We have a controversy! There is a tear in the seamless garment of our unity. Ugly voices are raised in shouting and discord. Someone has messed with the Stadium! And this time it’s serious – someone has messed with the tickets. Alumni and Subway Alums, put the lead pipes and letter openers down; this doesn’t call for violence on your part, because this has nothing to do with your tickets. You will continue to be given one-sixth of the tickets you request at twice the price you expect. This time the catastrophe has fallen on the students. A brief summary of events in this vast injustice is in order first.
All students can buy season tickets at a “reduced” price.* Each undergraduate class year occupies a quarter of the student section, stretching from the north end zone to midfield under the press box.** Within a subsection, each student is assigned a row and seat number that corresponds to a faded glyph on a worn wooden board. Students generally, but not always, try somewhat successfully to locate themselves around or near said faded glyph for portions, but not all, of the game. In essence, the row and seat number is a vague suggestion that keeps a certain subtle order to the overarching chaos of the student section. Yet, the seat number is not, in fact, a seat, since no one sits in the student section, except during halftime – if they’re not standing en masse to throw dessert items at each other.
In recent history,*** students quite literally camped out in an unruly and booze-fueled queue outside Ned Joyce’s sports big-top. In this way, the first semi-comatose senior on the ground when the ticket office opened in the morning, received the best seat in the Stadium; and so on down the line until that last “football-is-vulgar” freshman deigned to pick up his tickets so the other kids in his section didn’t make fun of him. Then that was forcibly organized into a controlled camping event, complete with chaperones and distracting non-alcoholic games. Then this became an early evening picnic where students listened to live music (the only way to hypnotize them into obedience), and there were stickers and a lottery and a drawing – like a big parish bingo night, only for people a quarter of the usual age. Finally technology advanced to the point that each student is given a number of the beast some sort of lottery number that allows them to apply, register, PAY IN FULL, and later pick up the appropriate tickets. So as you can see, at an institution where tradition is prized above all else and preserved at all costs, there is absolutely no rhyme or reason to the ever-evolving student ticket policy. I call it the Heraclitus system, because all that is constant is change.
*Students currently pay the same amount for tickets that I used to charge for four years of a Notre Dame education.
**There’s some provision for graduate students, law students, and future masters of business administration. It’s wedged between the upper and lower classes. Like an ocean liner, state rooms above the grad students, steerage below.
***When the Stadium was built, we couldn’t even fill it. Then the War put a dent in the number of students available to cheer during games. After that, the ticket office, the Prefect of Discipline, and the rectors had a couple of systems. And then we went coed.
That brings us up to date. Now back to this week’s travesty. It has been announced from on high that during this coming football season, within each class section, seating will be “general admission,” or what I like to call “free for all” or “every man for himself” or “last one in is a rotten egg” or “this is how people behave on a sinking ship.” Have you ever seen the San Fermin festival in Pamplona, Spain – it will look something like that, only with yellow-clad ushers replacing enraged bulls. The impetus behind this most recent change is to allow the truly ardent fans direct access to the seats closest to the field. In this way, the Stadium will be louder and the team will win more (more than 6-0 at home?). And this is where the fur flies.
The great and powerful authority that orchestrated and announced this change is the Leprechaun Legion. This is the student organization dedicated to increasing…for lack of a better term…school spirit at all sporting matches. They publicize, advertize, excite, urge, cajole, give away free food and clothing, demand, guilt, and herd in order to increase student attendance at athletic events. They also want to augment, raise, lift, amplify, and otherwise make bigger the intensity and volume at each of these events, all in the name of helping our Irish teams win. This is all for the greater glory of Notre Dame, and the Legion deserves our unreserved thanks. However, in this case, the Legion determined that there was a problem with the student section, investigated other student sections, devised a solution, sold it to the Athletic Department, and then dropped it on the students like an unwanted but permanent dorm room guest.
