Andrew Luck

Fried chicken for the Fighting Irish

CSN Chicago needed a local person to cover things from a Fighting Irish perspective, kind of like how CSN Northwest had me covering every single movement Stanford made in the week leading up to the Oregon game. So off to Palo Alto I drove yesterday to check out the latest in the annual battle of private schools that occasionally like to remind everyone how they do things “the right way.”

Because I’ve spent over 90% of my life without any access whatsoever, I’m extremely wary about seeming jaded about the whole thing, or finding myself complaining about petty crap like “the game went into overtime/extras and now I’m going to be here later than I thought.”

I’d rather provide a little information on what it’s like to watch a game as a member of the media, since I had very little idea what it would be like until I started getting credentials a year ago (credentials I always save, because I’m a sentimental fool).

So since I left the press box before the Oregon game even started (true story), here’s what I gleaned from last night.

Overflow seating

One lesson I learned over the past couple weeks: if you’re a freelancer, it’s up to you to let the PR (professional sports) or sports information (college sports) people know that you’re going to be covering the game and would enjoy seeing the field. Before the Oregon game I heard from another reporter that the Stanford press box — clearly built before the days of BCS contention and multiple first round NFL draft picks dotting the Cardinal roster — would be full. He wasn’t kidding. When I arrived that afternoon, I found out that not only were all the regular seats taken, but a row of chairs behind those seats was also reserved (mostly for NFL scouts).

The only way I could see the action was if I stood on some stairs in the corner and looked over two sets of shoulders, and even then I couldn’t see 1/3 of the field. So I grabbed a Diet Pepsi, walked the mile-plus to my car and drove back to San Francisco where I watched the game on my couch. Luckily CSN Northwest didn’t need any video or quotes after that game, because sticking around would’ve been like watching a game on non-HDTVs in a crowded sports bar that didn’t sell booze.

Last night wasn’t as much of a madhouse as when the Ducks were in town. In other words, while the normal seats were all taken, there were some overflow seats that weren’t. I couldn’t see the field at all while sitting down, but at least I could see the jumbotron and had a place to leave my backpack.

Stanford’s press box is swanky, with workspaces featuring granite countertops and expensive, ergonomically correct chairs. They even have free sandwiches, salad and other refreshments, as opposed to the $9 and $7 meals they sell to the assembled media at AT&T Park and Oracle Arena, respectively. However, while the post-Luck era might be less exciting, at least if I cover the team I’ll probably get to see the games without standing on my toes and looking over Bruce Jenkins’ shoulder.

Thems the rules!

Most people know that in the press box, you can’t act like a fan, but I’ve never heard that rule officially stated … until last night.

Announcements are frequently heard in the press box. Whenever a beat writer tweets some bit of trivia during a game, you can wager it’s coming directly from a public relations person’s announcement over the speakers.

Last night was my fifth time covering a Stanford game for CSN, but it was the first time I heard this (paraphrased): “And remember, there is no cheering allowed in the press box. No cheering in the press box.”

Maybe they announce that before every game and just I missed it, but I’m wondering if they made that especially clear last night because of the opponent. Because even after we were told to keep quiet, the Notre Dame contingent had a hard time keeping quiet. There were audible groans whenever the Irish were sacked or penalized, as well as cheers during the second half when they managed to put together a few decent plays.

There are plenty of teams with fans that could be described as “highly annoying,” and some people would probably stick fans of the San Francisco Giants, San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders in that category. But Notre Dame fans might be in a category unto themselves in this regard.

New looks

Stanford’s “pro combat” uniforms, with dark red jerseys and pants and matte black helmets (Ray Ratto frequently complained about Stanford’s uniforms looking like blood on Twitter during the game), didn’t look all that amazing up close. However, they didn’t look half bad on TV.

Notre Dame debuted the shiniest helmets of all time about a month ago against USC, and they were ridiculously sparkly. My first impression was that it made the Fighting Irish look like they had Christmas ornaments on their heads, and someone on Twitter nailed it when they said the helmets reminded them of old “Legend of Zelda” cartridges.

Try something new

On their way to the team bus, the entire Notre Dame team and its coaches stopped by an area next to the locker room where a woman was passing out individual bags from Popeye’s. While I’m sure the food was delicious edible, I had some advice (from CSN Chicago):

On the way to the team bus, the Fighting Irish each grabbed a bag containing their dinner. Notre Dame’s restaurant of choice: Popeye’s. Not terrible, but as someone who lives in California full-time I’d recommend the Irish pick up some In-N-Out Burger the next time they’re out on the west coast. Nothing against fried chicken and biscuits, but when it comes to fast food it’s nearly impossible to beat an “animal style” burger and fries.

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