The Chicago Bears and Soldier Field proved to be yet another phenomenal host for Notre Dame fans and the Shamrock Series. After the 7 home game, 4 away game, 1 neutral site game model ended up causing more scheduling issues than it was worth (who was that Kevin White guy, anyway?), I was not pleased about the prospect of giving up an ND home game to bring the show on the road…but then I graduated, moved out of South Bend and found out neutral site games are actually freakin’ sweet.
I’ve been lucky enough to attend both this year’s game in Chicago and last year’s game at FedEx Field outside of Washington, D.C. Other than the annoyingly expensive tickets, I found both games to be an outstanding change of pace as a fan. Because everyone loves lists, below are some of my thoughts on the Shamrock Series and my experience with it:
1) Video boards are flat out AWESOME when utilized properly. Like most football stadiums (Notre Dame Stadium included) the majority of the seats have poor views of certain parts of the field. As I sat in the north end zone of Soldier Field on Saturday night, I was about 150 yards away from the south goal line, which left me absolutely no perspective on the play other than listening for the roar of the crowd as the ball crossed the goal line. Luckily for me, as soon as the ball was snapped I was able to direct my attention to the video board to actually see what was happening. No, Jerry Jones, I don’t go to football games to watch TV, but when I can’t see what is happening on the field it is perfect to have that option.
The biggest advantage to the video board, though, was the ability to look up and watch full replays of the many highlight-reel plays and questionable calls by the
replacement refs. My only nitpick with the way the ND team worked the boards on Saturday was that there were two plays that went under review that the fans saw no replay of. C’mon, man.
I found the pump up videos to be ‘eh’ and would certainly do away with the noise-meter that popped up twice, but those things can all be worked out in time.
2) The game offers more fans a chance to see the Irish. No, none of the neutral site locations the Irish have played in hold 80,000 people. However, San Antonio, New York, Washington, D.C. and Chicago are far easier to travel to than South Bend. On top of that, young alums that are still on a budget are more likely to have friends to stay with (unless some of their college buddies stayed in South Bend to bum around Fever trying to pick up girls on Thursday nights).
And if you don’t have a place to stay? Nice hotels in Chicago are cheaper than crappy hotels in South Bend. Supply and demand, for the win! But seriously – don’t stay in a hotel in South Bend when you can Rent Like A Champion.
3) The players and recruits love it. By all accounts the team not only craves the opportunity to play in historic venues, but also (gasp!) likes the “innovative” uniforms. Did anyone else think the helmets didn’t really look that bad on Saturday? Maybe everything takes on a nicer hue when you’re 5-0.
4) Barnstorming is back, baby. Sure, other teams have neutral site games every now and then, but ND’s Shamrock Series has become one of a kind in college football. Not only is no other team taking the show to a different neutral site every season, but no other team would have a hope or a prayer of filling stadiums that are as geographically diverse as what Notre Dame has pulled off.
See you all next year at Cowboys Stadium. Early rumors indicate NDtex will be hosting all loyal HLS readers at his place.