When I first heard about this story that Notre Dame is trying to sell the football stadium scoreboard on an auction site (Steiner Auctions), I didn't really think much of it. I saw the story, laughed for a second at the thought of bidding on the ND football scoreboard and installing it in my backyard, and then completely forgot about the idea.
Then it hit me today. Wait, Notre Dame is trying to sell the football scoreboard?? If we're selling the scoreboard, does that mean there will be a new scoreboard in the stadium next year?? What kind of scoreboard are we talking about?? Are we talking about a similar scoreboard with score and time and some very basic statistical info, or are we talking about a big jumbotron with replay screens and commercials and jock jams and all the bells and whistles?? Are we going to walk into Notre Dame Stadium on September 5 and get blindsided by a jumbotron with AC/DC blaring at us instead of the Notre Dame Marching Band??
Ummm, isn't this sort of a big deal?? Why has this gotten so little attention?? We're talking about Notre Dame Stadium. The most sacred stadium in all of college football, and the best venue in all of sports. There is NO PLACE like Notre Dame Stadium when it comes to live college football. I still get goosebumps when I walk through that tunnel and get my first glimpse at the field. Even for the spring game!! The grass field (even if it is an abomination when it gets torn up late in the year and possibly even a competitive disadvantage), the simple white lines in the end zone, the golden dome gleaming in the background, the band of the Fighting Irish firing off the fight song....you can't beat it! I love that the only voice I hear over the loudspeaker in the stadium is the voice of PA announcer, Mike Collins. I feel like I've been watching games with Mike Collins by my side forever, and I don't want him to be drowned out by some commercial for Basney Honda on the big screen.
The ND atmosphere is special because it's so simple. There's no nonsense, no jumbotrons, no over the top intros, no musical montages, no AC/DC intros, no commercials, no signs. Nothing! Go to any other sports venue in the country these days (including college games now--see Ohio State University, The), and the whole production is a joke. The Jumbotron/entertainment takes over the entire atmosphere. You can't go five minutes at a Reds game or a Buckeyes game without some fan cam or kiss cam that sucks all the eyes in the stadium toward it. Instead of watching the game, you're waiting for the next commercial break to be "entertained" by the next promotional gimmick. When the game is over, you walk out of the stadium feeling like you spent three hours watching a giant tv. It dumbs down your fanbase and turns the game into a gimmick instead of a game.
I'm not a fan of jumbotrons. In fact, I think more teams will eventually wisen up and get rid of the jumbotron to create what ND/Wrigley/Fenway have in terms of atmosphere. I know that there are a lot of Buckeye fans who are sick and tired of having all this Jumbotron crap shoved down their throats every game. When the Jumbotron is imploring the fans to say stuff like "And that's another Buckeye FIRST DOWN!," you know it's gone too far.
I really really really hope ND doesn't cave in to the potential dollars and ad revenue that comes with a jumbotron. Just keep things the way they are. Once you go to a jumbotron, there's no turning back. The atmosphere would never be the same again, and part of the magic of attending a Notre Dame football game would die for me. The ND scoreboard is very simple, but it's all you need. If anything, I wouldn't mind seeing ND go retro with this new scoreboard and adopt a new hand operated model like you see at Wrigley and Fenway. I read that idea on NDNation. That would be very cool.
Honestly, I don't even want a replay screen at ND. I kind of like the uncertainty of not knowing for sure what happened. Instead of everyone staring at the replay board for the next five minutes, you talk about the play and wonder what happened. When I go to a game, I don't need to know exactly what happened on every play. Part of the appeal of the live experience for me is that I'm soaking in the game instead of breaking it down. When they are showing the replay after every play, you're naturally going to be staring at the screen instead of discussing the game.
If there's any talk of the scoreboard being replaced, doesn't ND have some sort of a responsibility to inform us of what the plan is?? This scoreboard story has been out there for a couple days. How has ND not put out a statement yet to explain to the fans what they're planning to do with this apparent empty spot where a scoreboard once stood?? If ND was suddenly considering the idea of putting in field turf next year, wouldn't that be front page news?? Why is this scoreboard thing flying under the radar?? Any change to Notre Dame Stadium is big news in my eyes.
The good news here is that Jack Swarbrick seems like the kind of old school ND alum who would rather see a mural of Bo Schembechler in Notre Dame Stadium than a Jumbotron. Swarbrick knows a lot about ND's history. He doesn't seem like the kinda guy who would want a Jumbotron installed on his watch. ND fans want ND Stadium to be left alone. As the caretaker of this program, Swarbrick has to honor that.
With that said, nothing surprises me anymore about ND sports, so that's why I'm on high alert until I hear from the athletic department that we are not installing a Jumbotron. I know there are a lot of folks up there who will do just about anything to generate revenue, and a Jumbotron is a big opportunity to generate revenue. We are already installing video screens at the basketball arena, so maybe the administration thinks they can slide a Jumbotron into the football stadium without anyone noticing until the Nevada game.
One of my favorite things to do at ND games is to look up at the scoreboard one last time as I walk out. Just seeing that final score with nothing else up there captures the moment and brings a certain finality to what you just watched. It's very simple and yet it's all I need. Here's the perfect example of what I'm talking about. I hope this never changes.