Thursday, January 10, 2013

Irish Eyes Are Crying

How does one start his script after such an awesome experience in South Florida for the BCS “Ship” despite the ND blowout? Okay, how about this: I think I just participated in an MTV reality show like Real World called The House, where a bunch of characters co-habitat for a period of time. I was hosted by my old college buddy and Rugby Teammate Terry Big T “Family Guy” Kernan in a house he rented for the week in North Miami on the Intercoastal waterway. Joining us in The House were his Brother the former Governor of Indiana Joe Kernan, his South Bend buddy Gregg “Downsy” Downs and another pal Bill “Monsignor” Walsh.  The stories these 3 told about ND football history were beyond captivating. Also in our Reality show house, Terry’s 2 sons Joey and Terry Jr. AKA Stewie and Chris Griffin both Division III football stars, Counselor Mikey Mike Christin, Pete Buttigieg the current Mayor of South Bend, and several others lodged in our palace on the Florida Riviera. 

The Kernan Men

The House, came equipped with a pool and a pond, a pond would be good for you..... and too many rooms to count. It was reminiscent of my college days stumbling into the main gathering room each morning in boxers, scratching body parts, smacking your parched lips, and trying to open your eyes and asking those that were more alert “hey dude, what happened last night?” I learned that the Kartrashians house was one street over in our gated community. Thus, we had a reality TV show war going on and we didn’t even know it.

Talented ladies.....ha!

I have to give major props to our host Big T for going above and beyond all weekend to make sure everyone was well taken care of. I don’t remember him being this considerate back in our college days…but then again there is plenty I don’t remember or choose to forget from those days. After hitting the tarmac at 9 PM Saturday and being picked up by my old college buddy Paul Rip Reutershan we met up with the Kernan/McCarty clan at the local dive bar Flip Burger. Easy Ed McCarty, brother in law to Big T, and his charge were in attendance along with the Kernans. Flip Burger closes at 11 PM. We were finally asked kindly to leave at 1 AM.  Numerous liquid products were no longer in stock in bottle and barrel form when our crew of 12 finally exited. The celebration continued until sunrise talking politics, history, war and football with Big T and the Governor.  Paul was sleepy and decided to tuck in early. I learned that the Governor is a genuine American hero having served his country during Vietnam as a Naval Aviator. His plane was shot down over North Vietnam in 1972 and he was held prisoner by the North Vietnamese for 11 months.  Somehow through such a dark experience,  the Governor had us laughing out loud about the few funny things he recalled. Thank you for your service to our country sir! 

Naval Officer Joe Kernan
His twin brother

Sunday was a slow moving day with dips in the pool, lots of Gatorade and other forms of non toxic hydration fluids. I spent time talking with Bill Walsh who I dubbed the Monsignor when I learned he had been a priest for 12 years prior to a successful career in business and doing Don Imus impersonations. Bill travels the globe, chants with monks, plays basketball at age 73, hangs with the Kennedys, used to coach the 49ers and lives in Deadwood, South Dakota.  I am pretty sure he is featured in that HBO Series. 

Bill Walsh
Deadwood's finest!

The clans gathered again at another watering hole to watch our beloved Redskins go down in flames to none other than that detritus of a man known as Pete Carroll. Losing RG III to that gruesome injury was bad enough but watching Pete the Cheat take the credit for the win was beyond nauseating. Go Falcons!

Detritus Carroll slinking in the manure!

Game day started early in The House as host Terry “Big T” made a run to the market for all the provisions for the big tailgate. We loaded up 2 SUVS with people, provisions and plenty of expectations for the day. We arrived at Sun Life stadium and set up shop in lot 5 West about a stone’s throw from the stadium. The weather was low 80's, light humidity and plenty of Florida sunshine. I had to lather up my own Irish Golden Dome with 35 SPF so as to not let it turn crimson on me! Terry’s homemade deli sandwiches were taken down first, followed by grilled burgers, chicken and dogs later on. Plenty of personality in bottles were iced down and enjoyed.  Numerous members of the Kernan/McCarty clan and their friends made up the Tailgate. Fanatical Football fan Steve Koreivo and his son Eric joined us as well as Danville friend Dan Michelini and his crew. Bob Rigny of Rockville, MD and his family unit along with Sean Creamer, also a Rockvillian joined us. All in all, we had in the vicinity of 30 Tailgaters, all rabid ND fans, all with high hopes. 

