Sports fandom is best experienced among others. The thrill of victory and the misery of defeat are rarely as profoundly felt as when screaming amongst a joyful throng or embracing in a heart-shattered group hug. Unfortunately, due to some terrible travel planning, I was scheduled to experience the Notre Dame-USC game all by myself. Of course, in today’s digital era, we are never alone (even if we want to be). And thanks to Twitter, I was not alone.
I spent the morning in Georgia, and the early gameday tweets had me unusually longing to be in South Bend in late October rather than down south.
@CoachBrianKelly, 9:31am, Sunday: Not a cloud in the sky. Going to be a great day for football. Go Irish!
@PootND, 11:56am: Let 7+ hours of tailgating begin.
For me, 7+ hours of solo shuttling, flying and driving began. But in the early evening, as I flew in the air while football fans streamed into Notre Dame Stadium, I caught some impressions of the pre-game atmosphere via Twitter, thanks to airplane wifi. The energy being transmitted in 140-character bursts virtually shook my mobile device.
@Brucealeg, 6:28pm Pre game awesomeness in the stadium.
@emilymonacelli, 7:46pm The energy for this #NotreDame night game is incredible.
@UND-com 7:42pm Let there be music! #NotreDameStadium
@ndIRISHlc19, 7:48pm I hear music! I’m so confused.
Then the game started. Well, it did for USC at least.
@ChiTribHamilton, 8:10pm New helmets. Rally towels. First night game since 1990. Ozzy on the PA. And USC is just playing harder and better than #NotreDame. How?
@oaknd1, 8:16pm This sucks.
@NBCNDNearParab, 8:54pm Maybe helmets are too shiny. Too easy for USC to see ND players?
By the second quarter, I was in an airport bar, just me and two Chicago cops seated beneath a ceiling-mounted set. When the game reached 17-0 USC, one of the cops asked a passing waiter to flip the TV to the Blackhawks game. I contended that we should give the Irish the rest of the half to make their case. This is the first and likely last argument with a Chicago cop I’ll ever win, so I owe the Notre Dame football team one for that satisfaction.
@crsbecker, 9:14pm And George Atkinson III helps me hold off the cops a little longer.
@oaknd1, 9:21pm Very very very very very very fortunate to be down 7. Very.
@Pres-Bartlet, 9:21pm I need Notre Dame to #OccupyTheEndZone
@rakesofmallow, 9:34pm Show a little faith, there’s magic in the night.
So after a very rough first half, a win was somehow still within sight. At this point, I relocated to my car, figuring that listening on the radio, the premier live sports medium during Notre Dame’s glory days, might help to wake up the echoes. Instead, the echoes got kicked squarely in the face.
@ISDUpdate, 9:56pm Rees on the ground, appears to have hurt his knee…Dayne Crist is warming up.
@herloyalsons, 11:26pm CRIST FUMBLED AT THE GOALLINE!?… Crist fumbled a ball that was returned 80 for a TD? There is no God that angry or that mean.
@edsbs, 10:08pm I’ve just never seen a QB specialize in fumbling for distance. Quite unique.
And yet, despite such ignominy that could have only been worse had Crist simultaneously lost his pants and stepped on a rake, Notre Dame still had a chance. They just needed a little magic. And then the magic came!
@oaknd1, 10:14p HIS. NAME. IS. JOOOOOOOOOOOOONAS
@NDatRivals, 10:25pm USC’s kicker hooks a 27-yard field goal attempt, keeping ND within one score of tying the game.
@Dascenzo, 10:24pm YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS
@ndIRISHIc19, 10:26pm Believe believe believe! I’m Catholic, some stuff I believe defies all logic. I should be able to believe in #NDFB at the very least.
And then just as quickly, the magic walked away, chuckling and shaking its head, with the endlessly replayed excerpt from “Crazy Train” as its exit soundtrack.
@ChiTribHamilton, 10:29pm And it’s under review. Call of the season for #NotreDame. Critical to remember: Called a lateral on the field. Looked like right call… Ruling on the field stands. #NotreDame fumble, USC ball at 18-yard-line.
@edsbs, 10:29pm Notre Dame turns the ball over again. Brian Kelly farting blue flames of rage.
@JimmyClausen, 10:40pm Bed…
@JohnStowe, 10:40pm South end zone empties. That’s ballgame.
All that was left was regrets…
@NDFakePR, 10:26pm We should’ve bought the 6 song package. We’re sorry. The 3 song seemed sensible.
@tessaseinz, 10:54pm Well, that’s over. If I never hear #crazyTrain again, it will be too soon.
@aheadofme, 12:52am That hurt. More than a simple college football game should…stood in the middle of the SC crowd while their band gloated for 20+ minutes on our field. Absorbed enough hate for a lifetime.
@LoyalSonBiscuit, 1:36am Boo for fumbled snaps that swing 10 points. Boo for slow starts. Boo for the tedious progress of progress. Boo for above shoulder BS. Boo
@ndeconprof, 9:10am, Sunday I feel so helpless. I want so badly for this team and this university to succeed and I have to stand and watch us find ways to lose
…and final thoughts…
@herloyalsons, 11:47pm Darn it, ND, if you force me to obsess on something else, it’ll be business and politics. #saveTheWorld
@starkruzr, 12:14am This will be all the more frustrating if we now go and beat Stanford in Palo Alto. ALL of this loss was psychological.
@TheNDleprechaun 11:03am, Sunday KEEP YA HEADS UP! #GoIrish
@jdubs88, 11:48am After all been thru, u wanted Crist 2 lead ND to TD on THAT drive. Deserved that moment. Life’s not fair. It’s what makes sport compelling.
@cwilk, 10:56pm The true measure of how into a football game I was is when my voice recovers. We’re 24 hours after kickoff and I still can’t talk.
Twitter is certainly no replacement for experiencing a sporting event among 80,000 ecstatic fans in a packed stadium waving towels and shouting along with “Seven Nation Army.” But it surpasses experiencing it alone with just two cops in an airport bar. So much of fandom consists of the shared “YESSSSSSS” and “That hurt” expressions anyway, and most of the highs, lows, cries, cheers, snark, jeers and tears come across quite expressively in creative textual form on Twitter. That said, I’d recommend you not take a look at the USC fan Twitter feed. Their 140 characters don’t translate as well into hug form.
Christine Becker, an associate professor of film, television and theatre at Notre Dame, was named by The Wrap as one of 25 TV superfans to follow on Twitter, where she can be found @crsbecker.