Shamrock Series: Deep in the Heart of Texas

Back in 2010, I was fortunate enough to make my way to Yankee Stadium for my first Shamrock Series game. The environment was fun and different, but the term “Shamrock Series” wasn’t even in existence yet. It was simply a neutral site game in which Notre Dame had an excuse to wear green jerseys.

For this iteration of the Shamrock Series, the Fighting Irish came into my home of Dallas Arlington North Texas for an event that was truly unlike anything that I had experienced out in New York City.

Jack Swarbrick (left) speaks with Jack Nolan (right) at the Shamrock Series luncheon while showing off a seriously on-point sock game.

Jack Swarbrick (left) speaks with Jack Nolan (right) at the Shamrock Series luncheon while showing off a seriously on-point sock game.

My weekend started at the Shamrock Series Luncheon thanks our own Lisa Kelly and the folks over at Irish Player Charities. It was there that Jack Swarbrick mentioned how the Shamrock Series has become an event that Irish fans have embraced to the point that fans from outside the various host cities are planning vacations around.

That statement was beyond shocking to me and I honestly wrote it off as Swarbrick doing his job as our AD and just promoting the hell out of the event. I had a hard time reconciling in my head that people really looked forward to the Shamrock Series that much.

Robin Weber (right) and Tim Brown (middle) relive their playing days with Jack Nolan (right)

Robin Weber (right) and Tim Brown (middle) relive their playing days with Jack Nolan (right)

Next up were two former Notre Dame greats: Tim Brown, Notre Dame’s last Heisman winner, and Robin Weber, who made “the catch” to seal a national championship against Alabama in the 1973 Sugar Bowl. Many people know that “the catch” was the first that Weber caught in his career. What you may not know is that Weber had a scare that morning before the game: the hotel staff accidentally threw away his contact lenses. Weber considered not even bothering since he only blocked, but decided to go looking for them in the hotel garbage chute anyways. Thankfully for Weber and Irish fans, the only piece of trash he found were his lenses and he would have the eyesight to seal the ND victory.

Finally, Brian Kelly came out and mostly repeated his performance of his radio show from the day prior (sans crazy Twitter questions), but with a stronger focus on the importance of being in Texas from a program perspective.

All in all, it was a great experience, but the real fun was still to come.

After enjoying some drinks with fellow Monogram winners, young alumni, and some loyal readers on Friday night, it was time to get ready for some serious tailgating.

I wish I had more pictures to show you, but my focus was manning the grill to feed the crowd with easily the best food that I’ve ever consumed at a tailgate of any kind. We had secured ribs and brisket from Pecan Lodge BBQ which is not only the best in the city, but damn near impossible to actually get due to long lines and limited supply. I was also introduced to the greatness that are giggity ribs, a recipe that originated from NDNation (but I think we had a more tangy version with the rub that was used), had some fresh grilled asparagus, and, if that wasn’t enough, one tailgater brought out fresh venison sausage with jalapeño and cheese.

After stuffing our faces and enjoying multiple cold ones, it was game time in under the bright lights of Jerry World and the brighter glow of the JerryTron.

I must say the environment was incredible and it wasn’t just because the masses were still able to buy beer in the stadium. This was were I saw Swarbrick’s comment earlier in the weekend come to life. We were surrounded by people that definitely had this game circled on their calendars for a while. Some were local, some just had a quick drive, and others came from even farther away, but every ND fan in attendance was seemingly ready to burst from joy at seeing the Irish in person.

Think back to your first ever ND experience — now multiply that by a good 10,000 people who are seeing ND for the first time (and I’d wager that’s a conservative estimate). That’s an awesome atmosphere and I must say, the JerryTron was used incredibly well to facilitate that joy.

Now, before we go much further into the ‘Tron as I can already sense some heads exploding, let me start out by saying this: I absolutely, 100%, hate that abomination of an oversized TV screen that hangs above the field. In fact, I absolutely detest the stadium as a whole (there’s a reason most locals here call it the Death Star or Jerry World). There are too many distractions and for me, that thing is the pinnacle of going too damn far with everything and having the game be secondary. There are platforms for a go-go dancing team, there’s a Victora’s Secret shop inside the stadium, there’s an art museum, the acoustics are truly awful (there are some seats in which you can’t hear anything from the sound system), and there is that freakin’ huge screen that is forced into your line of sight.

