On Saturday, I experienced the senior marshmallow fight. As a junior.
Here’s where it started. I had signed up to give a tour to a contingent of Utah fans, so I met up with about a dozen other tour guides in a field across from campus and we waited for the buses with the visitors to arrive. Once all 400 Utah fans were successfully divided up into tour groups, I went on my way with about 30 perky out-of-towners.
After I gave my introductory spiel, one woman said, “Where do you live in Cary?” I told her, a little confused as to why some lady from Utah had heard of Cary, and she responded, “Oh I used to live there years ago. I’m sure it’s grown a lot since I left.” “No way!” I exclaimed. Someone on every tour I have ever given has had a connection to North Carolina.
We had been instructed to give a speedy tour of campus and to get the fans back to their designated tailgate location in 45 minutes. Yeah right. Maneuvering a large group through gameday congestion and covering the ground necessary to see all the major sites made a 45-minute tour nearly impossible, so I gave my group permission to peel off if they felt things were running too long. Nobody left.
None of the Utah fans had ever visited Notre Dame before, but there were quite a few subway alumni wearing red and black. Everybody was engaged, excited and eager to learn about the campus and its traditions. They challenged me and asked all sorts of great football lore questions. “Who were the Four Horsemen?” “How did Notre Dame get the nickname ‘Fighting Irish’?” “Can you tell us about the Gipper?” The Utah fans ooh-ed and aah-ed appropriately at the Dome and the Grotto, laughed gamely at my jokes and complimented me on my (rapidly improving) backwards-walking skills.
A distinguished-looking man in a black Utah cap and his middle-aged son moved up to the front of the group and started chatting with me. Both Utah graduates, the men told me about the time they went to see Notre Dame play BYU. “We were able to cheer for Notre Dame that time,” they reported happily. Towards the end of the tour, the older man leaned in conspiratorially and said, “You know, I’m actually an LDS Mormon, but I wear my Notre Dame sweatshirt to meetings at church all the time.”
After the quick-but-not-unrealistically-so tour, I dropped the friendly Utah group off at their Ute tailgate and tried to go find my friends. No luck. Gameday cell phone service is notoriously terrible, so I futilely wandered the parking lots for a few lonely minutes. Just as I was considering going back to the dorm and ditching the game completely, I received a text message with directions to the tailgate where my friends were stationed. I made my way over to the indicated area and saw a senior girl I had met a few times through the friends I was supposed to be finding. She was about to go to her seats in the stadium, so she invited me to come with her and meet up with our mutual friends inside.
I didn’t meet up with the people I was originally looking for until they found me at the 50-yard line at the end of the game. I spent the game standing in the senior section with a girl I had met twice and a few of her friends. I had a great time.
Now, I had already snuck in to the senior section at the football stadium a few times this season, so I was no stranger to the awesome 40-yard line seats and great view. That was nothing new for me. But, Saturday was the last home football game of the season—Senior Day. That made things a little different.
One of the lesser-known traditions of Notre Dame football is the Senior Day Halftime Marshmallow Fight. On Senior Day, senior students buy up all of the marshmallows in the county, stuff the bags down the backs of their pants and sneak the marshmallows in to the stadium. At halftime, all the seniors rip open their bags and start whipping marshmallows at each other.
As a non-senior, I did not come equipped with adequate ammunition. Actually, I didn’t have any ammunition. I was unarmed and unprepared. All I could do was put my hood up and duck for cover.
When the second quarter ended and the team ran off the field, it was raining. As soon as the clock hit zero, the marshmallows began to fly. I pulled out my camera to record a video of the stands as they turned white with the blur of flying confectionary treats, and it was almost knocked out of my hand from the sheer force and volume of marshmallows zooming through the air.
I was pelted with marshmallows. Regular size s’mores marshmallows, tiny baby hot cocoa marshmallows, pink and green and yellow fruit-flavored shaped marshmallows, giant fist-sized marshmallows. And they hurt! Marshmallows with a little zip behind them land with a surprising punch. Some people loaded their marshmallows with pennies so they would fly further; the change-laden marshmallows tended to be more painful on impact.
Impatiently, I pushed my hood back. It’s hard to dodge marshmallow missiles without peripheral vision. I immediately regretted my decision when a sticky, damp marshmallow landed in my ponytail. Gross. Tucking my hair up inside my trusty green Notre Dame hat, I decided it was time to fight back. All I had to do was extend my arm and close my fingers, and I was able to pull down a handful of formerly airborne marshmallows. Bingo. I licked my lips, ready to fight back, and tasted something sweet. Marshmallow dust.
Safely armed, I began to notice the students around me. One unlucky boy, thrashing furiously, was being held down by a group of his friends as they smeared a sticky marshmallow mustache on his upper lip. A girl behind me was giggling and being force-fed a dirty grey marshmallow from the floor. Down the row, a shirtless guy surrendered and laid down on the marshmallow-coated bench.
As I turned my back to the field, my shoes squelched. The rain had transformed the spent marshmallows into a slippery goo that coated the floors and benches. It was very clear that nobody was going to be sitting anytime soon in the senior section. The fight died down, but every so often somebody tossed a grubby marshmallow towards the field where the Irish Guard waved and tried to catch the projectiles in their funny black hats.
Notre Dame won the game 28-3, upsetting #15 Utah. We rushed the field. It was probably the most orderly field-rush ever. I would say it was the most orderly field-rush I’ve ever been part of, but it was the only field-rush I’ve ever been part of, so I don’t have much to compare. We hobbled through the marshmallow gook and wiggled over the handicap rail, surging forward and backward and sideways, all at the same time. Nobody was moving. Then, the ushers shouted, “Down the stairs, please! Single file! Don’t jump over the wall!” Compliantly, obediently, deferentially, we followed their instructions. It was a slow process, but everybody made it onto the field to celebrate with the players and the band.
I finally found the friends I had been searching for earlier in the day, and we all traipsed back to my room, exhausted. As I hung up my raincoat and pulled off my hat, I noticed some suspicious-looking blotches on my cap. I counted four white, powdery, marshmallow-sized spots.
Next year, senior year, I’ll be ready for my marshmallow fight.