NORMAN — Saturday in Norman had all the usual staples of Sooner fandom — oceans of crimson-and-cream-clad fans, yards turned parking lots, tailgaters and even chilly temperatures befitting a fall football season.
But this game had something extra, amid the routine festivities, Sooners and Irish alike exhibited a level of dedication and pride in their teams that only long-standing tradition could inspire.
“So far the day has been really great,” said Notre Dame fan and Oklahoma resident Linsday Jones. “Everyone has been polite and excited to be here, like us.”
For Sooner fan and Moore resident Don Phillips and his family, tailgating on Lindsey Street has been a 10 year (and counting) tradition of top priority, and this game was no exception.
“I was here at 5:45 Friday morning to rerserve our spot,” Phillips said. “OU PD officers said they’d had to evict Notre Dame fans who were trying to pitch tents to sleep in, since the hotels are full.”
Phillips’ tailgate parties usually host between 20-40 family members and friends, and the special significance of Saturday’s game drew some special guests all the way from Hawaii.
Phillips’ long-time friends and fellow OU graduates Billy Hicks and Marda Decker made the more than 3,000 mile trip specifically to attend Saturday’s game and re-visit campus.
Both Hicks and Decker hadn’t attended a home game in more than 30 years, and called attending this game a “bucket list” event.
“The last time Notre Dame played OU at home was my freshman year,” Hicks said. “It’s been a wonderful visit and we’re not staying long enough.”
For Decker, it was especially memorable because his sons were able to experience Sooner football first-hand for the first time.
“It’s been a lifelong dream to see an OU football game in Norman,” said Decker’s son, Skyler.
Scores, plays and thrills go down in history, but it was the fans that made the gameday experience memorable.
“Notre Dame is a contender, other teams are pretenders,” Phillips said. “The people here today are the real fans.”