We left South Bend at about 2 p.m. on Friday and made the four and a half hour trek down to Columbus. The route was anything but scenic; we saw plenty of cornfields and ended up on some backcountry roads through the middle of nowhere Ohio. The mass migration from South Bend to Columbus was noticeable, and we saw multiple Notre Dame friends drive by us on the way down.
After stopping at the hotel, we drove down to High Street, a popular area near Ohio State full of restaurants and night life. After struggling to park in a parking garage that was far too narrow for two-way traffic, we set out to find a place to eat.
The anticipation and excitement of Columbus for Saturday night was apparent the moment we set foot in the High Street area. The area was bustling with people going out for dinner on Friday night, and we saw plenty of Irish fans walking around as well. We found a small Mediterranean place, and although the workers were hesitant to serve us because of our Notre Dame attire, we enjoyed our meal and went on our way.
We decided to go back to the hotel after dinner to regroup before heading back to the High Street area to check out the nightlife. When we returned to High Street just a couple of hours later, it was an entirely different feel. The area was now bustling with college students and the alumni and adults that filled the streets during dinner hour were nowhere to be seen.
After debating which bar to go to, we ended up at a place called Standard Hall. When we walked in, it was busy but not overcrowded and it seemed like a good vibe with an outdoor patio and large indoor bar area. There was a group of about 20 Notre Dame students that I went with, and we stuck together and hung out on the outdoor patio. The size of Standard Hall was a change of pace from the bars of South Bend, and it was a cool experience to see a popular Ohio State bar.
As the night went on, I received some mild heckling from Ohio State students because of my Notre Dame polo, but the Buckeyes’ students seemed welcoming for the most part and there wasn’t any animosity towards Notre Dame that I noticed. There was also a strong Irish presence at Standard Hall on Friday night, and I saw lots of Notre Dame friends throughout the night. It felt as though the Irish had taken over a popular bar deep inside enemy lines.
We got back to our hotel at a somewhat reasonable hour and tried to get some sleep before a long day ahead.
We woke up just after 8 a.m. and decided we needed some food to kickstart the day. We returned to High Street and stopped by a Waffle House, a personal favorite fast-food chain of mine that I try to eat at when I have the chance. After enjoying our hefty meal, we headed to campus to check out ESPN College GameDay.
I was very impressed and surprised by how nice Ohio State’s campus was. The brick architecture of the buildings was impressive, and the campus was littered with trees and other plants. We walked through a beautiful park with a fountain and outdoor music stage and then made our way down to Ohio Stadium for GameDay.
When we arrived at GameDay, we were disappointed to find out that the crew was inside because of the rain, but we decided to wait it out and see what happened. About fifteen minutes later, the rain cleared, the crew came back out, and we ended up with a spot close to the cast. We were definitely in the minority as Notre Dame fans, but it was fun to boo Desmond Howard with the Buckeyes’ fans and take in the sights of another College GameDay. Jack Harlow was the guest picker on the day, and we saw him do a small performance of his song “First Class,” which was a neat experience as well.
After leaving GameDay, I picked up my Observer co-workers and the three of us sat down and had some tacos for lunch. There was college football on at the restaurant, and we watched the end of Iowa’s enthralling 7-3 win over South Dakota State.
We walked around High Street and the surrounding area, and it was apparent that the excitement was building with kickoff being just over four hours away. Every bar at High Street was packed with fans from both teams eager to see their team in the season opener.
An hour or so later, we decided to get our credentials and drop our stuff off at the press box. I was impressed by the size of Ohio Stadium the moment that I walked in. The Shoe made Notre Dame Stadium feel little, which is something I didn’t expect. We headed up to the press box, which was very nice as well, and dropped our stuff off.
There were still over two hours until kickoff at this point, so I decided to check out the tailgating scene a little bit more. Some of my friends were tailgating near a bar called The O Line, so I walked over there and met up with about twenty friends. The tailgating was crazy and full of people who had been tailgating since the early morning. There was some live music playing, and so much background noise that it was difficult to talk to anyone at times. I hung out for 45 minutes or so and then walked back to the stadium. The parking lots were full of Ohio State fans throwing tailgates, and the number of tailgates and parties was truly staggering.
I returned to the stadium, got situated at my seat and then headed down to the field to check out the Shoe from field level. It was exhilarating being on the field before the game, and I saw plenty of famous reporters and commentators. It was fun to watch the Irish go through their warm-ups as well.
I returned to the press box about a half hour before the game, got some food, and I was ready to go.
As the game winded down and an Ohio State victory seemed inevitable, we headed back down to the field for the final two minutes. As Ohio State ran out the clock and Notre Dame walked off the field, the Buckeyes’ fans jeered at Marcus Freeman and the Irish team. The pain and anger in the eyes of the Irish players was apparent as the sound of Buckeye fans singing “Carmen Ohio” resounded through the stadium.
After sitting through a press conference with dejected Irish players and coaches, we returned to the press box, wrote our stories, and headed back to the hotel.
All in all, Saturday’s game in Columbus was an awesome experience and one I’ll remember forever. Ultimately, however, it truly doesn’t compare to a game day at Notre Dame.