The Notre Dame Blue-Gold Spring football game offers a wonderful spectatorpalooza.
Free parking near the stadium. Tickets cheap enough that spectators probably can afford a snack at the concession stands. The best seats you can grab. The marching band playing ND football game favorites. The leprechaun and cheerleaders whipping up the crowd.
The 27,863 fans at the April 16th game got all that. And their overall jovial mood — until the rains came with a vengeance — was spurred along by tongue-in-cheek comments from announcer Mike Collins.
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OK, so it’s not a real game. It’s a scrimmage, an exclamation point to Notre Dame spring football practice. But for fans, it offers a great opportunity for preseason speculation. Four quarterbacks were on display, providing fodder for plenty of discussions.
And it’s kind of goofy. “This is the 837th best day of my life,” one spectator yelled.
Adding to the relaxed feel were such oddities as a do-over, what golfers call a mulligan, on a kick when the ball to center went astray. Or, in the second half, letting the clock continually run — to make the shortest football game on ND record. Or players switching sides or dressing in anything from blue to white to green to red. Or fair catches only on punts.
The “game” was even on TV, a cable channel called Versus, with coach Brian Kelly wearing a microphone. Friends who watched told me he kept it clean; no penalties for untoward language.
Yes, some things were missing, such as the colorful and traditional pregame activities, a half-time show by the band and any sense of a true competition.
What this 82nd annual blue-gold festival also lacked was any semblance of fair weather.
The rain started shortly before the game did. What was bearable during the first half, a steady, persistent annoyance, became a downpour at halftime, a deluge greeted by a stadium-wide groan of anguish. Winds and cooling temperatures didn’t help.
“We must be crazy,” a wet, shivering fan said to me when I ducked into the ladies room during the fast-moving third quarter. I could only nod in agreement.
But if Notre Dame’s signature sport, football, is your thing, the non-game spring game should be on your spectator list. If you’re a ND fan, and unless the weather deems otherwise, you can’t lose.
Check out ND Free Pass for a sampling the less-heralded side of Notre Dame competitions: the rowing and the running, the putting and the spiking. Carol Schaal is managing editor of Notre Dame Magazine. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.