NEW YORK -- As Notre Dame and Army prepared to rekindle history on Saturday, the question on most New Yorkers' minds was whether Yankee Stadium could work as a football venue. What they discovered is that it not only passed as an adequate spot, but inspired an atmosphere of electricity and patriotic ambiance.
It had been 41 years since the Irish and Black Knights played at Yankee Stadium, an annual event that was suspended because the rivalry had gotten too intense. Notre Dame fans were calling Army's cadets "slackers," and Army felt the venom against its students was unpatriotic and detrimental to the school's mission. Hate in sports can be a good thing, but not in a series with honor and valor as its themes. Nearly everyone agrees that it had gotten out of hand and needed a break.
Enter Yankee Stadium II, the modern upgrade on the House that Ruth Built. With a new park came the possibility for a fresh beginning, and Notre Dame and Army -- now far removed from those pugilistic days of blood for blood -- embraced the opportunity, more than ready to cast aside those old demons and enshrine Yankee Stadium in dignity. That they did on Saturday.
There were a number of familiar themes from the old days, most notably that Notre Dame won convincingly, but from the moment the doors opened, there was something greater than football in the air. Any time Army plays, the meaning is more profound, but when you combine that with the traditions of this matchup, the legacy of Yankee Stadium and the decades of abandonment, things evolve into new avenues.
The improvised layout was better than expected, with one endzone carved into home plate and the other in center field. The left- and right-field lines jutted outward a bit, but fans still enjoyed the view and found the experience, if anything, more unique. Football stadiums rarely have the benefit of being distinct the way baseball parks are; playing a football game at the more-than-serviceable Yankee Stadium broached the extraordinary, just from dimensions alone.
Beyond the football game, there were plenty of entertaining spectacles. Patrick Wilson turned out to be an excellent choice for the national anthem, and MaryKay Messenger was simply fantastic in her rendition of "God Bless America," chirping operatic notes in her Sergeant First Class attire. Four paratroopers landed splendidly at the 50-yard line before the opening kickoff, and the Notre Dame marching band was incredibly gifted at shifting formations. It was impossible to leave the game without feeling a part of something majestic, and well done in its grandiosity.
Now, with the Notre Dame-Army game being deemed such a success, the attention shifts to the New Era Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 30. The contest will feature the fourth-place Big East team against the seventh-place Big 12 team, and though the standings have yet to confirm which schools will play, it is certain to be an appealing matchup. The opportunity to emulate Notre Dame and Army, to trod the same Yankee Stadium turf and partake in the inaugural New Era Pinstripe Bowl, will be an unforgettable adventure for those teams and the fans fortunate enough to see it live.
Notre Dame and Army proved that football at Yankee Stadium is a wonderful thing, and as more games grace the field in the coming years, people will be thanking the Irish and Black Knights for paving the way to something sensational.
Adam Spunberg is a contributor to PinstripeBowl.com. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/AdamSpunberg. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.