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Irish fans flock to Georgia to show support

Eileen Duffy | Friday, September 1, 2006

They are the drivers of RVs, the bearers of MapQuest directions, the callers of shotgun and the seekers of rest stops. They set fire to their friends’ heads in radio contests and bid exorbitant sums on subhub.com and ebay.com. They are the students making the trek to watch Notre Dame take on Georgia Tech this weekend.

Welcome to Atlanta where the Irish play (this weekend, at least). When the Irish hit the road, so do their fans – though cramped cars are a far cry from jet planes.

Senior Nathan Catanese will be squeezing six people into a car – meaning one person will be sitting between the driver and the front passenger. It’s going to be tight, but Catanese might have a little more tolerance for leg cramps, as this is the first Notre Dame game he’s seen in nearly two years, having studied abroad in London last fall.

“Since we missed last football season, we are going to as many games as we can to make up for it this year,” he said.

Junior Fritz Shadley can relate. On Tuesday, he’ll board a Spain-bound airplane that will fly him away from Notre Dame football for the fall. He’s still heading down to Atlanta, though.

“The only games I can go to are this one and the National Championship game,” he said, without knocking on wood. Students like Shadley and Atlanta resident Emree Chapman, who flew home Thursday for the game, are confident in the team’s ability to win.

“I have a lot of high school friends that go to Georgia Tech. It’ll be fun to beat them,” she said, adding a “hopefully!” for good measure.

Chapman is hosting 15 students at her home for the weekend. Road-tripping students without friends in Atlanta said they plan to stay at hotels, other colleges near Atlanta like University of Georgia, or even in their RVs.

A student ticket lottery did not take place for the Georgia Tech game. Director of Student Activities Brian Fremeau said the lotteries are reserved for games “within a short driving distance” from campus, although Director of Ticket Operations Josh Berlo noted that 300 tickets would be available for the game at University of Southern California. Without Notre Dame’s help for this game, students found their tickets in a multitude of ways.

Senior Mike Sciortino planned ahead. He and his friends went to the Georgia Tech Athletic Web site, www.ramblinwreck.com, on July 1 when tickets went on sale, and purchased a three-game flex pack. The pack included Notre Dame and two other games of the students’ choice, but Sciortino says he plans to sell the other two tickets.

Shadley also found his tickets this summer, but from a more unique source. He and his friends, some of whom live in Atlanta, entered a radio contest there offering 20 tickets as its prize: 10 for the group that could prove itself Notre Dame’s “craziest” fans, and the same for Georgia Tech.

In the photos they sent to the station, the Siegfried juniors doused their friend’s hat with lighter fluid, ignited it and “went crazy” in front of the camera. They then hoisted the flaming-head friend up for push-ups.

The 10 tickets were theirs.

“I think [the push-ups] are what did it,” Shadley said.

When the road trip ends, though, the game begins – and students hope they’ll soon be doing push-ups for a different reason.