An Introduction: My journey back to Notre Dame Stadium

IRISH STEW

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

It was never really about the game.

Nearly 13 years later, few of the nearly 81,000 people jammed inside Notre Dame Stadium on Oct. 12, 2002, can probably recall much of what happened in the hours between kickoff and final whistle. It was a gray, wholly forgettable day lost in the wave of an otherwise memorable season.

But for a bright-eyed 12-year-old, it was a revelation.

Sure, the 20 total points Notre Dame and Pittsburgh produced in the Irish’s 14-6 victory were the fewest inside Notre Dame Stadium since the two teams met in 1986. And yes, the Irish surrendered a season-high 402 yards while amassing only 185 of its own.

A more seasoned observer might walk away from Notre Dame’s sixth consecutive victory to kick off the 2002 campaign and deem it unconvincing. Underwhelming. A waste of an afternoon. I’m not here to argue.

For me, though, it wasn’t any game. It was my first game.

And more accurately, it was my first taste of what makes college football special.

What I remember about that afternoon, certainly more than Carlyle Holiday’s 11-yard touchdown pass to Arnaz Battle, was the fleet of grills lined along the sidewalks. I remember the t-shirt stands set up on every corner, and the “Where There’s a Willingham, There’s a Way” slogan printed on blue shirts in bold gold type.

I remember the smell of college football – bratwursts and burgers – and the smack of beanbags slamming against painted wood. I remember a parade of blue and green jerseys marching in unison towards the stadium, and the vibrant colors of the trees during a fall Saturday in South Bend.

College football is a communal experience, something thousands of strangers can simultaneously share. It is a party without a cover charge, a place where all are welcome – as long as they support the appropriate team.

That’s what I learned on a cloudy Saturday nearly 15 years ago.

And that’s one reason why I’m writing this today.

As a Notre Dame football reporter for Notre Dame Insider and the South Bend Tribune, I want to keep you more closely connected with your team than you have ever been before. I want to write stories that matter – whether that’s breaking news about a star player that has committed to the blue and gold, or a feature about an unheralded walk-on who has overcome adversity to fulfill his dream at Notre Dame.

I want to take you inside the locker room and provide an intimate glimpse into the lives of these players and coaches. I want you to feel like you know them as people, more than a name or number on a jersey.

And just as importantly, I want you all to feel like you know me. I understand that trust isn’t easily earned, and I plan on working tirelessly to gain that trust from all of you. I want to be more than a cold, ineffectual byline.

I love telling stories, and that’s why I majored in journalism at the University of Missouri. It’s why I covered Missouri football in its first season in the SEC for the Columbia Missourian in 2013, and it’s why I ventured west as a bright-eyed college graduate to report on University of Wyoming football and basketball for much of the last two years.

Going forward, I want to be your source for great stories. I want to be your friend and confidant, an ally in the press box and on the practice field. I want to be your eyes and ears, an unbreakable link between the team and its greatest fans.

I love college football just as much now as I did when I was 12, and I hope that fact is evident in my writing.

Football season is months away. And yet, at Notre Dame, football season never really ends.

As long as there’s a story to tell, I’ll be here to tell it.

Can't wait to see this guy back in action.

A photo posted by Mike Vorel (@mikevorel) on Apr 12, 2015 at 12:24pm PDT

//  

A photo posted by Mike Vorel (@mikevorel) on Apr 12, 2015 at 9:30am PDT

//  

A photo posted by Mike Vorel (@mikevorel) on Apr 12, 2015 at 10:21am PDT

//

Mike Vorel