I’m not joking either, this was my view:

You practically have to force yourself to look away.

You practically have to force yourself to look away.

I’ve been to Cowboy games before and did not care one bit for the “experience” they provided. If you watched this weekend’s game against the Broncos, you were probably treated to a shot of a seizure inducing third down graphic that perfectly sums up some of the absurdity that goes on during those games.

That all being said, Notre Dame did an absolutely fantastic job with that monstrosity.

They proved that, even in a stadium full of ridiculous distractions, they could provide programming that enhanced the gameday experience. It didn’t feel like some overdone or overhyped Cowboys game, but a football game that I was excited to watch.

The only ad run the entire time was a reminder that ND was selling Shamrock Series gear in the Stadium — I can live with that. The rest of the time, the JerryTron was used for ads that specifically promoted the University or to provide replays of the game (or to purposefully stop showing them if the play looked like it wouldn’t go ND’s way). They also ran a pregame show before hand that I wish I had caught.

Those awards given on the 30 yard line everyone hates? They happened, but were packaged with a video intro that actually got people to genuinely applaud both award recipients, one of whom was military and got a standing ovation.

When the ASU band performed, the ‘Tron ran ND content, including a fan poll to pick the opening song of the second half, the entire time. But when the Band of the Fighting Irish game out, the entire focus was on them and actually getting to see a bird’s eye view of their formations is always welcome.

Also welcomed, formations of the best damn state in the land.

Also welcomed, formations of the best damn state in the land.

The absurdly long NBC TV timeouts flew by and the crowd stayed active and engaged the entire time from the opening video (which really got the crowd fired up) to the crucial moments at the end of the game. I’ve been to three Cowboy games at the Death Star and I’ve never heard that stadium as loud as it was that night.

Now do I want a 70+ yard ‘tron hanging over ND Stadium? Dear God, no. One or two much smaller screens showing similar content would be perfect. It sure beats screaming at orange-oven-mitt-guy during TV timeouts.

To say the least, I had a blast and, in all honesty, I had one of the best times that I’ve ever had at a Notre Dame game and that includes some awesome memories from 2012 and my time as a student. It wasn’t just because the Irish were in my backyard, because we won, because I stayed well boozed up the whole game, because “better” fans showed up, or because of a jumbotron feed, but because the entire mixture that this Shamrock Series brings together is just so different from anything else that I’m used to experiencing at a ND game (previous Shamrock Series trip to Yankee Stadium included).

After this experience, I can see why Swarbrick confidently stated that people planned their vacations around this. I will definitely push the Shamrock Series higher on my most wanted list when I fill out my application next season.

I definitely encourage all Irish fans to head to a Shamrock Series game and give it a chance, especially those that think I’ve lost my mind on being happy about the jumbotron use. I think you’d be pleasantly surprised with what ND can do.

Personally, I would just love to inject even just a little bit of the Shamrock Series atmosphere into Notre Dame Stadium. If that happens with a jumbotron, great, if it happens through some other addition/modification, fine by me. That breath of fresh air would certainly be welcomed.

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  • Tia Bisignano

    Enjoyed your article. My family is still beaming over the experience. We really did feel like we were at a bowl game. We’re making plans to travel to Met Life Stadium next year for the Shamrock Series.

    • Paul Vanderwater

      I believe next year’s game at MetLife Stadium is a home game for Syracuse. Our Shamrock Series game hasn’t been decided yet.

      • NDtex

        Yeah it’s been up in the air with the ACC move. At the luncheon, Swarbrick simply said “stay tuned” so I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s trying to maneuver that game into a Shamrock Series affair as well as looking for some backup plans.

  • Davie Dave

    Great article. Our whole group (minus my pregnant sister who had to stay sober) had a great time. It was my first trip to the Death Star (I refuse to go in support of JJ). The sound was awful. From our seats in 311 you could barely hear the ND band and the PA. It couldn’t stop the ND feeling and excitement though. Ready for them to come back, and share a little more love for us folks on the Dallas side of town.

