And while I’ll never fully understand the US’s obsession for football, the camaraderie, energy and even the weak American beer at Notre Dame helped me appreciate it a hell of a lot more.
Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!