As I mentioned here, I kicked off 2016 with a fairly spontaneous adventure in Phoenix for the Fiesta Bowl, and it was everything I could have dreamed it would be…minus an Irish victory, of course! David, Kelli, Andrew and I had way too much fun, and couldn’t have been a better travel group.
Is there anything better than a trip that just works out perfectly like that? For as little planning as we did up-front, everything worked out astonishingly well. All we had planned or booked in advance was our hotel, and of course we had our tickets to the game. Everything else, though? Winging it. And anyone who knows me, or reads here, knows that “winging it” isn’t naturally hardwired into my DNA.
We departed Minneapolis after plenty of cocktails around 8pm on New Year’s Eve, all smiles on the first leg of our Spirit flight…
After landing in Dallas, we had about ten minutes to take a bathroom break and immediately re-board our 11pm flight to Phoenix. The flight, interestingly, was pretty evenly split between drunk college football fans/New Year’s celebrants and families traveling with young children…which made for an interesting arrival at nearly 2am in Arizona! The family in the back of the plane had a three-year-old daughter who just really, really wanted to get off the plane. And who made it clear, at astonishingly high decibel levels, that she felt that way. After sitting waiting for a gate for half an hour, we all shared her feelings…just a bit less vocally. Between the alcohol and the sheer exhaustion, next thing I knew I was collapsing into one of the hotel suite’s beds for a quick nap before the game.
We were up by 6:30am, and out of the hotel by 7 to get to the University of Phoenix Stadium. Our Uber driver, who was delightful, filled us in on the fact that Glendale is pretty much a wasteland apart from the stadium and West End-like bar district immediately adjacent to it…which was pretty apparent when we pulled up to what felt like a stadium and some parking lots just plopped into a desert. Fortunately, we immediately found Hal and his family’s tailgate!
I felt like a bit of an asshole rolling up to a Notre Dame tailgate with three Buckeye fans in tow, but fortunately Hal and his delightful parents were more than welcoming…and willing to share champagne, vodka, and beer with the enemy. It was also one of the only times that weekend when green and navy outnumbered scarlet and grey, so I had to enjoy it while I could!
After a few mimosas, we met up with two more Irish fans…Michael and Ben! The Fiesta Bowl was Ben’s first Notre Dame game, and both he and Michael are lifelong fans. It was great to see them and catch up!
Easily the highlight of the tailgate: the fact that when you’re drinking with Undertones alums, you’re inevitably treated to renditions of the Glee Club's version of the fight song. Um, hi, let me just die and go to heaven and close my eyes and pretend I’m at Troubadours again, mmk?
We also couldn’t resist taking a few…creative…versions of the O-H-I-O picture. I can’t decide which is my favorite, so I’m including them all below. First, I sulked.
Then, I channeled everyone’s favorite leprechaun. O-H-I-Go Irish!
And finally, I just flipped the bird, which I think is a massive improvement on the usual "H." Clearly.
After a very unsuccessful shotgun of an ice-cold beer, we hit the stadium, picked up 40s, and found our seats…
…where I summarily proceeded to freak out over the marching bands. Let me go on record: while the Band of the Fighting Irish will forever have my heart and soul, Double Script Ohio is possibly the most beautiful/technically impressive marching maneuver I’ve ever seen.
Can’t leave that without a little love for my band. Our pregame still makes me cry.
Andrew and I had a blast talking shit to each other and watching the game...he was absolutely the ideal rival fan to sit with. I also freaked out over halftime, although I'd marched in the Notre Dame show as a student (C'mon, Ken Dye, America and the service academies again?!), and the Ohio State show happened to be the one from when I visited Columbus this fall! I sort of felt robbed...but quickly got over it because, duh, marching band (OMG).
Before too long, it appeared the fate of the Fighting Irish was sealed. So naturally, I did what every masochistic Irish fan does, and let Andrew sneak me into the Ohio State student section. I was the only one wearing green, with the exception of the middle-aged man behind me who did his undergrad at ND and his graduate degree at OSU. Needless to say, I stuck out like a sore thumb...talk about diving right in to enemy territory. Thanks, Bud Light Lime, for liquid courage, but more importantly, thanks to these fools for being nice to me even in the face of defeat!
It was incredibly special to share this experience with David, in particular. I think he’s the first person who made me understand football, way back when in high school, and was for sure the first person who impressed upon me just what I was getting into by choosing Notre Dame. We shared college marching band and have both remained passionate lovers of college football, and watching our teams play each other is something I’ll remember (for the most part) forever. I was included in the OSU alma mater, and David hopped right in for "Notre Dame, Our Mother." Thanks for being my bud for going on 20 years, Davy. :)
Postgame, we headed over to the bar district near the stadium, where we stumbled into Salt Tacos and Tequila. After a fairly chill recapping of the game over tacos and beer, things went (rapidly) downhill when our crew decided to take a tequila shot before leaving the bar. And when I say “a tequila shot,” I mean “took a tequila shot, then decided to TAKE ALL THE SHOTS.” We hooked up with some mid-thirties Irish fans, and quickly became best friends (even though the husband lived in Zahm, gross). I’ll let the photos (mostly) speak for themselves…
How many college football fans does it take to frame and capture a selfie?
Elizabeth, 35, kept telling me I was "fucking adorable," and in my multiple-shots-downed state, I totally believed her. Sharing this picture as a reminder to Future Lizzie that tequila does NOT, in fact, make you look like a Disney princess.
THE ZIBBY JERSEY.
With our new friends Rudy and Elizabeth, who were '02 grads and married in the Basilica in '03. They also had a cousin, somewhere around the periphery of this photo, who David kept calling "Katniss" because of her hair and who really, really wanted to go to a strip club. Because naturally that's how one always gets over Irish losses.
Andrew, the vintage leather style football helmet really suits you.
After way too much fun, we headed to Scottsdale for a nightcap at Michael and Ben’s hotel, and capped off the night in our hotel’s hot tub with even more beer and hilarity before the adrenaline of the day completely ran out. At this point, we had gotten about five hours of sleep in 48 hours…and our trip was just beginning! Day 1 Phoenix for the win.