    P.S. We had Pecan Lodge too. Gotta love the new 5 poiunds or more express line.

    • NDtex

      The sound is truly awful there. There was only one Cowboy game were I could here the PA and I was in a similar spot as this one so I was able to hear it too.

      It’s incredible that over a billion was spent on that thing and so many basic things are so incredibly screwed up.

  • http://twitter.com/radiofreekruzr J (@radiofreekruzr)

    How was the excitement in the stadium in terms of the back-and-forth scoring, what was on the line for both teams, etc?

    • NDtex

      Quite high. There was a decently-sized ASU contingent there as well that gave a bit of back and forth that matched the game.

      Make no mistake though, it was an Irish crowd and when it came to crunch time in the 4th the crowd reacted appropriately.

      It really got to the point in which, I think towards the end of the third quarter, I just realized that I was having such a damn good time that even if a loss happened, I would only be thrown into partial depression instead of complete, full-blown, give me a bottle of Jameson and leave me alone depression.

  • John

    Great post! Incredibly happy that the Irish won and glad that you had an awesome experience; I would have loved to have been there too!

    Go Irish!

  • http://ndeddiemac.tumblr.com NDEddieMac

    Good stuff Tex. I had a blast as well, especially thanks to the fact that we pulled out a win. Plus, you are underrating your tailgate I think. Our fearless poster knows how to do the damn thing.

    • NDtex

      Many thanks, sir.

  • http://www.zahminvestments.com Pat

    My only gripe – a minor one, at that – relates to the parking lot staff at Jerryworld. Those poor folks had no clue what was happening. The ticketperson at the lot entrance told me (a) lots opened at noon (In which time zone?, I asked) and that (b) I needed a separate, $150 “tailgating pass” if I planned to drink the beer and eat the food in the back of my truck, or I would be shut down by police. After 5 minutes of absolutely freaking out, frantically searching Ticketmaster, and consulting with other Domers, we determined they didn’t know squat.

    Nonetheless, a great time, a great game, and a great excuse to see friends and family.

    • NDtex

      Somehow this doesn’t surprise me in the least.

  • Charles

    Was I at your tailgate? North side of Lot 12? The Giggity Ribs were indeed outstanding. Best iteration I’ve ever had of them.

    • NDtex

      You must have been. That was definitely us! I was the guy manning the very, very tiny grill.

  • MDM

    Hmmmm……
    We were at Soldier Field against Miami and the Jumbo Tron was ( I am assuming ) run by ND and it was Mercedes sponsors – well – everything.
    Not convinced ( that they can resist the revenue stream ).

    • NDtex

      Was it an actual video ad for Mercedes or just a message that Mercedes was a Shamrock Series sponsor?

      Those are two very different things.

      The Shamrock Series itself has always had sponsors to my knowledge, but I am not aware of any that have gotten an actual video ad to run during the game.

      Edit: Also, can we drop the “ND can’t resist additional revenue streams” argument? There is plenty of evidence that they can: not joining a conference. The money is far better than the NBC contract and ND has stated that multiple times.

      Edit 2: I went and asked FIDM. Mercedes sponsored the “Great Moments in ND History” video. I’d hardly call that an ad, especially considering the money left on the table by ND for not running a full-blown Mercedes commercial instead.

      • MDM

        I’ll admit that it was awhile ago, but I recall thinking it ( and others ) was an advertisement. It was not over the top. Some stadiums ( Iowa State as an example ) does have ads for everything. Loud and obnoxious. My parents still receive, annually, donation requests from ND, after 32 years of their not sending any money to South Bend ( after the tuition…). I’m sure “tastefully done” would be their goal, but…
        What happens after the BK era and another Willingham (God, and the BVM, forbid) causes consternation in ND Nation? I’m not a complete stick in the mud, but I’m not sure everything needs to be video game central.

  • http://gravatar.com/clearwall trey

    Count me among the many who actually loves Jerryworld and everything about it including the torn. It’s so tremendous that it’s fast becoming the most replicated stadium feature in the country.
    I’m with you on everything you posted. Game was great, atmosphere was outstanding. Only wish i could have partied more with HLSers. Next time, we really should do an official meetup for the gm