by Mike Coffey
Slowly but surely, the new FieldTurf is being laid at Notre Dame Stadium. As the pictures inexorably wend their way through various social media outlets, one can see how the structure of the new field will look.
I know there are those upset about the turf, and I confess a preference for grass myself. But given the lack of permanency of this project, I don’t find myself getting too up in arms. It may work out, it may not, and if it doesn’t, they can do it differently. Expensive to change back, sure, but my financial sympathy for a group about to spend almost half a billion tacking buildings onto the Stadium only goes so far.
Of much stronger stuff, however, is the decision about the big screen televisions made. I will never acquiesce to the Aderrall-ing of the Notre Dame football experience by adding Idiot Boxes to what is supposed to be a simple, dignified experience. But I’ve come to terms with a decision I believe has already been made. The Powers that Be have decided demographics other than mine should be allowed to hold sway. So be it, I guess.
It’s likely that decision will mark the end of my live game watching there. Yes, I know, more tickets available for the rest of you. My decisions are not predicated on the whims of irrelevancies, so do what you like.
Oh, I’ll still come back to tailgate. I never miss an opportunity to get together with friends and have fun. But about 45 minutes or so before kickoff, I’ll get things packed up and head over to Mike Frank’s house. Or maybe even my own house — there’s an empty lot down the street from Mike and bbdome and seano I’ve had my eye on for a while, regardless of what it’ll do to the property values. If I’m going to watch the game on a big television, I may as well have all the other amenities available to me while passing on the more cringe-worthy aspects. And Mike’s post-game shows are always fun.
But I’ll miss it. More than that, I’ll mourn a unique experience lost.
I was thinking about the Snow Bowl the other day (and chances are if you know what that means without having to look it up, you’re in my demographic too). The level of noise when Reggie Brooks caught Rick Mirer’s two-point conversion pass apparently has electronic stimuli as a prerequisite today, but back then, it was organic and something to see (and hear). But my strongest memory of that play isn’t the play itself, but rather the reaction to it.
My seats were in the exact opposite corner of the Stadium from where Brooks caught the pass, and down low. I probably was five or six rows behind the band, which for a band alum like myself was an enjoyable time. I watched the conversion play unfold, and saw (however unclearly) Brooks go for the catch. With the crown of the field and the low viewing angle, there was a moment of uncertainty as to whether or not he’d caught it almost as intoxicating as the catch itself.
But while the result may have been uncertain to me, it certainly wasn’t to the folks sitting right there. I remember the section immediately behind the play leaping collectively to its feet with a roar. The reaction spread throughout the stadium in almost a double-wave, converging in my section. It was an amazing thing — the visceral reaction of the fans not only to what had happened on the field but also to the reaction of their fellow fans. We needed them almost as much as we did the play itself to show us the way. The precise and intricate details of the specifics of what happened could be dissected at varying speeds at a later time — the Irish were going to win and all things were good, it was time to revel with our fellow fans.
It’s a shame experiences like that will now be lost. 81,000 pairs of eyes will be glued to the set waiting to react. The pixels will flare, the people will cheer, and we’ll all march on to victory in hi-def super slow-mo brought to you by Gurley Leep Honda.
Maybe they’ll do it right. Maybe what we’ve seen on the screens in Purcell Pavilion and Compton Arena won’t guarantee future performance. Maybe it will be just replays and the siren’s song of advertising revenue won’t inevitably lure future athletic directors** down the primrose path. Maybe it won’t be an excuse to add 30 more seconds to TV timeouts because the on-site masses have electronic placation and won’t notice. After all, as Damon Runyon once said, the race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong.
But he finished that phrase by saying, “…but that’s the way to bet”. So that’s where my money’s going. I’ll miss it dearly, but when the TV screens get on, that’s where I disembark.
** Jack Swarbrick has contended advertising will not be a part of the screen, and as long as he is athletic director, I believe he will stick to that promise