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.
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.
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:
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.
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.