The Notre Dame Experience

For BC fans, the trip to Notre Dame is more than just a chance to see a football game. The whole experience includes the rivalry, the hockey game and the atmosphere. Dian Nearhos went out to South Bend as a fan and offers up some impressions as well as a recap of the weekend.

Notre Dame and Boston College clashed in what might be the last battle of the "Holy Wars" in South Bend this weekend. Well, technically in the unincorporated community of Notre Dame, which is just southeast of South Bend and is home to the University of Notre Dame, Saint Mary's College, and Holy Cross College, but we will just let that slide.

The weekend started off well for the Eagles with a 3-2 win in front of a sellout crowd on the ice. The Fighting Irish struck first with a goal in the first period from Calle Ridderwall. BC responded in the second period with goals from Ben Smith and Brian Gibbons. Notre Dame tied the game in the opening minute of the third period. Joe Whitney scored the Eagles' second deflected goal of the night off an assist by Carl Sneep to give BC the win.

BC fans celebrated the win, their team had been the underdogs and many had unpleasant memories of last year's less-than-ideal hockey season. Others did not know what to feel. No could remember when BC had won the hockey game and the football game on the same weekend. Maybe it was a bad omen.

Sure enough, those were the ones proven right. Students, alumni, and other fans made the trek out to Notre Dame, only to see their beloved football team beat themselves with mistakes. Montel Harris, who had 362 consecutive touches without losing a fumble, lost two, one on the Notre Dame three-yard line. Dave Shinskie, threw three interceptions including one at the Notre Dame 22-yard line when the Eagles were down by four with 1:48 remaining in the game. Those were just the most glaring of the mistakes; there were dropped passes, missed tackles, coverage too far off the receiver, and just missed opportunities.

Somehow the Eagles had stuck with it until that last interception, giving fans hope. For example, many thought the game was over when BC found itself facing needing 16 yards on fourth down from its own 26-yard line. However, Shinskie, who had not completed many longer passes in the game, channeled the students singing "Living on a Prayer" and connected with Rich Gunnell 28 yards downfield to keep the dream alive.

In the end, the Eagles and their fans were disappointed and watched Jimmy Clausen (arguably the NCAA's least-liked successful player) kneel three times to end the game. Clausen made himself even less-likable by shoving Gunnell after the game. The Irish quarterback claims he intended to congratulate the senior captain on his career game, but the receiver was not interested in the "phony" sportsmanship. Gunnell must have said something Clausen did not like, because he gave him a shove and spun away.

Clausen was not the only Notre Dame football player to give off a bad impression. Before the game a friend of my father's watched the Irish's version of the Eagle Walk, when the players parade into the stadium. An unidentified player looked at the man's BC hat, looked around, and spat on his chest. Yes, you read that right: a Notre Dame player SPAT on a BC fan. Well aren't they just a friendly bunch?

Luckily for BC fans, there was more to the trip to Notre Dame then the game. True, we would not have a reason to assemble at Notre Dame without the game, but it is as much about the experience. When else are nine college kids going to squeeze into a four-person RV, navigated by three rotating drivers while the others party in the back? That may not have been my experience, but many BC students do it that way. Others drive normal-sized cars or fly, staying in local hotels or with friends on campus. They then file into the "RV lot" on the outskirts of the Notre Dame campus and set up camp, partying until game time and leaving sometime between the end of the game and the wee hours of the next morning.

The cold rainy weather may not have been conducive to campus tours, but Touchdown Jesus and the Golden Dome are unavoidable. As the only two buildings, besides a water tower, visible above the walls of the stadium, you cannot miss the two sights Domers love the most.

Personally, I do not find either one that impressive. They were kind of cool the first time I saw them, two years ago, but the mystique quickly faded. To be honest, the idea of Jesus celebrating a touchdown strikes me as a bit odd – doesn't he have bigger concerns? Every campus has their landmarks. Notre Dame has the Dome and Touchdown Jesus. BC has the Gothic styled Gasson Hall. University of Florida has Century Tower. University of Virginia has the Rotunda. So Notre Dame is not the only one.

Whether or not you loved the well-known structures of Notre Dame's campus, celebrated the outcome of the game, or enjoyed the weather (not many BC fans did any of these), the experience of going out to Notre Dame is a special one. The student section seems to come together more than at home even; maybe it's the subtraction of those who do not actually care. BC was serenaded with its fight song after every score without the band to lead the chorus, a feat rarely managed in Alumni Stadium. The trip was a blast, right up until that last 1:48 when Gunnell and Shinskie read the play differently and the ball ended up in the wrong hands. Even still, the experience will be sorely missed if the rivalry does in fact end after next year.

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