In Praise of Vitamin D

Notre Dame and NBC released the kickoff times for the 2019 home schedule yesterday, and with the exception of the Southern Cal game on October 12th that will kick off at 7:30pm, all of the other games will be underway at 2:30 or 3:30pm.

See, doesn’t this look nice?

Let’s start this off with a note from Captain Obvious: These kickoff times should have surprised absolutely no one. The 2019 schedule has a strong road-to-home strength imbalance, with three of the four toughest games — Georgia, Michigan, and Stanford — away from South Bend and two Tier Four tomato cans at home in the first month. Really, the only thing that should have shocked people in yesterday’s press release is none of the games will be relegated to NBC Sports Network.

But as high a price as that much crapulence in the home schedule is, after the last couple years, I’m willing to pay it to get some more games in the bright sunlight as opposed to the Musco glare. I know some people out there like night games, but frankly, I’ve never understood their appeal to attending fans when it comes to college football.

Football Saturdays 101

Notre Dame football Saturdays have a great rhythm for me:

  • Alarm goes off at 6am, link the NDN headlines, hit the shower.
  • In the car at 7am, stop at the gas station to get a couple bags of ice to put in the cooler I packed Friday night, a steak egg and cheese bagel and diet coke at the McDonalds next door, and out on 294.
  • The time change puts me in the Joyce Center lots 9:45ish, get everything set up.
  • Three to four hours of flexibility. Some people in our group are happy to just socialize. Some blow through the men’s basketball practice. Some stop by other folks’ tailgaters, walk around campus, go to pregame events like the band concert, etc.
  • Start the break-down 45 minutes before kickoff. If I’m going to the game, grab a roadie or two, and head over to the Stadium so I’m there in time for the band’s pre-game show. If I’m not, it’s over to Granger, formerly to Mike Frank’s house, probably now to bbdome’s if he’ll host.
  • Watch what hopefully is a great game.
  • If I’m at the game, hang out at the car for an hour or two to let the immediate traffic die down. If I’m at Mike’s, do the Five Idiots post-game podcast (another unfortunate casualty of his move).
  • Head back west, possibly stopping at Swingbelly’s if we’re so inclined.
  • Home around 10pm or so, set the cooler in the backyard to drain, pour myself a Jameson Black Barrel, and watch the game again on the DVR.

Tales from the Dark Side

Now, let’s examine how night games interrupt the flow.

It almost requires lodging in South Bend. A two-hour drive at 7pm looks a lot less daunting than one at midnight, particularly when you can break it up as we usually do with a stop in Long Beach or Chesterton or even Munster. If I’m looking at getting on the Toll Road at 11:30 at night, I’m probably better off with a hotel room … which, thanks to the rates and required minimums, is $600 I’ll never see again.

How antiseptic

Still gotta get up early, but the wait is longer. I know they claim the parking lots don’t open until four hours before kickoff, but in practice, that doesn’t happen. If you show up for a 7:30pm kickoff at 2pm, you’re parking on the outskirts if you’re getting in at all, because everyone else is already there. You might get an hour of leeway, but my experience at previous night games indicates that’s it.

So now you’re there from 10-11am until 6:30pm. That’s a long time to tailgate, particularly if you still have the two-hour drive home after the game. Even if you’re not imbibing, you’re sitting/standing around in a parking lot.

The weather tends to be better. Football is a fall sport, and temps during fall days tend to be better than temps during fall nights. I have no aversion to watching Notre Dame play in the cold; I was doing that before some of the people bitching about this article were born. But if you give me a choice, like any sane person, I’m going to prefer the sun to the dark.

More of the day wasted. Even if I’m not attending the game, I’m still going to watch it, so the kickoff time creates the locus of my Saturday. I loathe waiting around all day for the only college football game I give a damn about to start. If I’m home, I like going out with friends on Saturday nights, and my social choices are a lot more limited if I have to factor in keeping an eye on the Irish.

Far less conducive to kids. I’m surprised a lot of the same people who bitch that the World Series games start so late their kids can’t watch it have no qualms about cheering evening start times for Notre Dame games. I’ve always had rules about attention span and bladder control when it comes to urchin attendance at games, but a 7:30pm kickoff can push things out of all of our control. If I wanted to take my 11-year-old nephew to see the Southern Cal game, 7:30pm creates a lot more logistical problems than 2:30 or even 3:30 would. Hard to create the next generation of fans that way.

Everybody’s a lot more f#$%ed up. To some, this is a positive by-product, because everybody’s lubed and everybody’s raucous and the crowd noise helps the team. That’s as it may be. But there are two things I know for sure:

  1. The only two fights I’ve ever personally witnessed at Notre Dame Stadium were during night games
  2. The loudest I’ve ever heard Notre Dame Stadium was around 4pm on October 15th, 1988, under a bright fall afternoon sun.

So consider me unconvinced. I would think it’s a lot more efficient (and safer) to give the fans a team to cheer about than to count on them to pour beer down their throats.

They’re a product of financial greed. We all know why the networks want night games — they can charge advertisers more. They don’t give a damn about the fans’ wants or needs, the lucre is there and dey wannit.

Hell, that’s the reason the Shamrock Series was created in the first place. NBC wanted at least one night game per season, but the CSC wasn’t yet prepared to give it to them, so the ridiculous “home game away from home” concept was wrapped up in pretty “spreading the Notre Dame brand” bullshit and brought into being. Funny how ever since the “three night games every two seasons” policy was invoked, the Shamrock Series has been back-burned. Must be a coincidence.

Can’t see this at night, can ya?

I can’t control how other schools set their kickoff policies, but I may get my wish for more vitamin-D-infused Notre Dame games this year. CBS can only broadcast one SEC night game per season, and they’ll have to balance the Irish in Athens against Alabama vs LSU. We may be rescued from a night game at Ann Arbor by, of all things, the fourth game of the World Series. On the other hand, the time zone difference almost guarantees Stanford will kick off late, and I find it unlikely the folks at the ACC Network will turn down the chance to have Notre Dame vs Duke outside of prime time.

I know people jones for night games (although I’m convinced the vast majority of the jonesers don’t actually attend them), different strokes and all that. But for 2019, I’m glad Notre Dame did their part to make my Saturdays more predictable.

Now all they have to do is win, because I don’t give a damn what time the playoff games kick off.

One thought on “In Praise of Vitamin D

  1. Could not agree more – preach it brother Mike! I’m looking forward to the afternoon games and maybe with a little luck the Georgia, Michigan, and Duke games will be vitamin D-ized, too!