As the school year is quickly ramping up, so is the Fighting Irish football season. However, one thing that is painful to admit to many of my friends this weekend, and now to you, the reader of this column, is that I have never been to a Notre Dame football game before. I know, I know. How does a super-senior manage to never have gone to a football game, especially being just across the street from Notre Dame? The answer: I just wasn’t ever able to. I am a student who has at least two jobs at a time when on campus, way too many friends to keep track of and assignments that flood way over my head. So, excuse me if I haven’t carved out some time for game days before. The thing is, I knew that this year was going to be different. I am still unsure of how much time I have left here as a student in the 46556 ZIP code, so it was important for me to jump on any opportunity this year to be able to see a bunch of sweaty young adults revel in the magic that Notre Dame Stadium has to offer. But, to begin such a massive undertaking, there had to be a plan, and like most of my plans it did not go all too well.
The night before the game, I wanted to go to Drummer’s Circle, a spectacle I have been lucky enough to witness before. Of course, I was unable to go because by the time I realized it was happening, it was one in the morning. So, we’re not at a great start for the weekend. Then, while walking past Siegfried Dining Hall on Holy Cross campus, I confirm with my friends that we are meeting at 11:30 a.m. for brunch; but come 11 a.m., all of us are running late. I have no eyebrows on yet, one friend already left without us, my other friend is on hour four of tailgating and we still have to buy snacks. I wanted to chug a Red Bull and fly, and I should’ve. Instead I sped through a blue-and-gold appropriate makeup look, ate a full plate of brunch and managed to remember to drink water, all in the span of 30 minutes. Impressive, I know, but I wanted to set myself up for success this game day.
Moving along in this story, I met with one of my original group members, and then I joined a new group of girls. This was my best case-scenario. I was wearing The Shirt along with a denim mini-skirt and my “going out” trashed white Vans. I was hopeful that being with a group of girls would boost my confidence because being a 6’1 tall male-presenting person in a denim mini-skirt in God Country, Notre Dame is still nerve-wracking. Nonetheless, we ventured into Domer territory and made a couple of stops along the way. We passed by a tailgate where I ended up with a free shirt, we watched the Band Concert at Bond Hall and went for a bathroom break at South Dining Hall. Things were looking up for sure. We saw classmates, professors and successfully evaded embarrassing exes along the way.
It was 30 minutes until game time and we made our way to Notre Dame Stadium when the anxiety started settling in. I wasn’t sitting in the student section of this game so I found myself looking for another friend of mine that graduated last year. We hugged at Library Lawn and found our way to the gate closest to our section. I walked slowly in anticipation. My shirt is a darker color by this point so I knew worrying about my outfit was a lost cause, but I worried about getting in. It was the same type of anxiety you get when going through TSA: I had no malicious intent in going to the game, but I felt guilty somehow. We got in, smiled at the event staff, wished them a good day and I was in. I almost cried. I still don’t know why I almost cried then, or when the band played, or when we got a touchdown, or when I saw our new head coach on my souvenir cup, but I tell you, dear reader, I almost cried.
That is the thing about this football culture, specifically as a Holy Cross student going to a Notre Dame home game. It can often make students like myself, especially students of color, feel like outsiders or not part of the crowd. There was a moment when I thought to myself, “This is why people can’t believe I’ve never been to a game before.” But, I look back at yesterday’s game and, despite losing, I think about all the wins I had. I had great seats (Section 10, Row 32, Seat 6), I had one of my best friends next to me, I had The Shirt and I had a culture of tradition and pride around me. The energy was addicting and invigorating all at the same time. Now I wonder if I’ll ever find myself in a position to go back to witness the Fighting Irish on their home turf, but I know that I can cross this sequence of events off my bucket list. In the future I know three things to do: one, get a clear fanny pack; two, bring more sunscreen; three, sit in the student section for sure. So, to close, it only feels right to make a Taylor Swift reference: Today was a fairytale.”
Gabriel B. Ibarra is a Chicago native currently attending Holy Cross College; majoring in Visual Arts – Studio Track – with a minor in Elementary Education. If not crying to any of Taylor Swift’s re-recordings, you can find them somewhere in the tri-campus causing chaos with laughs, pointed jokes, and one of many emotional support water bottles in hand, or leading Holy Cross College’s First Generation Club as the vice president. Learning to write for a newspaper is harder than expected, so they can be contacted on Twitter @gbenito11 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed in the column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.