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A Notre Dame Fan's Perfect Day

It CANNOT get any better than last Saturday for this Notre Dame fan, folks.

I had joyously proclaimed to all my relatives that my first home game as a student - at Notre Dame vs. Purdue on September 8th - was the happiest day of my life. Then, after the Michigan game, I had to rethink that.

But when all is said and done in my life, Saturday, October 13th will no doubt be one of the best days of my entire existence. I don’t possibly see how any game could ever top last weekend’s Stanford game. From cheering in The Pit of College GameDay, to rocking in the student section, to winning on an OT goal-line stand, to storming the field in the pouring rain, one day simply cannot get any better for a football fan.

My morning began at 7 a.m. on Saturday, when I sprinted from my dorm to Library Quad - the site of College GameDay. Surprisingly, my “late start” compared to those students who had camped out all night for prime positions in The Pit hardly set me back. Once I’d been patted down by security guards and checked for signs that were “too religious” - which brought scoffs from the student body asking, “Okay, so should we cover up Touchdown Jesus?” - I finally made my way into The Pit.

For the next two hours, all we could do was marvel at the College GameDay sets and laugh at the crowd’s increasingly creative signs. My personal favorite asked, “If a tree falls in South Bend, does anyone care?” Although the sign proclaiming, “SEC, this is what a library looks like,” produced a hearty giggle well. (This one also incurred the wrath of my mom’s family, most of them alums from SEC schools.)

At 8:57, three minutes before the GameDay cheering fan-demonium began, I got ESPN and College Football alerts on my phone telling me to “Wake Up! College GameDay is LIVE from South Bend, Indiana...” Yeah, at this point I was pinching myself for two reasons: 1) to STAY awake after a week of no sleep while studying for midterms and 2) because College GameDay was about to start and I was there cheering in the background! Dream come true!

And then, after an unbelievably awesome Countdown to Gameday clock counted down the final minute, the show began. It’s hard to relay to someone how amazing it is to be 20 yards away from the GameDay anchors that you have religiously watched every Saturday morning for years. All I can say is I was definitely having my own version of a “fan-girl” moment.

So already my morning had reached epic proportions, and it wasn’t even noon yet. Three hours of cheering - and standing - later, it was time to get ready for the real event of the day: the football game.

The hours preceding these games are a bit of a paradox for me. On one hand, I am so excited that all I want to do is walk around campus screaming “Go Irish!” and singing the fight song with whatever alum/student combo will join in with me (or solo, if that be the case). On the other hand, I am so nervous that I often have to resort to deep breathing and meditation exercises to keep from having a panic attack. This combo makes me a bit of a head-case on game days, but as long the Irish continue providing those Ws, I will continue providing enough excitement and nerves for my entire dorm.

Then finally, it was game time! The student section was rocking despite the rain (truthfully I thought the rain made it all the more fun once you accepted the fact that you were guaranteed to get soaked by the end of the night.) To say that the game was a roller-coaster of emotions is the best way I know how to describe the way our collective hearts lifted as high as the clouds and dropped to the pit of our stomachs throughout the game.

When Everett Golson’s fumble in the end zone led to a Stanford touchdown, the student section was so silent you could have heard a pin drop. We were trailing the first time all season and Stanford had successfully burst our bubble.

This low was then rivaled by the high of Tyler Eiffert’s touchdown reception that made it a tie ball game at 10-10. After each team kicked a field goal in the second half of the fourth quarter, the game that had proven to be a defensive lesson in trench-warfare went into overtime. At this point in the game, I was definitely utilizing the deep-breathing tactics that I had perfected pre-game. (Seriously though, every game that I sit through that’s like this one has got to be taking 5 years off my life.)

In an act of solidarity, the rows around me decided to link arms and hold hands. Then overtime went by in a blur. Tommy Rees sacked. Pass interference call. T.J. Jones touchdown. Nunes 13 yard run. Stepfan Taylor at the 4. At the 3. At the 1. AT THE 1!

Those minutes of the final 4th down rush being reviewed may have been some of the most tense moments in my life. When the call was upheld there was nothing else to do but storm the field. So, of course, I hopped that stone wall like no one’s business and was on the field for the alma mater, swaying alongside fans and football players alike. And let me tell you, as magical as it is in the stands, it’s even more amazing from that field, looking up at the entire student body swaying in solidarity.

Then the party began. From all sides you could hear football players yelling, “Party in the locker room!” or students remarking “This is crazy!” And yeah, it was crazy. Somehow the pouring rain made it even sweeter, as the student body celebrated a hard-fought win on the soggy ground. Waving at the cameras, jumping up and down, hugging friends and even strangers, it was the definition of pure joy.

And for the next 24 hours, I was on cloud nine. The amount of exclamation marks and ALL CAPS used in my texts to friends and family following the game is a true testament to how high on Notre Dame Football I really was. I am already counting the hours until I can return to South Bend to cheer on the Irish as they take on the Cougars on Saturday afternoon.

In fact, I’ve come to accept that no game will ever top last Saturday’s for me. And somehow, it’s not depressing to think that my ND Football experience may have peaked my freshman year. I’ve had a fan experience that most people can only dream about. And that’s what makes it all the more special.