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Thursday, April 18, 2024
The Observer

Mulvena: Sights and sounds of Stanford

Irish fans thinking they could escape the brutal weather of South Bend in the hills of Palo Alto, California, were sadly mistaken last Saturday. It was a dreary, cold and rainy afternoon, one which felt like it was missing a little energy one might expect during rivalry week.

Stanford’s tailgating scene was certainly far different from that found at Notre Dame. The various lots surrounding the stadium provided ample open space for classic tailgating activities. There was plenty of tossing the football around, grilling over an open flame and room to spread out. On any other day, one without the relatively harsh weather conditions we saw on Saturday, I could imagine tailgating at Stanford being a great time — it leaves room for some tailgating activities that Stadium or Joyce Lots don’t.

Annie Smierciak | The Observer
Sophomore wide receiver Braden Lenzy celebrates after rushing downfield to get the Irish in the red zone during Notre Dame’s 45-24 win over Stanford on Saturday.

All of that being said, there just weren’t that many people. I could imagine the tailgating scene being cool, but it really wasn’t anything to write home about because it felt like no one showed up. Notre Dame fans were everywhere, and those Stanford fans who did show up seemed not particularly interested in setting up some of the elaborate and exciting tailgates like you might see at Notre Dame on any given Saturday. And unfortunately for Stanford, the same held true of the stadium atmosphere.

As you might have seen on television, the stadium had to have been nearly three quarters Irish fans. From the elevated view of the press box, it appeared as if the stadium was maybe half full, and of those in the stands, green stood out far more than red. Stanford’s student section was conspicuously empty. I understand most students were on Thanksgiving break, but so were all of the other students around the nation, yet most of the student sections at respectable football schools came out in droves for rivalry week. I’d like to imagine that if this was a home game for Notre Dame, a good portion of the student body would have cut break short to show up for rivalry week.

Despite its troubling past, the Stanford band is ... unique. I don’t necessarily mean that in a good way. I guess it’s all part of their shtick, but I can’t imagine anyone getting pumped up from anything that band does … ever. Especially when you compare that to the band traditions of Notre Dame, or the national anthem tradition at Georgia. On top of that, there weren’t any particularly striking stadium sounds or gameday customs.

Perhaps I’m being harsh on the Stanford fanbase. It was a dreadful day, and I imagine it must have appeared even worse for someone accustomed to the generally good weather of Northern California (at least in comparison to South Bend). And I suppose my judgement might be too biased considering Notre Dame’s fan base is one of the most loyal and well-traveling in the nation. But nonetheless, the gameday experience, especially for the last regular season game, definitely lacked some hype.

All of that said, Stanford’s campus, and the surrounding atmosphere, was almost unbeatable. The campus is pristine, and the mountains in the backdrop of the stadium contribute to a truly unique football experience. Stanford stadium is small, but there really isn’t a bad seat in the house.

On a better day, during a more successful season for Stanford, under the lights, I could see the gameday experience in Palo Alto as one with a unique energy and plenty of opportunities for an enjoyable day.