SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The young college student sitting outside a Notre Dame dormitory before the big game with the University of Oklahoma didn’t know a soul in our group of crimson-clad fans.
It didn’t seem to matter. Asked about the location of a particular dorm, the young man stood (Catholic school habit, no doubt), quickly offered his help, dialed up the coordinates on his smartphone and began to lead us to the desired destination.
He also offered to help us download a campus map app to guide us during our brief visit there. That’s the kind of hospitality experienced on the Notre Dame campus this past weekend.
Hosts snapped pictures, provided directions, offered a golf cart for a guest who had back surgery a few weeks ago and thanked us for coming, even after the Sooners left with the win. Our parking lot attendant even checked on the guest after the game to make sure he was OK.
It wasn’t the kind of rowdy, drunken melee experienced on some American college campuses or at bowl games. At a bowl game in New Orleans several years ago, we pulled jackets over our OU apparel for fear of the mobs berating us for even being there.
The Notre Dame fans, especially the students, stayed until the very end. Sure, there was a party atmosphere in the parking lot, but the campus itself seemed more sacred. Students carrying 12-packs across campus were few. The beautiful chapel was one of the most popular attractions with folks praying. Mass began 30 minutes after the game.
Notre Dame and Oklahoma fans seem to know and respect each other’s traditions. Sure, they play to win but also know there is more to programs than wins and losses. Statues of previous Notre Dame coaches sit outside stadium gates. Fans who lined the pre-game walking route of the players moved over so out-of-town guests could see the players.