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Debate This is a recurring series on Her Loyal Sons in which two writers take opposing sides on a hot topic. Yesterday, you learned why playing football in a stadium designed for baseball is “dumb.” Today, you learn why it’s awesome.
Many moons ago (these moons) (not that moons) (bless his heart), I wrote about the subway and the importance to the University of Notre Dame of its formative footballing years and how they helped build a national brand out of the little school on the shores of Lakes St. Mary and St. Joseph. Sorry, Father Sorin, il y en a deux.
Those games were played in Yankee Stadium, the Polo Grounds, and in Ebbetts Field. In seasons past, the Irish brought the Shamrock Series to Yankee Stadium and to Fenway Park. By continuing to schedule and play football games in baseball stadiums, Notre Dame honors its past and builds important bridges with future fans.
The popularity of Major League Baseball relative to the NFL, the NBA, heck, even to NASCAR has been popular fodder for sports-writers for some years, now. The MLB couldn’t crack the top twenty-six most-watched sporting events of 2015, while women’s soccer and NCAA basketball managed one appearance each, while college football came in thrice. Still, Game Five of last year’s World Series attracted a pretty respectable 17,206,000 pairs of eyeballs on the television.
I am happy to concede that shoe-horning a football game into a ball park does not make for the most ideal sightlines. That said, its just as hard to play baseball on a football field and make it fan-friendly. Just ask anyone who attended the baseball game between LSU and Tulane in the Superdome back in 2002. Or anyone who watched a game at Shea.
Still, there is no denying the jazz a marquee venue brings. Playing in Yankee Stadium is an homage to the past. Playing in Fenway is a chance to bring the Notre Dame experience to Boston, home of Brian Kelly and Irish-Catholics the world over. Can you imagine the excitement for a game at Wrigley?
I think what I like most about these “baseball games,” if you want to call them that, is that they’re played in either “classic” or “regenerated classic” ballparks. In her terrific Master’s thesis, Christine A. Mello categorized parks into one of three categories, the two just mentioned and “super stadiums.” “Classic” stadiums now number but two: Fenway and Wrigley, while super stadiums are on their way out, their hulking multi-purpose, please-everyone approach soundly outdone by Camden Yards and its progeny.
By selecting unique stadiums in which to play, Notre Dame opens itself to limitless opportunity. Recall that we played Navy in Dublin at a rugby ground. I’d love to see the Irish at Old Trafford or Wembley or The Azteca. I’d love to see the Irish in Paradise.
I’m all in favor of continuing the Shamrock Series and of playing Notre Dame football in unique places.