I have a confession. I wasn’t perched high atop Michigan Stadium, looking down on Michigan’s thrilling win on Saturday from the press box. I wasn’t even in Ann Arbor. Nor was I watching the game from the comforts of my own couch. Instead, I was viewing it on a 4.8 inch HD Super AMOLED screen in section 16, row 34, seat 22 of Notre Dame Stadium.
How I watched the Michigan game
My wife and her whole family are Notre Dame fans. Each season, her parents take one of their kids (and their spouse) to an ND home game. This was our year. Prior to the season, I gave a list of dates that would be optimal for me, the Michigan game being the obvious choice, but her dad didn’t want to go to that one. During Michigan’s bye week? Nope, ND’s was the same week. Or maybe the day Michigan plays at Minnesota. Ultimately, they were going to pick the game they wanted to see, and they chose BYU.
With kickoff at 3:30, I was hoping for either a noon or night game, but of course the football scheduling gods placed them both at the same time. To make matters worse, it wasn’t on ESPN which could be picked up via radio, but rather the Big Ten Network. So the best plan I could come up with was to hope I could get enough of a signal in the stadium to watch it on BTN2Go app on my phone.
So here I was sitting on a wooden bleacher that Paul Bunyan probably chopped down himself, in one of college football’s most hallowed sites, packed like sardines with 80,000 people not dressed like me, glued to a Samsung Galaxy SIII with one earbud in and the other out. If there was a game going on 34 rows below me, I barely noticed. I’m told it involved the undefeated, fifth-ranked team in the land. But what was more important was a 4-2 team battling a 4-3 team for a wooden replica of Bunyan and a whole lot of bragging rights.
At the risk of sounding like this is an advertisement for Samsung or Verizon, I could not have been more impressed with the game stream on the phone. I borrowed the phone from work (I actually brought three in case of battery life, loss of signal, or one got hit by an errant Tommy Rees pass) and linked my DirecTV account to the app. The stream was perfect, crisp, and steady for most of the game. After hours of streaming video, the battery hadn’t even lost half of its power.
For three hours, I sat there, eyes glued to the miniature screen, glancing up at the events unfolding around me in between plays, standing up when those around me stood, and sitting down whenever I could. Aside from the eardrum-shattering blast every time AC/DC or Metallica was blasted from the stadium speakers, I could hear the play-by-play perfectly fine. It helped that the Domers were stunned by BYU holding the lead for most of the game.
As Notre Dame scored its game-winning touchdown and the crowd erupted, I sat in disbelief watching Michigan State punter Mike Sadler gallop 26 yards to his right to convert a 4th-and-9 from his own 23. It seemed as if those 80,000 were cheering against me at that moment. Michigan State took a 10-9 lead and then the inexplicable happened. I lost the feed. Less than six minutes remained, Michigan down by one, and the BTN2Go app was telling me the bandwidth was exceeded. I still had a full 4G LTE signal.
I was tempted to decide that I had to use the restroom at that moment and leave my seats to conveniently find a TV somewhere, anywhere, with the game on. Instead, I realized that if I clicked “watch live” it would take me to the audio feed for about 10-15 second increments and then time out. So I spent the next five football minutes pushing “back,” then “watch live,” back, then watch live, over and over again. In my other hand, on another phone, I pulled up the ESPN GameCast just for good measure. Far from ideal, I didn’t miss much, and as Brendan Gibbons booted the ball through the uprights from 38 yards out, the Notre Dame game came to a close. I joined in with the blue and gold celebration, albeit for a very different reason, and we all left the stadium happy.
The game that apparently happened in front of me
Notre Dame bits
It was my first Notre Dame game (in South Bend) and the feeling I got from the whole in-game experience was sort of underwhelmed. Granted, I wasn’t hanging on every play, and the ND faithful didn’t have much to cheer about for most of the game, but the crowd noise was soft and nowhere near as loud as the Big House. The wooden bleachers and lack of a video board made me feel like I was back in the 1980s, but the eardrum-piercing blasts of rock music every third down rudely reminded me I wasn’t. The whole stadium just felt kind of bland, which is okay I guess since it’s the essence of college football, with no corporate ads or luxury boxes, but now that I’ve seen a couple of seasons with Michigan’s new structures, I’m over the whole “traditional” thing. I did like the yellow flowers on either sideline, though they would look better in Michigan Stadium than ND since they’re not, you know, gold.
Campus was beautiful and I couldn’t have asked for a better fall day. We watched the band play its pregame concert on the steps of Bond Hall, which was fun for a college atmosphere. Tailgating was average. The big concrete lots surrounding the stadium were severely lacking in any sort of parking structure, so you were constantly moving your chairs and tables to allow cars to drive through the lanes. It was the largest collection of simultaneous cornhole games I’ve ever seen. Every tailgate had at least one.
The fans were nice with the exception of the guy behind us yelling “F— Mormons!” and the girl in front of me sneering/laughing at BYU every time ND made a tackle – whether it was in the backfield or after a 20-yard gain for a first down. Every BYU fan we walked past around campus gave a smile and a “hi,” perpetuating the stereotype that Mormons are the nicest people ever.
One thing I do have to admit that Notre Dame has over Michigan is its bookstore. Aside from being nice looking and a great central meeting spot, the apparel selection is much better than what The M Den and Moe’s offer, and it was much bigger. Michigan desperately needs to add something like it on campus.
In conclusion, the Samsung Galaxy SIII is fantastic for streaming video, the BTN2Go app is great as long as there aren’t too many people watching it, Notre Dame’s campus is beautiful, its stadium experience is just okay, and its bookstore is much better than Michigan’s. I hope I never have to do this again. See you in Ann Arbor on Nov. 10.