Special To One Great Season
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Three friends and I decided a couple years ago to leave their wives at home for one weekend every year and take a trip to see a favorite sporting event or venue. We had gone to old Yankee Stadium last year, and before that to Soldier Field for that frost-bitten game against Green Bay days before Christmas. Future trips include the Super Bowl, seeing all the Triple Crown races in the same year, the Pipeline Masters and more. Our list is about 20 events long.
And last weekend we checked off our list a visit inside Notre Dame Stadium as the Irish played Navy. And it was just a visit.
The day started, I would imagine, like most trips to Notre Dame for a football experience. Bloody Marys at the grotto, a walk through campus amid the very similar architecture, seeing the Golden Dome and Touchdown Jesus and buying food from co-eds trying to pay exorbitant tuition. Of course a trip to campus is never complete without stepping inside the 10,000-square-foot bookstore, where you don't have to be an alum to buy a $30 T-shirt.
Then there was the tailgating, acres and acres of it. Flags and food, cheerleaders and football-throwing kids, flat-screen TVs and dancing in the aisles. Everything you might expect from a Saturday afternoon in the sun before a college game, including lots of alcohol. People were drinking beer, wine and spirits, in cups, bottles and even stemware. And they made no attempt at camouflage, as comfortable being in the open as in a communion line.
But, for some reason, all that tolerance changes to temperance once you pass into the reverent halls of the stadium. The effect of giving your ticket to the taker and walking through the turnstile transforms all Irish-Catholic football fans in South Bend into a contingent of fine Southern Baptists, with hands on knees and tongue between teeth. Inside their football shrine there is no cussing, no heckling; you seemingly are not allowed to act in any way like you are at a football game. And what is most relevant to this story is the zero tolerance of alcohol.
At the start of the second quarter an usher asked to see us in the concourse; we knew that we had been caught with contraband of Kentucky’s finest. He then asked if we had indeed been drinking and we confessed, hoping for forgiveness and thinking that the penance would be merely confiscation. Another usher, assumingly used to more evading perps, asked, as he flashed one of our empty pint bottles, "soooo, are you still going to stick to your story?"
"Yes, yes sir, we have been drinking and that empty bottle does look familiar." Apparently, it was alright for Jesus to turn water into wine, but a Navy fan at Notre Dame cannot turn his 7-Up into a cocktail.
He immediately said what Tony thought to be, "game-day bag." Alright, some souvenirs, an upgrade to another wooden bleacher slightly closer to the field. Tony realized, as we were escorted down the ramp toward the gate, that we had, in fact, suffered a "game-day ban."
Our tickets were taken, the request for the remaining pint was denied and we were told not to re-enter. We went to a bar to watch the rest of the game, which Navy won.
Kuhl is a former Navy sailor and is a friend of OGS. He lives in Louisville.