I am beginning to rack up quite the history with ushers.
In 2009, I made a trip to Ann Arbor when the Fighting Irish took on Michigan. At halftime, then-freshman kicker Nick Tausch was warming up kicking field goals on my side of the field. He booted one straight through the uprights, and at the time, no net was up to catch the balls. But no net was necessary, not with me in the stands. I jumped up in a crowd full of Michigan fans, high-pointed that ball like Michael Floyd, and made quite the catch in traffic. At that point I literally got tackled by three…yes, three ushers who started hitting me until I gave them the ball – which they proceeded to give to a kid wearing Wolverines gear. Welcome to college football on the road, I guess.
On Saturday, I wasn’t in Ann Arbor, but rather in my home crowd — Notre Dame Stadium. It was our home opener and we were fresh off a dominating win over Navy, so of course, there were going to be some big-time celebrities on hand. On the sidelines for this game, besides the always beautiful Alex Flanagan, were Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn. Vaughn has been a staple at big Irish games in the past, as he became a life-long Notre Dame fan after his role playing Jamie O’Hara in the movie Rudy.
Naturally, as students, we were going to start chants throughout the game, calling to Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, trying to get the attention of the two star actors. And get their attention we did. Many celebrities receive gifts on their trips to Notre Dame Stadium, and Owen Wilson was gifted a sweet Notre Dame game ball.
Well, as we were chanting “OW-EN, OW-EN!”, he decided to show off his arm.
It was a great throw. To be honest, I was pretty surprised that he put a decent spiral on the ball. I was even more surprised to see it coming in my general direction.
There was a huge group of students going for this ball. After all, who doesn’t want to go down in the record books as Owen Wilson’s only college football completion?
When it hit the mob of fans, it took a bounce off of about thirty hands, and was heading for the ground, about two feet away from me. At this point, I had no choice — I made a leaping dive off my bench and made the catch (for the record, this is what was going through my mind at the time).
But my elation was short-lived.
The usher for our section, whose name was Dave**, quickly came over and demanded that I give up the ball. Here is the conversation that followed between us:
Dave: You have to give me that ball.
Me: Absolutely not! Did you just see that catch?
Dave: We can’t have people throwing things into the stands. Whoever threw that ball is going to be out of here.
Me: It was OWEN F-ING WILSON! Owen Wilson threw this ball, there’s no way I’m giving this up!
Dave: You’re about to lose your season tickets if you don’t give me this ball. Security will be here in three seconds.
Valuing my football tickets over this ball in the moment, I let Dave the usher pry the ball from my hands.
In retrospect, I should have run as soon as I caught it. Dave wouldn’t return the ball, no matter how much I pleaded with him to let me keep my awesome souvenir. This Saturday, the luck of the Irish was not with me. He gave the ball to security, who ended up returning it to Owen Wilson.
On the bright side, Notre Dame pulled out an incredible win and moved to 2-0 for the first in four years.
The negative, of course, is that I am now 0-2 trying to leave a college football stadium with a ball.
Maybe the third time will be the charm.
**Name changed and face blurred out to protect identity