Best Tailgating Experience: Expect A Saucy Scene In South Bend

If you were at the Notre Dame vs Navy beatdown in Dublin on Saturday of Week Zero, you may have noticed the lack of UPS trucks, FedEx trucks, fire trucks, and ambulances elaborately and expensively customized to make them perfect for college football tailgating.

The actual Irish take a back seat to no one when it comes to drinking, not even fans of the Fighting Irish, but it’s hard to authentically tailgate when you come to a game by electric tram instead of Dodge Ram.

All you have to do is attend a football game somewhere else – Ireland, Canada, Mexico, Germany – to realize how American is the tradition of tailgating.

The Aer Lingus College Football Classic was reported to precipitate “the largest-ever movement of U.S. citizens for a single event in peacetime,” and was forecast to contribute 147 million Euros to the Irish economy, much of it in Guinness.

However, the beer will be (Miller) light instead of stout this Saturday, as #13 Notre Dame continued to ease into its schedule. The Irish should be 4-0 when they host Ohio State on Sept. 23, and this week are at home to Tennessee State in South Bend, which, incidentally, is rivaled by maybe only Tuscaloosa in terms of jacking up the price of hotel rooms on football weekends.

Notre Dame probably has no rivals, though, when it comes to pre-game rituals like walking around campus to spot places where scenes from the movie Rudy were filmed. Actually, that might depend on your age. When we were there, the two guys in their 50s were all fired up about the Rudy stuff, and the teenagers in the group didn’t know what in hell we were talking about.

The partying starts on Friday, with a chance to eat, see performances, and hear interviews with Notre Dame personalities at the Eck Visitors Center, beginning at 11 a.m. The trumpet section of the Notre Dame band puts on a ten-minute concert in front of the Golden Dome at 4:10, and then just before midnight, the Notre Dame Drumline does its thing.

One of the smartest things we did was feed our guys a game day breakfast in a vast student cafeteria. The food was cheap, plentiful and varied (there’s a sauce station!). The Notre Dame band eats there, and different sections of the band jump on a small stage to play songs. It’s a great atmosphere.

The full band — and it is huge — leads thousands of fans from the Golden Dome to the stadium in time for kickoff. The folks at Visit South Bend have comprised a tailgating guide that includes a list of what is and isn’t allowed (steaks yes, stakes no, propane grills yes, charcoal grills no) and a game day guide.

On the West Coast, a win in Week Zero held USC steady in the rankings, the #6 Trojans' offensive firepower not enough to drown out doubts about the other side of the ball. One radio commentator this week called DC Alex Grinch “the Grinch that stole defense.”

When last we attended a game at USC, two years ago, it seemed to us that there must have been a meeting on campus, where the female students decided to select their game-day attire from one of two options: form-fitting long white pants with sandals and a bikini top, or a pretty good imitation of the pleated skirts and tight sweaters made famous by the USC cheerleaders. We liked both very much. The OVER/UNDER for stunning girls with perfect teeth at the game on Saturday is 1,000.

The Daily Trojan, one of the great campus newspapers, recommends trying to find a parking spot at the Rose Garden in Expo Park, a short walk from the stadium, but you need a game ticket to get in there. A USC game is not suited to a spontaneous decision to tailgate. Authorities want applications for prime parking lots weeks in advance, and as we found out, it’s easy to think you’ve discovered a loophole, only to find your car behind a locked gate after the game.

We had admittedly planned poorly, but assumed – wrongly, as it turned out - that, as in the past, our Canadian charm would lead to acts of beer-related hospitality (I once traded three hot dog buns and half a bag of chips for six MGDs at Lambeau Field, and in Houston, folks virtually forced rum on us). At SC, though, no one even offered to share ice, which made us envy the student that we saw walking with nothing but a smile and a 40-ouncer of Tito’s.

At many college tailgates, there’s the mouth-watering smell of hickory smoke and charcoal. At USC, the most noticeable aroma was sunscreen, and also the bacon cooking to wrap around hot dogs called Victory Dogs when things go right, and Danger Dogs when they don’t.

With Caleb Williams bringing home the bacon, this is a good year to attend a game at USC. Try to catch the marching band playing Tusk. Bring ice.