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Is the Notre Dame football student section culture dysfunctional?

| Wednesday, September 21, 2016

I ask this question honestly in light of my experience at the home game on Saturday vs. Michigan State.  Just like the home game vs. Nevada the weekend before, my friends and I were caught up amidst a big crowd of students entering the stadium, an experience comparable to a herd of stampeding cattle. Except these were not steers but college seniors — sweaty bodies pressing on each other, pushing, pulling, stumbling and yelling with flushed faces, glazed eyes and slurred speech amidst the pervasive smell of alcohol. Once in the stadium, it seemed that as my friends and I climbed higher into the stands, the more drunk students were.  In response to some of the calls by a referee, we heard chants and comments from numerous students such as, “You’re blind and deaf, how can you be a ref?” and “The ref beats his husband,” somehow managing to combine homophobia and domestic violence into one slur. Before we moved to a less rambunctious section at halftime, someone who had been yelling by my friend’s ear for the entire first half sank behind us in a drunken stupor.  

I understand that this may be only one experience among many, that it is not indicative of the entire student section and that perhaps I was unfortunate enough to be sitting among particularly rowdy people. I also know that some people may think these smells, sights and sounds wonderful and even regard them as an integral part of the Notre Dame football experience. I argue, however, that the Notre Dame football experience is not one that necessarily includes excessive drinking and charged insults. Yes, there is a certain camaraderie intrinsic to Notre Dame football, especially in the student section, but that should not include harm to self and to others. Being a spectator comes with shared standards of accountability and decency.

I’m disappointed in my classmates, especially my fellow seniors. Is this what we consider a senior privilege? What kind of example does our behavior and attitudes give to underclassmen and show to alumni, teachers, family and friends? Can we really sing the Alma Mater at the end of every game if this is what we do during every home football weekend? Why drink to excess “just because you can?” You don’t need to drink excessive amounts of alcohol in order to enjoy a football game. It doesn’t matter if you think that you can “hold your liquor.” Nor is this a matter of “having fun” because excessive drinking is not fun for anyone, especially when people wake up with hangovers, start vomiting or lose consciousness. Drink responsibly, or don’t drink at all.  

I fear that we are losing this camaraderie of the Notre Dame football experience. As fans, we do injustice to the game with these slurs and excessive drinking. Yes, let’s get excited. Yes, let’s cheer on our team. Yes, let’s do push-ups in the stands. But do we really need to pregame for five hours beforehand with excessive drinking and call out derogatory insults that are affronts to the dignity of others? I feel that does a disservice to our team and to who we are as Notre Dame students. We attend the University of Notre Dame. That’s a privilege. Let’s act with class, not with debauched revelry, and be considerate of other people’s backgrounds and experiences. Let’s support and respect our players, coaches, referees, ushers, announcers, band members and cheerleaders who work diligently week after week to carry on our golden tradition, even when they mess up, fumble or get sacked. That’s the nature of teamwork.  

Instead of “rising above ourselves” and “surrendering to excellence,” let’s aspire to excellence and rise above a campus culture of excessive drinking and charged language. Let’s make this red dot into a green dot. Let’s take a stand and cheer for Old Notre Dame. Let’s preserve our time-honored tradition of Notre Dame football. This is something worth fighting for.

Grace Agolia


Sept. 18

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

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