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Enjoying the non-traditional football traditions

David Barrett | Monday, September 8, 2003

As I take time out of my busy senior schedule to reflect on this past weekend, and the banquet of Boca burgers and beer to which I was privy, it’s easy to feel like I’m the luckiest man alive. Not to mention the manliest.

Of course, the hourly aloe treatment makes me feel a little less rugged, but not when I remember that it is the only way to ensure an expeditious recovery from multiple burns to the forearms.

It was a grill accident resulting from a manual match-lighting at our Saturday morning tailgate. The ignition-auto-gauge-button-meter-thing wouldn’t play nice, so we had to improvise. Or maybe it did in fact work, and we just prefer to do things manually instead. Manually and manly are pretty much one and the same. Either way, there is a penalty to pay for such rash, disorderly behavior. It’s singed forearm hair, a terrible smelling downstairs to your apartment and eternal notoriety for being so dang manly.

That wasn’t all that went wrong on Saturday. The long dreamt-of tug o’ war duel in our backyard never materialized. Perhaps it was a result of poor party planning, or more probable, because Lowes doesn’t carry ropes that thick.

Visions of long ago Field Days flashed before our eyes. We relived great tug o’ war triumphs and lamented the equally great tug o’ war defeats. Perhaps no other game, in the history of manly men, captured the masculine identity quite the way tug o’ war did. We considered both the shotput and the pommelhorse, yet both lacked the simple appeal and practicality that thoughts of one rope and dozens of grunting men conjured up.

Unable to locate an adequate rope, however, we settled for a somewhat tamer Saturday tailgate.

There is something special about masses of people beating down your door at 8 a.m. demanding nourishment. There is even something kind of special about losing half of your glassware to thirsty freshmen who show little regard for personal property and feel no need to return family heirlooms that they pilfered from your kitchen cabinetry. Even if they are plastic, we want them back.

Our living room was a certified sea of green by 10 a.m., as was every other apartment at Turtle Creek. It was nice to see police officers sending kids long rather than taking them captive in their cruisers. Order was restored, so to say, in the alleys of Turtle Creek.

In addition, the football team relived past glories on the sacred sod, squeaking one out against the overmatched Cougars. The September sun proved plenty hot for most at the game, turning us from the sea of green into the Red Sea. At the end of the game, only three questions remained:

Would the fans once again bumrush the field?

Would the field be able to withstand such a bumrush?

Would the design for “The Shirt” ever change, and if it didn’t, would people still continue to buy a new one each year?

Ye of little faith who might have questioned the tenacity of the Fighting Irish, your concerns have now been answered. We are still tenacious, we are still magical, and we will relive the glory. We are living it, baby.

The concessions once again were also magical. The Notre Dame hot dogs are still good, maybe even better than they were last year. The condiment udders are still the coolest things any of us have ever seen and might ever hope to see. The half dollar pieces are still apparently in circulation, contrary to popular opinion. They might provide a shade of facility for the overwhelmed concession cashiers, but we still hate them.

These are the little things that don’t make it into the volumes dedicated to Notre Dame football, but they are the things I will personally miss most when I graduate in May.

Did you know that thousands of RVs gather in a giant field beyond Stepan Center and the Credit Union to celebrate each and every Irish win? Not only are the people friendly and the food free, but unlike the BMW-dominated Legends parking lot, the RVs are permitted to tailgate well into the night.

It took me until senior year to realize how many viable alternatives there are to simply going home and passing out on a couch. On football Saturdays, the impossible becomes possible. You can play beanbag toss, Bocce ball or tug o’ war without drawing unwanted attention. You can pinball from RV to RV, to that little bus with a full deck on its roof, to celebrate with people who really know how to celebrate. All it takes is a little initiative, a little bit of aloe (just in case) and a lot of rope.

David Barrett is a senior economics and philosophy major. Contact him at dbarret1@nd.edu.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.