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Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024
The Observer

Notre Dame alumni clubs foster community through game watches

Every Saturday, Notre Dame alumni across the country gather at local bars to watch Notre Dame football and continue to foster the community formed during their years on campus.

Members of the Notre Dame Club of Pittsburgh gather to complete community service before a Notre Dame football game.
Photo courtesy of Katelynn Kelly
Members of the Notre Dame Club of Pittsburgh gather to complete community service before a Notre Dame football game.

Many Notre Dame Clubs host game watches to take alumni back to the days of doing an Irish jig on the bleachers of the student section and proudly singing the fight song. For the Notre Dame Club of New York (NDNY), club president and 2010 graduate Kelly McKenna said, these game watches are a must.

“Looking back in club records, these game watches have been around since before our records begin,” she said. “It’s definitely been a long-standing thing. … I can’t officially say they’ve been around for 100 years, but they’ve definitely been a standing tradition.”

NDNY hosts all of their game watches at Public House in Manhattan, a central location for a club that spans every borough of the city aside from Staten Island. While attendance depends on how well the season is going, McKenna said the game watches typically bring in well over 100 people.

“It’s a very festive experience — people actually reserve tables at Public House a week or two weeks in advance, and then everyone else is standing room only,” she said.

A Notre Dame alumna and member of the Notre Dame Club of New York poses in a leprechaun costume at one an NDNY game watch at the Public House.
A Notre Dame alumna and member of the Notre Dame Club of New York poses in a leprechaun costume at an NDNY game watch at the Public House.

While standing for more than three hours in Notre Dame Stadium can occasionally be a grueling experience, McKenna said having much of the bar function as standing room only fosters a welcoming atmosphere.

“It’s a lot of standing room only, so you kind of realize that New York City is a very transient city — people are always coming and going, and Public House is sort of that standard scene where you know you’re always welcome and you know can always see a friendly face,” McKenna said. “Even if you don’t know anybody, you’ll probably recognize someone or know a friend of a friend because it’s a small world. We all want to rally with our team together.”

While the Notre Dame Club of Pittsburgh’s game watches draw a much smaller crowd — usually under 20 alumni — the atmosphere is no less spirited. The club does not have a set game watch location, instead choosing different bars around the city for each game, Katelynn Kelly, the club’s young alumni coordinator and a 2013 graduate, said.

We choose a different bar for every game so that we hit different neighborhoods around the city throughout the season,” Kelly said in an email. “This helps us make sure that there is a game watch that is conveniently located for most of our club members and encourages them to try new locations around the city.”

Kelly said Pittsburgh’s club combines some of their game watches their “Helping Hands and Football Fans” program, doing community service projects in the morning before the games.

“For the Boston College game, alumni from our club and the local BC club picked up litter with the Downtown Pittsburgh Beautification team before sharing drinks and watching a great game,” she said. “We plan to do another service event with the Miami Club later in the season and help with grounds maintenance at a local Catholic elementary school.”

Despite the difference in size and setup, both clubs have Notre Dame pride in common, with the NDNY even singing the alma mater after every game.

“Depending on the excitement of the game and the height of the ceiling, we’ve been known to do push ups in the bar,” Kelly said.

Even Notre Dame fans who are not alumci express passion for their team during game watches, McKenna said.

“People are Notre Dame fans inherently, whether they went to school there or not, so I’m always getting requests to be the official game watch bar for Notre Dame — they’d love to host us,” she said. “There’s so much excitement about Notre Dame because it’s really a school that people have a strong affinity for. Every weekend people gear up, you’ll see the official shirt from last year, you’ll see the shirt from ten years past; people really do engage.”