It was Labor Day weekend. The sun was shining and the weather was perfect. It was going to be an incredible day! Excitedly a friend and I packed a cooler with food and drinks as we prepared to leave and begin our pilgrimage to Notre Dame Stadium.
It was my hope that this day would mark the beginning of a football season of redemption. Perhaps Notre Dame could make a bowl game in Brian Kelly’s first year. Maybe the Indiana Hoosiers could score enough points, since they can’t play defense, to make a low level bowl game. I hoped that the Colts could put together a strong regular season and make a deep run into the NFL playoffs.
It appeared like it was going to be a great football season. IU had won their first game. My friend Kari and I witnessed Notre Dame defeat Purdue the Saturday of Labor Day weekend. My college teams had all gotten off to a good start.
The following weekend the Colts lost to the Houston Texans. Soon the Colts roster would be decimated with injuries. Indiana would alternate between playing uninspired games against mediocre opponents or lose in the last second to nationally ranked teams. Notre Dame’s season has been defined by injuries, difficult losses and the tragic death of a student videotaping a practice. It would be an understatement in saying that this is not the football season that I was hoping for.
Yet, this weekend I will brave the elements, along with a co-worker and his father, to make one final trip to gaze at Touchdown Jesus, sit in the stadium that Newt Rockne built and cheer Notre Dame on to do the impossible, beat the top ten ranked Utah Utes.
The weather forecast for Saturday is for rain with high temperatures in the 40’s. It will be damp and chilly. The possibility exists that Notre Dame will be unable to remain competitive for the entire game, making it feel all the more cold and uncomfortable. An obvious question that some people have asked me is why? “Surely,” they say, “you have better things to do on a Saturday than traveling three hours in bad weather to watch Notre Dame likely get blown out by Utah.” Another question that I find myself often being asked is why, as a blind person, do you bother going to so many sporting events in the first place?
The answers to these questions are simple. Obviously when you go to a sporting event your purpose in attending is to cheer on your favorite team. As comfortable as a person might be watching the big game on their couch, enjoying all of the amenities of home, there is nothing better than getting caught up in the atmosphere and excitement of witnessing something live and in person. Whether you are a fan of Notre Dame or not, or whether you even care about college football, most people acknowledge that experiencing Notre Dame on game day is a unique opportunity. The rich tradition coupled with the interaction between the team and the student body makes it a special place. Besides, a real fan cheers on their team regardless of the weather or the type of season they are having.
Whether a person can see or not is not important when attending a ball game. All 80,000 people in the stadium on Saturday will share the same identity; simply that everyone is a fan of Notre Dame. When a player is unexpectedly not on the field, or there is a controversial call, a person who is blind and has a radio, suddenly becomes the most important person in their section. Everyone wants the information that I am getting from the radio broadcast. Attending a game is not so much about who wins or loses; instead, it is about the shared experience that you have with other fans.
On Saturday morning I will dress in layers and make the long trip up to South Bend. All the while I will be hoping for the impossible, that Notre Dame can play a near perfect game and somehow upset Utah. Crazy? Maybe, but never count out a team that has the luck of the Irish!