My first question is, when did Notre Dame students have a problem with unpopular decisions and rules being unexpectedly announced with no student consultation and enforced from above? That’s how this place has always worked, people! That’s how I set it up. At least this time the decision was made by your fellow undergraduates, not some unnamed and inaccessible Administrator in the Office of Continual Improvement and Never-Ending Betterment.
My second question is, who on God’s green earth could attend a Notre Dame home football game and NOT realize that there are serious problems with the “level of excitement” in the Stadium? In a monastery, Great Silence is the period of night after the last chanting of psalms and before sunrise. In Notre Dame Stadium, Great Silence occurs shortly after kickoff, during every timeout, and frequently on third down. If the Legion has a way to fix that, who could ever complain?
The issue is whether or not Great Silence emanates from the students, or is possibly caused by a lack of enthusiasm on the part of the students. I would argue that the interminable timeouts, during which the winners of Mishawaka coloring contests and employee non-used-sick-day awards are trotted into the north end zone, are a greater problem than the students. It has rudely been put to me that Notre Dame’s “wine and cheese” alumni-and-friends base is the problem – I take that as an insult to my own and my University’s French heritage. Will general admission in the student section get the cadavers in the gold thrones to cheer? Is it a good idea to alter the one cheering corner of the Stadium in an effort to inspire the rest?
Yet, my third question is, who’s averse to trying to get the Stadium back on its collective feet? A football game is like Mass – you’re supposed to be in the pew before the priest comes out of the sacristy, and you’re supposed to stay until he’s gone back. When High Priest Kelly is leading his acolytes onto the field, many student-parishioners are still in the parking lot…literally. And just like Mass, you’re there to sing and respond actively, and to pay attention to the sacred actions – not to chit-chat or visit with friends. If that’s what you’re here to do, don’t bother the worshipers. Stay in the vestibule of the upper seats and gossip away. And so, is it terribly unjust to allow the true-believers to sit closest to the object of their devotion?
Sure, the power-lushes want to maximize happy hour and still be able to stagger to a seat where their double-vision won’t be too badly impaired by heads in front of them. You’ll figure it out – you got into this University after all. Sure, some students want football tickets more than they want a diploma; this is their season. For those who don’t care so much, content yourselves with joining your closest friends for one of only 24 extraordinary, nationally televised spectacles of pageantry and drama that you will ever see – you’re only ten rows higher than you might have been had the lottery-gods favored you. Sure, some students will cut their “total football weekend experience” short in order to stand in line for their ideal seats. But how many true fanatics can there be out of a mere 8,000; how much space can they take up when we already pack you in hip-to-hip, knees-to-backs? And don’t we want those carrying the most water for the team closest to the field?
My only complaint with the new student ticket policy is that it doesn’t apply to the rest of the Stadium. Imagine how the House that Rockne Built would rock if the bitter and the mute were relegated to the upper deck where they could grouse about kids-these-days in hushed tones while their buttocks went numb from four hours of sitting. This is a Stadium, not a museum. At Notre Dame, traditions here are traceable back decades and even centuries, not to the last time someone tinkered with the system. If students spend too much time complaining that every minor change and potential improvement constitutes a slap in the face to all that we have held sacred per omnia saecula saeculorum, they’ll start to sound like…GASP!…alumni.
Everyone who wants a ticket will have a ticket. If we try really hard, the Stadium might become a place where our team loves to play and our opponents fear to tread. If we do that right, we could very well have another undefeated home stand, and all will be right with the world. Now go back to complaining about things that truly will never change – the weather, finals, and parietals.
Son, in 199 years of religious study, I have only come up with two hard, incontrovertible facts: There is a God, and I'm pretty tight with Him.
Now I’m going to tell you a whole lot of things I’ve kept to myself for years. None of you ever knew me. I was along before your time, but you all know what a tradition I am at Notre Dame. And one of the most important things I ever said was, “Friends, sometime when my University is up against it and the breaks are beating the students, tell them to go out there with all they’ve got and win at everything for Padre. I don’t know exactly where I’ll be then, friends,” I said, “but I’ll be looking right over your shoulder.”