South Bend, Ind. — Mike Bobinski, who graduated from Notre Dame and who works at Georgia Tech, told me if I left Chicago five hours ahead of kickoff I’d have no trouble getting here. We now know why Mike Bobinski chose a career in athletic administration as opposed to delivering traffic reports.
I left Chicago five hours and 40 minutes before kickoff. (I’m paranoid about traffic, doubly so when going somewhere I’ve never been.) The first 90 miles, even with those nettlesome toll booths, were no problem. The last three made me think I’d been rerouted to Columbia, S.C. with the state fair ongoing.
It took 45 minutes to go those three miles. Twenty-five of those 45 minutes were spent waiting to turn left onto Angela Boulevard. (Shades of Georgia-Florida and A. Philip Randolph Boulevard in Jacksonville.) I was kicking myself — figuratively, though I might have done it literally had my foot not affixed to the brake pedal — for not getting here even sooner. Then, at the crack of noon, the South Bend police showed up and turned off the infernal red light and started directing traffic.
Which — finally and thankfully — expedited matters. But I realized I’d done something I’d never thought possible: I’d gotten somewhere too soon.
But enough about me. Let’s talk about Mike DeGeorge, Georgia Tech’s football publicist. He was riding in a car with the famous broadcaster Randy Waters and the famous Al Ciraldo Jr. (The Jackets stayed in Michigan City, Ind., at the Blue Chip Casino, if you can believe that. I’m told players were barred from gaming.)
DeGeorge and Co. took a roundabout route to South Bend. At one point someone said, “Are we in Michigan?” Sure enough, they were. But they got here bright and early. Too early, alas. They were likewise stuck waiting to turn left. DeGeorge and Waters ended up walking the last mile.
But enough about traffic. Here I am at Notre Dame. Been here for basketball — December 1982; Kentucky won by 13 that night — but not this sport. First thing you notice (after you finally creep close enough to see the stadium) is that there’s construction ongoing. (DeGeorge says the press box will be moved from the west side to the east in new the configuration, which would be closer to where I had to park.)
So: Even the grandest of traditions can’t repel the march of time and expansion. But you do kind of get smacked between the eyes with tradition. I walked past the Ara Parseghian Gate, the Frank Leahy Gate and the Lou Holtz Gate, and I actually wondered, “Where might the Gerry Faust Gate be?”
That was supposed to be my little joke. Lo and behold, I checked the press box manifest and saw eight seats on the back row designated for “Gerry Faust — Guest.” I assume those are in lieu of a Gate.
OK. To the game: I picked Notre Dame to win in preseason. With quarterback Malik Zaire lost to a broken ankle, I’m thinking Tech will prevail. Sorry to jinx your team, Jacket backers.
One thing more: DeGeorge says this is the second time over the past 25 years that Notre Dame has been ranked in the Top 10 and been an underdog at home. The first time came last year against Stanford. Your common denominator — Patrick Skov, then a Cardinal fullback and now a Tech B-back.
Just for the record, Notre Dame beat Stanford 17-14.
And with that, the floor is open for our usual badinage. I’ll check back periodically. And I thank you, as ever, in advance.