Thursday, April 29, 2010

#84: The Kentucky Derby

Annually held in Louisville on the first Saturday of May, The Kentucky Derby is one of the greatest spectacles in all of sport.  Being the first leg of Horse Racing’s Triple Crown, it features the best trainers, owners, jockeys, and horses racing for a chance at glory.

Probably equally as famous as the horse race are the traditions that come with it.  Ladies with big elaborate hats, hordes of people sipping Mint Juleps, roses draped over the winning horse, and My Old Kentucky Home are some of the more famous traditions associated with the derby; less famous, however, is the annual migration of Notre Dame Students (mainly Seniors) to the Churchill Downs infield on the day of the race.

Just as thousands of Kentuckians, and people from the rest of the Midwest, find themselves in the infield during the race; Notre Dame Students go to the event en masse.  Many of these students arrive at the Derby on the morning of the event by chartering buses to take them to and from in one day.  These students are able to make it a full day of drinking (see #11) by starting their debauchery on their early morning bus ride, and continuing it as long as their bodies will allow.

Once arriving at the Derby, Notre Dame Students embrace its traditions.  Stumbling into the infield, they drink Mint Juleps with the rest of the spectators and celebrate with hundreds of their friends.  While some of these students might place wagers on the race, almost none of them will actually see horses run.  These students will be incredibly confused about whether or not they actually won money.

For Notre Dame Seniors, the Kentucky Derby is an important event that marks the beginning of the end of their college careers.  Usually held during study days, attendance at the Derby is typically the most eventful way to procrastinate on the last of their collegiate work (see #18), and the beginning of a multi-week stretch of unparalleled drinking, revelry, and reminiscing that serves as a epic capstone to four years at Notre Dame.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

#83: Making Excuses to Grow Facial Hair

Notre Dame Students are usually well-groomed.  Knowing that they can meet a potential employer or future partner in a long term relationship at any hour of any day, Notre Dame Students keep their hair conservatively combed and their faces clean and smooth far more often than not.  Sometimes, however, Notre Dame Students have an urge to do something different; they have an urge to make a change so radical, that people think of them differently.

While very few men on campus regularly keep beards, mustaches, or any other type of facial hair, Notre Dame Men love to occasionally grow them.  Because they see this facial hair as a social taboo, these same students also must think of elaborate reasons (or events) that require them to grow it. 

The most prominent of all the events that allow Notre Dame Students to grow facial hair is the Dillon Hall Stache Bash.  One of the more well known SYRs around campus, the Stache Bash is a dance where the men attend sporting unique and hilarious mustaches.  In order to properly prepare for the event; almost all Dillon residents spend a month or more growing out their facial hair so that they will be able to shave it into a mustache when the event comes.

Other Notre Dame Students that are not “privileged enough” to live in Dillon [cough] must think of their own events and reasons to grow facial hair.  Many take up the hockey tradition of the playoff beard during the lead up to final exams and refuse to shave until after all of their exams have been taken.  More daring Notre Dame Students even give up shaving for the entire season of Lent (see #74).

Another popular facial hair tradition that is unique amongst Notre Dame Students is the appearance of ‘service beards’.  Most notable in the weeks following Spring and Fall Break (see #58), but most remarkable following summer long research stints in Africa (see #1); ‘service beards’ are grown by the selfless Notre Dame Students that sacrifice time to do research and service work in developing countries such as Haiti, Uganda, and West Virginia.  These students grow their beards, and keep them around longer then could possibly be comfortable mainly to remind all of their friends how great of a person they are for doing extensive service work.

While Notre Dame Students may actually make a lot of excuses for why they feel a need to grow facial hair, the reality is that these are just pseudo reasons that allow the facial hair to be socially acceptable at Notre Dame.  Most Notre Dame Students don’t care as much about the reasons as they do about the actual facial hair; which they grow as an attempt to get other people to see them differently.

Facial hair can make a person look like they are more serious and it can make them look like they are less serious.  It can make them seem older, or more liberal, or more conservative.  It can make a person appear to others like they are entirely different, but it doesn’t actually change them at all.

Which is why all Notre Dame Students, eventually shave.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

#82: Thinking of Bookstore Basketball Team Names

One of the highlights of the spring semester for Notre Dame Students is the beginning of the traditional Bookstore Basketball tournament.  The single-elimination tournament is a massive affair that features roughly 700 teams playing in what the organizers claim to be the “World’s Largest 5-on-5 Outdoor Basketball Tournament” (how they can make this claim is anybody’s guess).

Because Notre Dame Students love basketball (see #76); all Notre Dame Students love Bookstore, and they love forming teams for various skill levels.  Some serious players form teams made up of the best ballers on campus (and one or two varsity Football players) in an attempt to win the tournament.  These teams will stage practices in the months leading up to the tournament, and will be ready when game-time comes.

Other teams use the tournament as a chance to do something that is SO college (see #11), and cause a malt-liquor induced ruckus while wearing spandex, clanging threes off the backboard, and coming dangerously close to sexual harassment complaints from any female opponents.  Frequently, these players will complete a halftime “boot and rally” to the delight of their ridiculously large crowds of followers, and they oftentimes have a secret stash of Keystone Light at the courts for shotgunning purposes.

Still other teams will be made up of casual basketball players that simply want to win a game or two.  These teams will be disappointed when they have to play the elite teams and they will be frustrated when they have to play the drunkard teams.  While each of these categories of teams might have different objectives on the day of their game; the one aspect of Bookstore Basketball that all teams take seriously is the naming of their team.

