Week 1 - Notre Dame vs. Navy

Trip Start Sep 01, 2012
Trip End Nov 26, 2012

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What I did
Notre Dame vs. Navy

Flag of Ireland  , County Dublin,
Saturday, September 1, 2012

What a way to start off the college football tour!  Sabbatical hasn't officially started, yet, but Trent and I were on a business trip to Ireland that just so happened to coincide with the Notre Dame vs. Navy game.  Obviously Janell and the boys weren't there for this one.  But, it's still part of the tour, and I need to write about it.  Tickets were very hard to come by, but Declan, one of our Irish co-workers, came through for us and somehow got us two tickets on the half-line just behind the TV camera (50-yard line for the Americans in the crowd)!

A fantastic thing happened on the way to the stadium.  I had told Trent that my plan for getting a ticket to the Michigan vs. Notre Dame game was to make friends with some Notre Dame fans and see if anybody had some extra tickets.  We were walking along with the other 35,000 Americans heading to the stadium, and I started talking with Michelle, literally the first Notre Dame fan I had met.  I started telling her about the college football tour and how I still needed a ticket for the Michigan vs. Notre Dame game.  Here's how the conversation went after that.

Michelle shouts back, "Hey, Dad!  Do we have any extra tickets to the Michigan game?"
Dad (Carl), "One.  Next to you."
Jason, "I only need one."
Michelle, "It's yours!  And we only ask for face value."
Jason, "Let me buy you a beer!"

Sweet!  That was going to be a tough ticket to get, and I get to sit next to some cool people.
As an interesting side story, Declan had overheard a conversation between two Americans the day before the game.  One of them said he had sold his ticket for $400.  The other one deftly pointed out that he had bought a plane ticket for over $1000, stayed in a hotel for a week, spent a large amount of money eating out every day...and now he didn't even get to go to the game, which was the whole reason he came in the first place.  He was regretting his decision.

Time for the ratings (note, these may be modified as we go to more games and have something to compare it to).

Stadium - Aviva Stadium is only 2-3 years old.  It is a purpose built stadium for rugby and soccer.  It seats about 50,000.  One interesting thing is that there is a big dip in the structure at one end.  Apparently, there are some fairly well-to-do people living on that side of the stadium, and they didn't want the stadium to block the sunshine in their backyards.  That being said, there didn't seem to be a bad seat in the house.  All the seating was covered, and there was nothing blocking anybody's view.  They served beer until the end (longer than they served food).  The smaller size hurts it a bit, and the newness helps.  The dip in the stadium also offered an interesting view of the city.  Rating: 7 of 10.

Tailgating - Tailgating is pretty much a foreign concept in Ireland. Plus, all the American fans were either on foot or on a tour bus, so "tailgating" really meant crowding pretty much every bar between the Temple Bar area and Aviva Stadium.  That being said, there were people hanging out everywhere.  Guinness was in ample supply.  People were in a good mood.  The weather was beautiful.  The lack of traditional tailgating hurts a bit, but hey, it was fun.  Rating: 7 of 10.

The Game - Notre Dame pretty much dominated this game, as expected.  They looked pretty good, and Navy looked overmatched.  The starters were pulled in the 4th quarter.  Even so, the atmosphere was pretty electric most of the game.  Rating: 3 of 10.

The Band - This is for the band geeks (of which I am one).  The Notre Dame band played an Irish themed show at halftime.  The announcer said it was just the upper classmen, which I guess makes sense since class had only started 10 days prior to the game and it was a long trip to get there.  At first the Irish folks around us didn't know what to think of the band until they suddenly morphed into the shape of a shamrock.  Then they were hooked.  There were several more formations and songs I didn't know, but the Irish seemed to enjoy it.  They ended with the shape of Ireland and an Irish flag.  They were fairly flawless in their execution (and I had a great seat for viewing a marching band - see the pictures).  Overall, it was very impressive considering it was the first game of the year and they were playing in Ireland.  I'll dock them a little for not having any freshmen, but overall a great show with some complicated formations. I'm interested to see how they do at the Michigan game.  Rating: 9 of 10.

Fans - This one is kind of weird being a neutral site in a different country.  But, overall we ran into tons of Notre Dame fans and a few Navy fans around town.  Everybody was great in town and in the stadium, and there were quite a few Irish locals at the game, too.  Honestly, it couldn't have been better.  Rating: 10 of 10.

Best Player - This is a tough one.  Monti Te'o had a pretty good game with 6 tackles, a fumble recovery, and an interception.  But, considering that the starting running back was suspended for the game, and both backup running backs scored two touchdowns each, I'm going to give the best player award to the Norte Dame Offensive Line.

Overall Rating - Come on...it's in Ireland.  If only the game itself had been better.  Rating: 8 of 10
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