Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Gathering Storm...

Besides being the name of an excellent HBO movie about Winston Churchill and England's movement into World War II, The Gathering Storm can also be used to describe the circumstances revolving around an upcoming weekend that happened three years ago.

That event was Nick Saban's first A-Day game as the Alabama Head Coach when over 92,000 people swarmed into Bryant-Denny Stadium to watch a glorified scrimmage. It was at that precise moment that Saban has recollected that he could accomplish special things at The Capstone culminating with another perfect season in 2009 and earning Alabama's 13th National Championship.

While the rest of the country bashed Alabama and their fan base for such a large turnout, recycling the tired stories about the fanaticism of Alabama Football, one thing that was overlooked was the sheer beauty of the moment.

It was a perfect storm of loyal fans who love a university, coupled with the excitement of a new, proven head coach about to take the thrones of the program and add in a dose of absolutely super weather, you had the making of a Perfect Storm (insert George Clooney line here) of over 100,000 showing up at a stadium that seats 92,138.

The large crowd caught Alabama officials off guard. 50-60,000 seemed reasonable, but the place just kept filling. Having driven over from Atlanta for the game, we were caught in a traffic jam over 60 miles from the stadium, lined with cars with license plates from Tennessee to Indiana to Virginia adorned with Alabama flags hanging from windows descending on Tuscaloosa. The city fire marshalls had to turn people away by the middle of the 2nd quarter. My own estimates were that there had to 100,000-110,000 in the stadium or just turned away at the gates. Eating establishments were caught off guard, short staffed for a typical gameday crowd in April. I've never seen as many people in the streets upon conclusion of a contest as I did on that day.

The other thing to examine is this was not a planned event like other schools have staged since that fateful day in April 2007, a university sponsored event like Ohio State or Nebraska have pulled actively seeking to sell out the stadium. Instead this was just a sheer lovefest for a program that had seen low times during the previous 10 years and that many felt could now turn the corner towards being the elite program it should be.

And now that Alabama is currently recognized as the premiere program in college football again, ESPN is seeing fit to televise the event for a second consecutive year. Funny how a ground swell support for event has led to The Worldwide Leader to picking up several spring football telecasts to show to the entire nation. Even little brother Auburn gets a look on ESPNU.

So this weekend, while the rest of the world is salivating or recounting Tiger and The Masters, the beginning of the NBA playoffs or a day 12 of a 162 day baseball season that never ends, the majority of people in the state of Alabama will either be in Tuscaloosa or Auburn or hunkering down in front of the tube to watch Sping Football in stunning HD television.

Laugh if you must America, but the road to # 14 (maybe # 1 1/2 for Auburn) was starting to be paved well before this coming weekend. Roll Tide!

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