All Bookstore Basketball players have an innate desire to think of a clever team name that references current events and controversies while causing people that hear the name to laugh out loud.  It’s one thing to have a name that mentions Tiger “Long off the Tee” Woods or Rihanna’s lack of defense against Chris Brown, but it is a much more difficult task to make a team name stand out when 700 other teams are trying to do the same thing.

Making matters even more difficult is the fact that the tournament is run under the insanely arbitrary rules imposed by a Notre Dame Administration that takes offense to anything tangentially related to drugs, sex, alcohol, violence, or fun.  These Orwellian administrators (and their Bookstore commissioner agents) take a chainsaw to the list of team names every year and censor anything and everything that could possibly offend (except, strangely, violence against women, see #71).

Because of this, some students attempt to choose names that are clever enough and clean enough to get around the censors, while other teams just aim to make their team name a funny joke that spreads around campus like gossip.  Either way, the objective is the same: Notre Dame Students have an innate desire to show each other how smart, funny, and clever they are; and a hilarious bookstore name is the best way to achieve this goal.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

#81: Talking About Being Godparents

In their ongoing struggle with each other to win the competition that religion has become (see #4); Notre Dame Students continue to employ a wide array of tactics.  Some students like to use short term strategies such as what they give up for lent (see #74).  Other students like to make long term commitments such as serving as Eucharistic Ministers (see #45), while others might even go so far as to convert to Catholicism from another religion.

The most effective way, however, for Notre Dame Students to prove how Catholic they are is for them to talk about how somebody has chosen them to be a godparent for a child.*

Being chosen as a godparent is a special honor for Catholics of all ages as godparents are symbolically entrusted with the spiritual development of their godchildren.  In practice, however, being chosen as a godparent is an honor for people because it exemplifies the deep and long-lasting relationship that a person has with the parents of the child.  Either way, becoming a godparent is a great honor that is incredibly meaningful to everybody involved.

Because of their distinction as being incredibly Catholic, many Notre Dame Students are given the honor of becoming godparents.  While this most often happens when students’ older siblings have children, students can oftentimes become godparents for extremely young cousins or friends.  Either way, students will relish this honor and distinction.

Once a student has become a godfather or godmother, they will make sure that all of their friends at Notre Dame know they are a godparent.  They will casually drop references to their godchild into regular conversations like: “You hate THE SHIRT this year, well that’s too bad.  Oh, that reminds me that I have to go to the bookstore to get an infant-sized THE SHIRT for my godson” (see #2).  They will change their Facebook picture to one of them holding their godchild (or, when the child gets older, them with the child), and they will even go so far as to partake in a video chat with their godchild and his/her parents on a lazy weekend afternoon.

Notre Dame Students will do these things so that all of their friends are made aware of the fact that they are seen as religious enough to spiritually guide a young life into this world; or, they might just do it to brag.

*The Confirmation Sponsor Corollary
Similar to the way in which Notre Dame Students talk about how they are godparents in order to show that they are more Catholic than other students, even more students talk about how they have been chose as Confirmation Sponsors. 

While being chosen as a confirmation sponsor (and a student’s subsequent discussion of this honor) is certainly a way for Notre Dame Students to show how religious they are, it is less prestigious than being chosen as a godparent because the choice of confirmation sponsor is left to the candidate, allowing many older brothers and sisters to take positions that might not be indicative of their assumed religiosity.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

#80: Room Pick Drama

Because the dorm system at Notre Dame operates in a distinctive way (see #79), the respective dorms use unique procedures to determine which students live in which rooms.  While incoming Freshmen are randomly assigned to dorms, sections, and roommates; the rest of the student body must endure the overly dramatic tensions surrounding room picks as they attempt to ensure they get the room situation they desire.

While the dorm system fosters camaraderie amongst residents, it also leads to these residents wanting to live with or near the people whom they most often socialize.* In many dorms this creates smaller sections within the dorm that members want to stay in from year to year or potentially move into.  These sections, however, only have a certain number and type of rooms; and these limitations create tension amongst residents and potential residents.

When room picks arrive each spring, the dorms are entrenched with drama from a variety of sources. Drama can result from the picks themselves.  Because a lottery system is used to determine the order the residents pick their room, whole sections of dorms might pressure residents to choose rooms in other sections.  These students want to preserve rooms for their friends with lower picks and can sometimes lead to heated arguments between friends and hall mates. 

Drama can also result from conflicts within dorms about which residents get the most prized rooms like the Quint in Sorin or various sized quads across campus.  Since larger, more dynamic rooms are the ones that host parties and other events, many students want to live in them.  Students that want to live in these quads might not have the high room picks that are necessary to obtain them, however; and may resort to bargains or unsavory deals with other residents in order to get the room they desire.

Room pick drama most often (and most importantly) manifests itself by the simple task of everybody in the dorm trying to find a roommate.  Room picks force students to choose one person that they want to be their roommate, and usually result in another friend being left out.  The weeks leading up to room picks (for better or worse) are when students find out who their real friends are, and this heightens tensions throughout the dorms.

Finally, all of these elements come together in one night when the rooms are actually picked.  On this overly dramatic occasion some students make deals or strong arm people, some plot to take the quad that other students were planning to choose, and other students stand off to the side no knowing if they will find a roommate for the next year. 

Room pick drama throws Notre Dame Students into the midst of hyper-dramatic situations (see #19) that make nice people turn mean and timid people get angry; and for all of these reasons why Notre Dame Students shouldn’t like room picks, most students couldn’t imagine dorm life without them.

*Well, at least in the men’s dorms.  Women’s dorms don’t have as much camaraderie because Notre Dame Girls aren’t really friends with each other, and therefore don’t care as much about who they live with.