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  • My Stop’s Coming Up

    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


    24 Responses to “My Stop’s Coming Up”

    1. cujays96 says:

      Snow Bowl:

      My parents were in the field seats in the endzone where Brooks caught the pass. In fact, as Brooks caught the ball and slid out the side of the endzone he all but ended up at my Dad’s feet. In an instant of what could only be called “instantaneous joy” he lept up and rushed to help Brooks to his feet and give him a pat on the back.

      He sheepishly admits he was part of the 15 yard excessive celebration penalty. But it didn’t matter. The Irish won and when I see that replay on TV, I can easily pick out my Dad picking up his penalty.

    2. Irish tool says:

      You can put that number in quotes: “81,000”.

      • I disagree. Everyone will be watching the play live and then they’ll look to the screens for the replays, and events like the one described will be even more joyous.

    3. This sentence seems a bizarre overreach: “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.”

      Maybe I’m missing something, though.

      • Patrick says:

        WG, as usual, its an overreaction. Just NDNation being NDNation… There are 2 things I struggle with in regards to this article. A. Will the game really be shown live on a video board? I have never been to a game where the action is shown live on the video board. B. How would a video board lead to longer t.v. timeouts?
        I don’t really care one way or the other about a video board, as long as it’s integrated into the design of the stadium and not just bolted to the top… But, these 2 points in Mike’s article just didn’t seem to make much sense to me.

        • Mike Coffey says:

          Two answers:

          The games are currently shown live on the Purcell and Compton boards. While they may or may not be in ND Stadium, the thought of 81k people after a play looking at a television rather than what’s going on on the field doesn’t thrill me.

          A video board leads to longer TV timeouts when they put together vignettes to show on the screen distracting the on-site crowd from how long the timeout is.

          • Patrick says:

            I don’t think the longer tv timeout thing actually holds any water. Maybe it does, but I just have a hard time thinking that it would. If it did, don’t you think NBC would have been pushing for these things for a long time?

            • Mike Coffey says:

              They have been. But if you’re sitting in the Stadium waiting for the game to resume, every second of the timeout is obvious to you.

              If they can distract you with highlight reels….

        • Irish Tool says:

          A. It is more the norm for a jumbotron to show live action than to not.

    4. We were sitting midway up in the section behind the flagpole, where our seats generally were located. I thought we’d blown that game a couple of times but the last Irish TD and Reggie’s catch were HOF. We left immediately after the game ended and it was a thrill to hear folks’ auto horns still blowing in celebration as we made our way south through town. I haven’t heard that since.

    5. bbkingfish says:

      “…a simple, dignified experience.”

      Football. Yeah, right.

    6. Amen brother. As much as I love the place… the powers that be seem to be chipping away at those things that make the experience unique. I’ve seen the pictures of the FieldTurf at this point and all I can say is it looks sterile and dead… not warm and certainly not historic. There seems to be an emphasis on making the stadium the focus of campus. Not the basilica? Not the grotto? Its seems misguided and, if I may, “mis-leading”. The idea that having commencement in the stadium drove the field turf decision is questionable at best, as I’d sure many alums and their family would happily have their commencement in North or South quad. And while I genuinely appreciate what Swarbrick has done for the university, respect his mind, I fear that as soon as the football teams hits its next crossroads he will have expended whatever political capital he has.

    7. Cobbler8 says:

      Probably my favorite ND play of all time. I was 7 years old and was watching in my bedroom as my Dad watched in the living room (I was too nervous to watch the 4th down with him). I can still hear the NBC Announcers (Hammond and Collinsworth):

      “Tom, they’ve taken back to the middle of the field now.”

      I remember my Dad yelling I as jumped into his arms, “That was our endzone!” Section 21, Row 27. It would have been right in front of us, but we chose not to go because of the bad weather in Chicago.

      Not sure how the moment would be different for those in the stadium had their been a jumbotron. I know there have been plenty of times I’ve been at games and wished I could see a replay of the previous play.

    8. You crabby, dusty alumni crack me up.

    9. Flanner96 says:

      You know what I remember most about the two-point conversion? How quiet the stadium was as Mirer dropped back. I remember being in the freshman section and in my head you can hear a pin drop. The utter and complete lack of noise from 59,075 people was surreal. The silence made the ensuing eruption sound that much louder and more awesome. No flashing lights, no LOUD NOISE meters, nothing. Just an audience enraptured at the magical college football game unfolding before their eyes.

