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Ode to the ushers

Observer Viewpoint | Thursday, September 21, 2006

So, we lost last weekend. Bummer. There are other things that are bummers, too. In fact, some of these bummers also occur in the football stadium, but they have little to do with football. Like when a bunch of drunken guys, celebrating in raucous Dionysian manner, stumble into the student section and do their best to make sure the words most closely associated with the Notre Dame student section are “drunk,” “stupid” and “annoying.”

Thankfully, there is somebody who stands bravely against the smashed stupidity of these game-spoiling drunkards. More than one somebody. I’m referring, of course, to the Notre Dame Stadium ushers.

I know some students have a less-than-amicable view of these stadium attendants. They see the ushers as harbingers of terror, roaming around the stadium with sinister intent, ready to swoop down and strike furious vengeance on any helpless student who just wants to partake in a few pre-game, during-the-game and post-game festivities. Titans of terror. Golden-coated curtailers of freedom. Big Brother, watching your every move. These yellow-jacketed storm troopers of doom represent the hypocrisy of this University’s fascist regime. Or conversely, some of Our Lady’s loyal sons and daughters think those bumbling old bearded men are bitter, sad fools whose sole enjoyment left is to hang around the football stadium and catch a free viewing of the game. Heck, they probably even went to Boston College.

Not so, my friends, not so. Well, I can’t say for sure about the Boston College part, but I can assure you the rest of that caricature is more grotesquely inaccurate than the average Notre Dame student was hammered after last weekend’s loss. It turns out these ushers are anything but sinister, sad, bitter or vengeful. In reality, these dedicated men and women are one of the primary reasons a game at Notre Dame Stadium is a unique experience.

Even before the Stadium ever opens, these faithful shepherds are helpful sources of information, poster-boy (and girl) advocates for the University, dedicated to their jobs. We (hopefully) don’t have to ask directions to the Stadium, but for thousands of visitors to campus, the ushers are always there to sagely guide them to the sacred grounds of Notre Dame football. You can see them every home football Saturday before the game, grabbing a hot dog or steak sandwich on the way to the Stadium (and supporting student groups, I might add). They’ll be happy to give directions, lend a hand, and even join in the spontaneous student cheers across campus.

And that’s hours before kickoff. When game time actually nears, these ushers are swarming all over the place, guiding frail old alumni, confused visiting fans and disoriented students to their appropriate sections. Supposedly, Notre Dame has about twice as many ushers as most other college stadiums. This dedication to providing a good time translates into an enjoyable experience for all fans and students at the games. Any time some idiot in the stands breaks open a beer can over his head, tries to drunkenly crawl over the railing to a closer tunnel exit, or shouts violent ethnic slurs at opposing teams’ fans, an usher is somewhere nearby to help defuse the situation and remind everybody to keep calm and enjoy the game.

These ushers do not abuse their authority or try to “ruin the fun.” I have never seen an usher in any way overstep his or her bounds or go after a student with malignant intent. They are always there to hand out high-fives and a “Go Irish!” on your way to sit down, to protect kids from their bumbling drunken selves when they try to do push-ups and to kindly remove inebriated imbeciles from the stands – for which I am thankful.

And how do we repay these dedicated men and women? By leaving dirty beer cans in the stands, feeling clever when we sneak out over a railing, and whining when our God-given marshmallow throwing privileges are called into question (let’s not bring up that dispute again). Not all students are like this, by any means, but more of this goes on than the ushers really deserve.

The next time you’re in the Stadium, make a point to thank your usher for all his or her service, because we are the ones that benefit from their hard work. Some of them do it for a weekend job. Some do it because they love Notre Dame football. Some do it because they enjoy the dedicated fans and the experience of helping them out. Almost all of them enjoy being around the energetic crowd sections of a game. No matter what their reasons, none of them are the hell-bent authority demons students sometimes make them out to be. All of them are helpful, informative, and just fun to spend a game with. They are all valuable members of the Notre Dame community and the Notre Dame experience.

We need a new golden sign for the television advertisement, which reads: “Usher Like A Champion Today.”

James Dechant is a junior English and theology major. Questions, comments and rude remarks can be sent to jdechant@nd.edu

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