Robb Stark and Tywin Lannister. Daniel in the Lion’s Den. The movie “300.” Rocky Balboa in Russia. Notre Dame football opening the 2022 season at The Shoe. All of these situations are synonymous with underdogs involved in the fight of a lifetime, and if the betting public has anything to say about it, The Fighting are a MASSIVE underdog this weekend. I love Marcus Freeman and his nonchalant attitude towards the -17.5 point line the Irish have been placed at, but nevertheless, Notre Dame will go into this as the largest underdog I think they’ve been placed in the last 20 years.
But I am not here to talk about the state of Notre Dame Football, or even dabble to make a prediction about the outcome of the game or season. Ever since my 13-year-old self-predicted a 23-21 Irish victory on January 7, 2013, I don’t dare partake in such activities. On the contrary, I would love to speak to the fantastic time that visiting Notre Dame students will have this weekend if they have chosen to attend tomorrow’s game. Easily the most daunting early season matchup in recent memory, the threat of the outcome has not dissuaded undergrads and alumni alike from booking plans to drive into Columbus this weekend. And I applaud them. Because yes, regardless of your outcome in the student ticket lottery, and regardless of the score at the end of the contest, if you are traveling to the game, you are bound for the time of your life.
Personally, I have had a euphoric experience as an Irish fan in a visiting stadium. The high, lows and adrenaline delivered by traveling and game-winning fields can almost rival game day at Notre Dame. Of course, I am spoiled that this game happened to be played in Tallahassee as we took on Florida State last year during Labor Day weekend, but I almost didn’t attend. Emphasis on almost. An invite to Tallahassee was extended to me early last August when I was told that a group of friends were planning to make a weekend out of the trip. They invited me and others to do the same. Skeptical at first, I cataloged almost every excuse in the book to avoid further conversations about attending. “The job search”, “homework”, “Who will walk my dog?” (I’ve never had a dog), “All my money is tied up in long term municipal bonds” were all excuses involved in my fight against the inevitable. But deep down, I really wanted to go. And finally, after a push from my mom, my bests friend and I decided to go over Spicy Siracha Caesar Salads at Bru Burger. Florida State vs. Notre Dame was on.
We immediately booked $120 round trip flights (yes, the good old days), and flew out of O’Hare in the middle of the night to make it to Atlanta. From Atlanta we rented a car to make it Florida’s capital by Saturday afternoon. After Popeyes and Sunday mass at the Florida State Union, a truly incredible weekend was underway. The game itself was one of the best of 2021, and it prompted me to cry twice, once during the “Amazing Grace” tribute to Bobby Bowden and once again when the Seminoles tied the game at 38 all. Long exciting touchdowns by Michael Mayer were matched on the defensive side of the ball with the most impressive interception of the season by Kyle Hamilton. The game was a nail-biter through and through, and just when I thought it was over, the Irish won it on a game-winning field goal. And while the rest of the world listened to Brian Kelly comment on executing his players on national television (they’re just kids Brian!!), the Tomahawk chop continued to play on over and over in my head. But an Irish victory was reason for a fitting celebration, and I’ve got to tell you, our group of weary travelers from South Bend, now confidently self-dubbed the “Seminole Seven,” took every bit of deliberate enjoyment leaving the premises of Doak Campbell Stadium.
So a piece of advice to students traveling to Columbus, Ohio this weekend. Be safe, be smart and win or lose, the 46556 will welcome you back Monday morning as the conquering heroes you are. And to Tim, Jack, Micah, Camden, Peter and Ryan.
Go Irish and Long Live the Seminole Seven!