      I’ll still go to games when they put video screens in. But I’ll always remember the quiet on that day. It was unlike anything I’ve experienced at a sporting event before or since.

    10. Funny how people poke fun at the older alumni for treasuring these memories, and yet don’t really have anything nearly as epic of their own to offer up. Except for 2012, all of the highlights from the last 20 years are against mediocre opponents (I love Quinn/Shark vs UCLA, but really, that was one series against a crapiocre team) or from losses It’s hard to convey to someone who has seen a loss to Syracuse that yes, the game itself can be fun….

    11. Camarillo Brillo says:

      No jock rock or electronic video replay prompting could have made the roar of the crowd at Notre Dame Stadium when Eric Pennick scored on his historic 85 yard touchdown run against Southern Cal any more spontaneous or gigantic.

      Even in 2012,when I had a similar moment like the one El Kabong related at the Snow Bowl…when ND’s defense made its goal line stand against Stanford, I was on the opposite end of the stadium. I could not tell if the running back had crossed the goal line on fourth and goal in overtime. But the roar of the crowd and the fans leaping to their feet in the end zone stands was unbelievable. No audio or video augmentation could have made that moment any more special.

      Notre Dame does not need this. And the alumni, subway alumni and fans do not deserve to have their Notre Dame game-day experience turned into something you can see at Wake Forest.

    12. I also was at the snow bowl(on the 20 yd. line where Reggie caught the 2 pt. conversion) with friends that were Penn State graduates.Years later I was in Philly on business staying at the same hotel as the Redskins when they were in town and run into Reggie and Henry Ellard in the elevator.I mentioned to Reggie that I was from Pa. and was at the game with Penn State grads and I always took a beating at State Penn when we lost to them.Well, he said that he usually wears contacts but had them out on that play! Henry Ellard said”maybe you should take them out now,you might be able to catch a pass” !

    13. Sadly, My last game was a loss.

      At one point, I was travelling to away games as well. The worst experience was to the Jerry Dome in Dallas. I found myself watching the damn video screen, instead of watching the game live.

      Some of the comments above claiming that “the video isn’t live so you won’t miss the game”, are off the mark.

      I sat there at half-time thinking to myself, “Why spend all that money and come all this way, just to watch on the big screen?”

      At ASU and at USC may be my last two games to travel to. I doubt I’ll ever set foot back in Notre Dame Stadium.

    14. yeah, my days of going to games are up too. The days of the entire stadium locked into the actual game on the field are over. It’s more about following than being unique. Even the players look at the TV all the time in that Jerry Dome. I remember going home from games remembering specific plays that happened on field, and never seeing it on TV. They have a different target market in mind.

    15. I also agree. I’m done with ND Stadium. As the tickets become unconscionably expensive, the experience itself is cheapened and degraded to something available just down the street.

    16. mpsND‘72 says:

      Time marches on. The Notre Dame Football “Experience” isn’t what it used to be 40-years ago; that will be completely forgotten 40-years from now, and; current changes to the stadium will seem old and outdated to many. The fact is, more importantly, with all the concern about injury, the game itself will undoubtedly be different. And with over-done and unnecessary PC-edness, the “Fighting Irish” will probably be called the Fighting Iris. Too bad I won’t be around to see the Iris vs. the Cardinal!

    17. Whocares….as long as we are winning like we were in the Mid to late 80s and early 90s when the last time ND was relevant in College Football.!!! When ND was REALLY fighting for National Championships, then you ll get all the AMAZING experience you ll only dream of or hear the “oldtimers” talk about great wins in the House that Rockne Built over Miami ’88, Penn St (as you mentioned above) and FSU ’93. But in ordr to get there and have that experience, the team needs to be relevant like it once was. As a longtime ND fan, there are generations of ND fans, students, alumni (younger) that are happy with an 8-4, 9-3, 10-2 going to be a BCS Bowl and getting blown out by an LSU. THAT WOULDN’T HAVE BEEN STOOD FOR IN THE HOLTZ’S years!!!! We would have won those games!!! Lastly, i feel ND will rise again and be a relevanf program like the past! When that happens, i would love to see the nay sayers like ESPN, BIG TEN ( like those schools up north!)!! scramble!!!