What’s a Notre Dame tailgate like? Nothing short of magical. But then, would you expect any less from a school that hasn’t lost a football game since our 1993 national championship? Yes, I think, if anything, our already storied program has been through a virtual renaissance in the past two decades, taking home trophy after trophy under the steady leadership of the composed Bob Davie, the charismatic Tyrone “The Wild Man” Willingham and the humble, contrite Charlie Weis. Throughout this time, the one constant — besides national championships and Heisman winners — has been the tailgating.
Now, if I were to sum up the experience in one sentence it would be this: Tailgating at Notre Dame is like Beowulf’s feast at Heorot after slaying the beast Grendel. If I were to sum it up in 23 sentences give or take, it would be as follows:
Every game day in South Bend, the Irish faithful wake up, drink several sports drinks, choke down some aspirin and drive themselves to the striking emerald green fields near Notre Dame stadium. Birds sing. Children smile. And there, in the shadows of the statues of Notre Dame’s great Heisman trophy winners — Brady Quinn, Jeff Samardzija, Julius Jones, Sean Milligan, Golden Tate, Maurice Stovall, Kyle Rudolph, Tom Timmermans and the like — Irish fans drink, and we celebrate the impending victory.*
(Photo Credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
*Some of the above may not have been fact checked. The fact is that Notre Dame tailgates are basically like the guys from King of the Hill hanging out and drinking a few beers. It’s pretty cool. People have bratwursts and stuff. Oh, and there’s plenty of parking, so you’re always tailgating close to (if not next to) the stadium, which is always a nice touch. None of that “tailgating at a frat house” business. And the really neat part is that ND tends to attract a lot of alums, so there’s always someone from an older generation willing to share some food or drinks with you. In fact, my brother once wandered around the parking lot during a tailgate holding a cardboard sign that said “need one beer.” He got more beer than God. And don’t tell me God doesn’t drink beer. I’ve seen platypi with my own two eyes.
So, are we going to cram yer gullet with cochon du lait or show up three days ahead of time? Nah. But Notre Dame has always been a place that favors the simple and the old school. Just as there are no Jumbotrons in the stadium — or even team names in the end zones for that matter — so too do the tailgates remain simple. There’s a dignity to it.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
What you can say about Notre Dame tailgates is that every game feels like the most important game of the season. I have a friend that recalls how amped up the Notre Dame-Duke matchup was in 2007. To be clear, those two teams had a combined two wins. In November. This was like the Browns’ practice squad against the kid from Rookie of the Year after he lost his pitching abilities. I don’t remember who won that game, but the answer was almost certainly “not the fans.” And still, the parking lots were packed. And if you’ve ever seen South Bend in November, that means something. It’s 11 degrees and it smells like ethanol and the sun is gone. Until April. It’s where joy goes to die.
So, is there anything special about a Notre Dame tailgate. Not really. And to me, that’s the best part. To have a swarm of people come in, regardless of the win-loss record or weather, and hang out and talk football before a game — doesn’t that feel like Notre Dame’s style? Isn’t that more fitting than some kind of over-the-top pageantry? It’s subtle. And that’s what I like about it.
Of course, when the jerk Notre Dame fan in your office starts telling you their tailgating is better because of its simplicity, and “blah blah blah we’re just different” etc. etc. feel free to remind him of the 2002 BC game (in which Notre Dame blew its perfect season) and shoot him a wink and the double pistols. Domers love that.
Read more about the tailgating fan.
Stop in at the Man Cave, where the women are hot and the beer is cold.
Brian Cullen, ND class of ’05, one time left a game to go home and drink Vanilla Cokes. This isn’t a joke, and to this day, at least one friendship has been ruined because of it. But whatever. Vanilla Coke is awesome. Don’t judge. Jerks. Follow him @bucketcullen.