tMichaelB is the web site for Tom Bengtson, who writes about business, religion, family and politics.

Friday, November 28, 2008

An afternoon of college football

Last weekend, my sixth-grade boy and I accompanied the 9th and 10th grade boys of Chesterton Academy to the Notre Dame football game in South Bend, Ind. The Fighting Irish lost to Syracuse, 24-23. Maybe they will do better tomorrow night at USC.

What a tremendous thing game day is on the campus of the University of Notre Dame! We arrived on campus about five hours before the 2:30 kick-off. Sounds like a lot of time, but it flew by.

Professor Charles Rice, professor emeritus at the University of Notre Dame law school, serves on the Chesterton Academy advisory board; he greeted us with donuts and shared a few kinds words.

We then visited the campus book store, which was abuzz with fans buying sweatshirts and memorabilia. The scene was as busy as Wal-mart at 6 a.m. this Black Friday. I found tranquility in the part of the store where they actually sold books. What a selection! Someday I really need to return to do some serious book shopping.

Coming out of the store, we ran into the Notre Dame cheerleaders, who were bundled up to accommodate the 26-degree temperature. They visited with our high school guys and we got a picture to commemorate the moment.

We toured the administration building, famous for its gold dome which supports a gold statue of Our Lady. Inside, the first-floor hallways are adorned with murals. I saw several depicting the life of Christopher Columbus. We visited other buildings before entering the Notre Dame Basilica, a wonder of church architecture. It is absolutely beautiful inside. Then we visited the Notre Dame grotto, located behind the church. It is a replica of the grotto at Lourdes, France. The place was buzzing with football fans, many of whom took a few minutes to kneel and pray.

We had lunch at a tailgate party, courtesy of the father of the Chesterton headmaster. A long-time Notre Dame fan, he clued us into some team history and accompanied us into the game. But before going in, we waited for the Fighting Irish marching band, which must number in the hundreds of members. We followed as they marched into the stadium from the center of campus.

My boy and I had row-six seats at the 5-yard-line in this bowl stadium that seats 55,000. By kick-off, every seat was filled. We watched a great game with Notre Dame getting out front to a 23-10 lead early in the fourth quarter. Syacuse score and then scored again with only 43 seconds left in the game to go ahead, 24-23. Notre Dame had a chance to win the game. With seven seconds left, they tried to make a 53-yard field goal but the ball missed the uprights and the Irish lost.

It was a great experience, although our feet grew cold from the snow and ice that were packed on the ground. It has snowed 10 inches the day before the game and although they had shoveled the seats off, the ground was covered with frozen precipitation. We left the game with about 10 minutes to go, running to the Basilica where we warmed up and waited for Mass to start. Apparently, they always have Mass 30 minutes after home games. What a great idea for Catholic football fans!

We slept well that night, staying in an economy hotel some 40 miles way in Chesterton, Indiana. For all of us, it was a great experience; and for my boy and I it was the source of memories we will carry with us forever.

The University of Minnesota, where I went to college, is moving into a new outdoor football stadium next season after have played more than 25 seasons at a domed stadium in downtown Minneapolis. I hope that the U of M is able to recapture some of that great football atmosphere that makes college campuses so special on fall afternoons.

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