Hot temps, sky-high prices and lots of Fighting Irish spirit filled the South Beach area of Miami, according to Northwest Indiana residents, including Hammond Mayor Thomas M. McDermott Jr., who were fortunate enough to get tickets for the game of the year at Sun Life Stadium.
“In South Beach, it’s about 70 percent Notre Dame fans to 30 percent Alabama fans. I’ve seen so many movie stars and celebrities. I’ve run into Charles Barkley twice,” McDermott said by phone.
It was a lottery for Notre Dame football season ticket holders that netted the mayor two tickets to Monday’s championship game.
“I’ve been a season ticket holder for 13 years since I graduated from Notre Dame Law School in 2000,” said McDermott, who’s been in Miami for several days with friends, including Kevin Smith of Hammond.
“I got lucky,” he said about the tickets that cost $350 apiece. “Marissa (McDermott’s wife) is definitely wife of the year. She gave up her ticket so Kevin could come to the game.”
Smith, who grew up in Hammond, but graduated from an Ivy League school, said he’s been a lifelong Notre Dame fan.
“Notre Dame football is better than any Ivy League game,” said Smith, who is McDermott’s campaign manager and personal attorney.
“I was in college the last time Notre Dame was last in a post-season championship game. That was in 1988,” Smith said.
Although their seats are in the nosebleed section of Sun Life Stadium, both McDermott and Smith said having tickets beats trying to buy them once in Miami.
“Notre Dame only got 17,000 of the 80,000 seats at the stadium, and Alabama got the same number. The Miami Dolphin season ticket holders got the rest of the tickets,” McDermott said. “Some of those Miami season ticket holders are scalping tickets for $2,000 each.”
Prices for everything from a round of drinks to a modest hotel room also shocked the group, McDermott said.
“Everything is extremely expensive. My three buddies and I went out to a bar (Sunday night) in South Beach and one round of drinks for four of us was $80, and it wasn’t anything special,” he said.
“A normal, regular hotel room is $500 to $600 a night,” he said. “There are a lot of students here who really can’t afford these prices. I’m way out of my league price-wise.”
Station 21 American Grill and Bar on Main Street in Crown Point was packed Monday night with about 200 people. There were about 30 television sets in the restaurant, all tuned to the game. Many of the patrons were dressed in green jerseys, shirts and sweatshirts in support of the Irish.
Mark Nelson, of Crown Point, sat at the bar upstairs with friends, clapping loudly as he watched the teams trot out on the field. He and his pals had some beer and a plate of wings.
"I'm fired up," Nelson said. "I've been waiting 24 years for this. That's the last time they won."
Colleen Hogan, of Crown Point, sat at a table with family and friends.
"They are going to win," she said. "I come here all the time, and the bar is never this packed."
Dave Dickerson, of Crown Point, who also was sitting with friends, said he's been saying the same thing all week.
"I'm pretty excited. I love Notre Dame," he said.