I know it’s a stretch, but think back to 4:15 a.m. last Sunday… is it probably safe to say that you were asleep in your bed? If not, you probably weren’t having the experience of a lifetime waiting outside the Guglielmino Athletics Complex (The Gug) for the Notre Dame Football Team to return from its away win over No. 8 Oklahoma. I was, though. So here’s the story.
Away games make for a very different atmosphere on campus. There are no alumni here to relive the glory days, no throngs of fans everywhere you look, and certainly no pre-determined time when thousands of people gather together around a 100-yard long field to cheer their team onward to victory (pun intended). It’s more like 10 or 20 people—in my experience—who gather around a flat screen TV in a dorm room for kick-off.
Already, you can see the huge difference in away and home games. We, as a student body, are not all together. One of the coolest things about Saturday’s win versus Oklahoma was our attempt to rectify that. Walking back to my dorm on North Quad after the game, I was struck by unbelievably loud cheering. It sounded like an outdoor party. Upon reaching North Quad, I realized it was just that: an outdoor party at Stonehenge! This mass of students was cheering and chanting, posing for pictures with Irish flags, and—a true act of dedication—jumping in the freezing cold Stonehenge water. The fact that we all came together after the huge win showed me that even though we couldn’t all watch together, we could certainly celebrate together. In the end, we all win and lose together.
Sometime later that night, I found out that the football team would be arriving back from Norman around 5 a.m. that morning. The other aspect of home games that away games surely miss out on is any interaction with the players. No being there in person. No swaying arm in arm with the stadium crowd as you sing the alma mater.
So I rode that victorious high of beating the No. 8 team in the country straight to The Gug at 4:15 a.m. Sunday morning to welcome the players back to ND. At first, I was cold and I was tired. Campus was dead and, due to the fact that the football team got back almost an hour earlier than was publicized, there were not many of us there.
Finally, a cop car pulled up signaling the eminence of the players’ arrival. Then, four huge buses pulled into The Gug’s driveway. If I wasn’t awake already, I was definitely woken up upon looking up into those huge bus windows at the player seated right above where I was standing. It was Manti Te’o!!!!!!!
And, as the players started filing off the bus, we welcomed them with never-ending choruses of the Fight Song and “We are ND!” As Manti stepped off, he was one of the only players to give us all a wave—understandable considering how tired they all must have been following the game and their red-eye flight back. We all kept singing, taking pictures, and having major fan-girl moments—in my case, at least— until my roommate grabbed me on the shoulder yelling, “Allie, Manti!”
Sure enough, as I looked up, Manti Te’o was coming down the front row of the crowd giving us all high fives. So, I high fived Manti Te’o. The same player whose super-human game statistics—11 tackles, 1 sack, 1 interception—I had just obsessed over with all my friends only a few hours before. The same player who is now No. 2 on ESPN’s Heisman watch list and a definite first round draft pick.
Needless to say, my day was made. Right then and there, at 4:30 a.m.