Dan, EZ Ed, Tailgate Steve

The Guv, Dan Michelini and Friends and Dan

My Host with the most Big T and me honoring the colors!

Skylar, Rocket Ismail and Mikey Mike

Chris and Stewie Griffin

The ESPN Fan Zone adjacent to us featured country music star Luke Bryan cranking out his hit songs. Alabama women were rocking those cowboy boots and jean skirts and smiling so nicely at all the Yankees in the Tailgate lots.

Those boots were made for walking!
The atmosphere during the Tailgate hours leading up to kickoff was more energized than I have ever witnessed. You will not find two teams with a more passionate/knowledgeable fan base than Alabama and Notre Dame. With about an hour before kickoff, we shut down the tailgate, and made our way into the stadium. Sun Life Stadium is home to both the Miami Dolphins and the Miami Hurricanes. It is pretty much near nothing, but there was ample parking for pre game festivities and it holds 80,000+.

Big T, Tailgate Steve K and son Eric
The Kernan/McCarty Clan and friends

Bagpipe Magic!

The million dollar band.

Fans heading into the stadium
Tailgate Steve, Son Eric and Dan

My seat was on the 7 yard line, 21 rows up from the field. Sweetness! The only drawback was that it was in Crimson Tide territory. How would they react to this Yankee heretic who does not believe in the SEC gospel as all football fans should submit to? Would they issue a Fatwa on me? Other than one inebriated fan in front of me who had to be politely asked to not wave his crimson pom pom in my eye or else…, the Bama faithful were kind, courteous and soon to be ecstatic! Bama diehard, Dr Paul Enochs and his wife Jean sat next to me along with Coach Rick Neuheisel and his wife. Of course I had to make a fool of myself and disturb poor Coach Neuheisel and shake his hand as he tried to eat his hot dog. At Halftime with the score 28-0, Doctor Paul felt so bad for me he insisted on buying me a can of liquid gold. I asked him is my prognosis that obvious? Well no need to rehash the game, because most of you watched what I saw. 

Nice Seats dude!

The effects of a long day in the hot sun!

The good Doctor and his wife, Neuhisel visible in the background

The game was lost on the coin toss when ND deferred to the 2nd half to receive. It pretty much went down-hill from there. Half of the air went out of the stadium by the second quarter. Yes there were questionable calls in the first quarter, but I doubt they would have had an impact on the end result. Simply put, that was a beat down in the worst way. Congratulations to Alabama and their dynasty. From those watching it on TV, I heard that Brent Pedoberger provided some of the best entertainment of the night.  Just ask AJ McCarron:

Brent Musberger perving out:

The post game gathering was subdued as we waited out the massive traffic and fired up the grill for more goodies and drank our sorrows away. It didn’t help. Nonetheless, I would not have traded the experience for anything.  I am forever grateful for the ticket that was found for me at face value by Larry Clawz, the lodgings, hospitality and Tailgating provided by Big T, and the new friendships that were made throughout the weekend. Hope to see you all next year in Pasadena!

Bama Celebrates, Irish stunned

Ray Finkle spotted leaving the stadium

Gripe of the week – This has happened to me three times this year, most recently at the BCS championship: NO PROGRAMS AVAILABLE!  Hey I collect gameday programs and look forward to buying one at each and every game I attend. These things become collector’s items over time and are chock full of Cliff Clavenesque tidbits to quench your thirst for CFB knowledge. At the BCS Championship, I set out three hours before the game looking for vendors selling the gameday programs. I could not find any. Apparently there was one in an apparel shop inside the ESPN Fan Zone. I did not have a ticket to that junket so I figured I would get one later when I went in the stadium. I entered the stadium over an hour before kickoff. I traversed the concourse searching high and low, low crawling on the cold concrete, rappelling from the top of the stadium,  hurdling over beer vendors in search of the magical program. Nada. Eventually some dweeb stepped out of an apparel shop announcing that the whole stadium was out of programs.  How could this be? I did not see one person in the stadium with a program and I only knew of one person who bought one. Common sense would tell you that if you have 80,000 + fans you ought to print more than 2,000 programs.  These are keepsakes for crying out loud!  The BCS Orange Bowl people have a lot to learn if they want to get it right.

I will be doing one more write up that will be a season recap and then I will be going into my post season rehab and Jenny Craig programs!

Happy Tailgating!