The Price Is Right Saban Showcase: It’s one thing to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with arguably the greatest college football coach to ever live; it’s another to present this head coach the same way game show models proudly introduce a riding lawnmower, a trip to Greece or a Mini Cooper. Simple but straightforward.
The Christmas Card: The intentions are pure, and this often involves the most coordination. Dad and Mom will gather the family ’round and demand a synchronized smile for Grandma. Newborns will be celebrated like Simba in The Lion King. Each shot is unique, but all will end up on someone’s fridge or mantel.
Monkey Bars: Disclaimer: Not recommended. It has been determined that the Saban statue can support at least two dangling children posing for their mildly concerned parents. It can also hold an adult who feels the need to hang from a bronze statue’s fingertips for reasons unclear.
The Mirror Image: Yes, a great deal of time and care are dedicated to mimicking Saban’s exact body positioning. The execution varies—some successfully recreate his stance, focusing on proper knee bend and head placement. Others look more like action figures nearing the end of their toy lives and laugh the whole thing off.
The Dog Cameo: It’s not a common occurrence, although dogs are welcome at the Saban statue. Typically these dogs are hand-held. One woman held one under each arm. Sometimes these dogs are wearing Alabama collars or T-shirts. The owners seem thrilled about this. The dogs, not so much.
Behind Enemy Lines: The statue is not just for Alabama fans. Texas A&M fans who made the trip appeared every so often with Saban. The attributes for such shots are similar: awkward smiles, rigid body placement, nervous glances to make sure not too many people are watching and rushed sprints off stage.
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Minutes before kickoff, two Alabama fans take a knee at the statue’s base. They use a key to poke small holes in cans of Coors Light. They make quick work of the liquid inside.
The man who empties his can first leaps upward. It’s as if he has been brought to life. He bumps his closed fist against Saban’s right hand as his friend finishes up. The two then sprint inside the stadium.
By 2:45 p.m., 15 minutes after the game begins, the crowd in front of the Saban statue has dissolved and moved to the stadium. Saban’s legs are now completely in shade as the sun begins its slow, gradual descent.
From out here, a flurry of mighty roars signals a long Alabama drive. Depending on the pitch and length of each cheer, one can script out the game without seeing a single down.
At the same time, another football game has broken out in the open area that once housed the GameDay crowd. Eight children varying in age and size tackle one another for hours. The largest of the boys regularly carries two or three children into the end zone, which is an imaginary line that is disputed often. The roars don’t seem to impact them at all.
Occasionally, a stray visitor stops to take a photo of the statue. Even then, with the biggest home game of Alabama’s unfolding in real time, Statue Saban has company.
At 5:15 p.m., the final fragments of College GameDay are wheeled out of sight and into a large white truck. Just over six hours after the show concluded its broadcast, it’s as though it was never there.
The sun dips behind Bryant-Denny Stadium just as the building unleashes the loudest rumble of the day. Defensive end Jonathan Allen, 294 spectacular pounds of Saban handiwork, glides into the end zone from 30 yards out after picking up a fumble.
Alabama extends its lead to 12 points with 21 seconds remaining in the third quarter. This is more than enough for some fans to start heading for the exits, sensing that a victory is assured. The stadium drains, slowly at first, and the crowd outside reassembles.
The three lights positioned under the head coach have been turned on, highlighting Saban’s hands and face. While his body is barely visible from a distance, it’s the most powerful he has appeared all day.
“Thank you, Nick!” a faceless man yells from a sea of crimson as he walks by. “Attaboy, Nick!” another man yells.
Many take pictures, now with their flashes on. Some have come to drink whatever beer remains. The crowd grows larger than it has all day.
Alabama scores once more as darkness takes over. The touchdown ignites one final eruption and an even larger exodus of fans. They pour out into the opening and flock to the Saban statue. A half-circle at least three rows deep encases the area.
People hug and embrace one another. They make plans for the long night ahead. “Roll Tide!” becomes its own language, describing everything anyone needs to know that night in just two words.
A man in a crimson shirt, the day’s uniform for those who bothered to wear shirts at all, cracks the outer wall of humanity. He says nothing as he moves swiftly toward the statue. His hand makes a mighty thud against the bronze as he hits Saban’s thigh.
He does not wait around to gauge the reaction despite leaving something behind. Within seconds, he blends into the night.
The lights shining upward highlight a circular red sticker that has suddenly appeared. Four words in white letters are illuminated in the spotlight.
“Go to Hell, Auburn.”