Friday at 4: Notre Dame is back, college football is back, ‘let’s do this’

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Because of obvious “professional” obligations, I do not get the chance to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in Notre Dame Stadium in the fall. The energy of Florida State’s Chop diminishes quite a bit from inside the press box. (It is still annoying.) When a crowd storms the field, veteran reporters know to avoid the mass of humanity and move a bit closer to the tunnel to the postgame interview sessions, rather than relish the elation innate to crowds clambering down walls and over hedges.

This is not a complaint. Rather, it explains why attending concerts is so crucial to my sanity. Those are my chances to feel a physical community, emotions rising in unison, voices going hoarse together. And it was from my first concert coming out of the pandemic — if we are out of it at all — that I bring you advice for this football season.

“Let’s do this.”

Those were the final words of rock artist grandson’s opening monologue at Lollapalooza in July. The Canadian-American took the main stage in front of a few thousand people already covered in sweat and laid out some ground rules. Music festivals are not known for their ground rules, but coming out of the pandemic, they were obviously necessary.

They are also the keys to enjoying this college football season, this full college football season, this college football season without game cancellations on Saturday mornings, this college football season with 60-some games each week, this nearly normal college football season.

Some will still be uneasy with this college football season. The difference between Lollapalooza and Notre Dame’s primetime date in Tallahassee, not to mention every Irish home game, is the music festival cared if its attendees were vaccinated or wearing masks. That difference alone will leave some football fans uncomfortable as they return to this passion.

“Respect their comfort level as it relates to COVID. If someone wants you to leave them alone, leave them alone.”

At the bar, at the game watch, at the game, respect their comfort level. If wanted, leave them alone.

But go to the bar, go to the game watch, go to the game.

And cut loose.

Football games lack the singular voice that drives a rock show, but their beats are well-rehearsed, nonetheless. Every Virginia Tech fan knows exactly what to do when the opening chords of “Enter Sandman” strike tonight. Florida State fans will bellow out the Chop louder than they have since Jameis Winston’s peak. In a week, the rasps of Dropkick Murphys’ ode to Boston will bring a decibel level rarely heard at Notre Dame Stadium.

Third-and-sevens require obvious full-throated participation. Kickoff returners approaching a crease deserve stadium-wide bated breath. Pushups after touchdowns provide a coordinated visual no number of crowd-surfers can match.

So it still applied to football when grandson said, “Rule No. 2, I say jump, you jump. I say clap, you clap. Let me guide you. You’ve spent the whole year on your phone overthinking. Let us take care of it. Let the professionals take care of it.”

With name, image and likeness rights, these college football players are closer to professionals than ever before, though still not quite there. Let the players take care of your thinking on Saturdays. And this Sunday (7:30 ET; ABC).

Skip the overanalyzing for four quarters. You have the rest of the week to overreact. There is no need to be the fan calling for a coach to be fired in the first half of a game he will eventually win.

For a day, for an afternoon, for an evening, stop overthinking.

“Last and most important rule, if you know the words to a song, you sing them. I’m sick and tired of singing in my shower. We made it back baby. Let’s do this.”

We made it back. Let’s do this.
You know the words. Sing them.

“Here come the” _____.
“Goooooooo Irish, beaaaaaaaat” _________.
Insert whatever the proper spelling is for the onomatopeia that is the Chop.
“Yes, kind bartender, I would like another shot to celebrate that Notre Dame” ___.

The press box was too quiet not hearing those shouts last year. The season was too fraught. The empty stadiums created a disconcerting tension.

We waited too long. You behaved responsibly for 18 months. Don’t stop that outright, but welcome this catharsis. Communal events burgeon our sanity in very tangible ways, be they at the bar, the game watch or the game. Enjoy the catharsis, the community, the competition. You earned it (particularly if you are vaccinated).

“That’s right baby, [college football] is back.”