AT's Blog – From A to T

Occasional observations and random musings from Cali to DC

A Saturday Afternoon in South Bend

Posted by ataylorblog on September 27, 2010

After nearly four years, I finally returned to South Bend, IN Saturday to watch my Stanford Cardinal take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on a chilly fall afternoon.  During the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, this journey had become a regular fall voyage for my brother Gary & I (until work got in the way).

This has always been a trip that I looked forward to.  Great football taking place with an amazing backdrop on the Notre Dame Campus.  Reconnecting with classmates.  Pit stops on Michigan Avenue for shopping (and Garrett’s Popcorn).  Dreams of a chance encounter with Oprah while in town.  Hope of ending the Cardinal losing streak in South Bend (previously a 1992 team that my brother played on).  AND most importantly, an opportunity to spend the weekend with my big brother.

One trip that stands out in my mind was in October of 2004.  The Connecticut Sun were playing the Seattle Storm in the WNBA Finals that year while I was still working at the WNBA League Office.  I remember attending Game #1 of that series in CT on October 8th then flying to South Bend on Saturday, October 9th.  I was able to find a flight that would get me to Indiana about 2 hours before the game and was met at the airport by my brother Gary who had driven down from Chicago.  As I threw my luggage in the backseat, I noticed an enormous bag of Garrett’s Popcorn that he surprised me with (I guess he knows me pretty well).  We went to the game (a 15-23 defeat to the Irish) and quickly rushed back to the airport, so that I could catch an evening flight out to Seattle where I would catch Game #2 & Game #3.  Seattle would go on to win the championship that year.  This sports junkie will never forget that amazing weekend.

Another year, I packed sandals and capris for a game that would end up taking place in the snow.  Luckily, we were able to hit Michigan Avenue to purchase boots, gloves, stocking cap, and a jacket the night before.  The Stanford equipment manager hooked me up with a team sweatshirt before the game (I must have looked pretty pathetic standing there in the snow).  Gary has never let me hear the end of that one!  Needless to say, he now packs two extra sweatshirts & gloves for every game (home & away) just in case little sister loses her mind & fails to check the weather channel.

After years of making this trip every other year, our streak ended in 2006 when life’s conflicts stood in the way.  I didn’t realize how much I missed this annual rite of passage until we started driving down I-90 towards South Bend yesterday morning.  Not much to see during that 2 hour drive except the authentic scenery you’d expect to see in rural Indiana.  Gary pointed out the plethora of corn stalks lining the highway and I counted the “red barns” hiding behind trees along the way.

As we passed other vehicles on the road, we all looked at one another & quietly acknowledged that we had a common destination.  It was South Bend or bust for the hundreds of cars on the road with us.  It’s amazing how much changes over time.  During our initial drives a decade ago, we would frantically turn the knob on the radio to find a Chicago station that would receive decent reception in the midst of the cornfields.  In later years, we would simply connect our iPod to the car’s stereo system & enjoy the route listening to our own theme songs.  This year, we listened to downloads from iTunes while I clicked away on the computer on the way there & watched the Boise State versus Oregon State game on the return trip.  The simple wonders of modern technology.

While I will have to keep dreaming of running into Oprah, our wish for a Stanford victory did come true yesterday!  Behind an impressive effort from Andrew Luck, Owen Marecic (who made the writer of this Sports Illustrated article look like a prognosticator), and the Stanford Defense…Cardinal fans outlasted the Irish fans hanging around the stadium well after the game until the players ran over to celebrate in the corner of the endzone with us.

It was great to run into some classmates and former teammates before & after the game as we all walked around campus and took in the site of Touchdown Jesus.  As we have all ventured out to separate parts of the world, it is always refreshing to renew friendships with old pals as well as some new ones with others donning the Cardinal & White (and big smiles at the conclusion of yesterday’s game) when you run into them.

These days, college athletics seems to be the subject of much scrutiny, but it is simple Saturday afternoons like I just experienced that reminds us how very special college sports are to the fabric of America.  For those 3-4 hours, we could forget about all that weighs on our mind while watching these young men play the sport that they love for no other reason than for the love of the game (and maybe for the expensive tuition that both of these institutions charge)!

Sounds like this home & home series may end in the near future when both schools look to find alternative opponents that fit into their non-conference schedules, so I will certainly hold on to the lasting moments of another Saturday afternoon in South Bend because it may be my last!

2 Responses to “A Saturday Afternoon in South Bend”

  1. Hi there! This article couldn’t be written much better! Reading through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He constantly kept preaching about this. I most certainly will send this post to him. Pretty sure he’s going to have a great read.
    Many thanks for sharing!

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