2017-09-13 / Editorials

Notre Dame fans most hospitable

Other Voices
Mitch Clarke

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – We came to this small Indiana town not just for a football game, though that’s exactly what we do on football weekends in the fall.

We came — and by “we,” I mean tens of thousands of red-and-black clad Southerners — to see first-hand the home office of college football. Notre Dame hasn’t been much on the gridiron in recent years, but the history of college football runs deep and wide through this beautiful campus.

The gates at Notre Dame Stadium are named for men who made their mark with the Fighting Irish, but whose names also are synonymous with greatness — Knute Rockne, Ara Parseghian, Dan Devine, Frank Leahy.

A restaurant on campus next to the stadium is named “Legends,” apt not only for the delicious burgers they serve, but also for the walls and walls of memorabilia, dating back decades, of famous Notre Dame athletes of all sports.

Of course, when you visit perhaps the most famous Catholic university in the nation, if not the world, there is plenty else to see.

The famous mural “Touchdown Jesus,” on the side of the Hesburgh Library, depicts Jesus with his hands above his head, as if signaling a touchdown. It is visible from the upper seats in the stadium, and on game day, it is a popular place for photographs.

Nearby is the famous Gold Dome. After Touchdown Jesus, it is probably the most photographed spot on campus. And next door is the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, an ornate chapel, filled with stunning architecture, sculptures and stained glass windows. Mass is spoken in the basilica after every home football game.

Down a hill from the basilica is the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, built in 1896 as a replica of the original in Lourdes, France. There, fans paused to say a prayer and light a candle. Many said their prayers were for family and friends back home in the path of Hurricane Irma.

Notre Dame fans are justifiably proud of their university. From the moment we stepped on campus, fan after fan offered up a hearty “Welcome to South Bend,” usually followed by “Have you seen….”

It is one of the most beautiful campuses I’ve ever seen. Not only is the architecture stunning and the history deep, but the campus is full of open green space, beautifully manicured and kept.

We did notice one big difference between game day in South Bend and game day in Athens. We arrived on campus at about 9 a.m. — a couple of hours later than we get cranked up in Athens — and we were among the first people to be out and about, save a few Notre Dame students on morning runs and a couple of college girls headed to the library (on a Saturday morning!). By midafternoon, though, the campus was bustling with activity and tailgaters.

As the stadium filled before kickoff, it looked possible that Georgia fans might outnumber Irish fans. The stadium was a sea of red, and a Tshirt is now for sale that says “We put the South in South Bend.”

Notre Dame makes its visit to Athens during the 2019 season. We invited several of the Irish fans we met to join us in Athens, and we hope they will join us.

But be warned Bulldogs fans, as hospitable as we usually are, we have a lot of work to do to match the hospitality of the folks in South Bend.

Mitch Clarke, a native of Blakely, is the editor of AccessWDUN. com in Gainesville. He can be contacted at mitch.clarke @gmail.com. Read previous columns at www.accesswdun.com/ blog/ mitch.

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