FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. --
Flags bearing the message "BCS National Championship" lined the road as I made my drive into Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday. A bridge across the road featured the same emblem.
For about three miles on that stretch of asphalt, and perhaps more -- I didn't drive any further south -- the crowds, which were enough to fill every parking spot within sight, were reminded of the monumental event taking place in Miami on Monday.
But it's the event before the event that makes this such a special event.
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Let me explain.
The national title game, which will pit No. 1 Notre Dame against No. 2 Alabama, will last anywhere from three to four hours on Monday night. Great plays will be made, stellar athletes will be on display on one of the biggest stages in athletics and collegefootball's national champion will be crowned.
Perhaps a dynasty will even be born, as the Crimson Tide is going for its third title in four years, and Alabama coach Nick Saban will go for his fourth career title.
Part of what makes those four hours so special, however, is the hype, excitement and atmosphere in the surrounding areas leading up to the game.
We're still five days away from kickoff, but the atmosphere of excitement is already beginning to take shape in South Florida.
And it is sure to improve over the next few days.
Already, I have talked to a number of Bi-City area fans who will be making the trip south to see the game. The majority of them will be getting into the Miami area sometime this weekend, giving them enough time to sit in the sand and even dip their toes into the ocean, weather permitting. Temperatures, helped by sunny skies, hovered around 80 degrees on Wednesday and the beaches were packed with guests.
I'm excited about the game, of course, but these are the stories I want to tell. I'm interested in the fans that live for their team so much that they are willing to shell out the hundreds of dollars it takes to make the trek to the southern tip of Florida or the fans that, on a whim, decide to make the drive in one night and pick up a ticket outside the stadium.
Really, I'm just interested in the fans.
I'll be telling those stories over the next few days, and I know there will be some good ones. Still, I'm interested in hearing from you if you have, or know of, an interesting story.
The game itself might be special. At this point, five days away, it's all speculation about which team will win and how.
The one thing we are sure about is that fans of both teams are excited and the anticipation is building.
It is those fans, as well as the ones throwing parties with friends and family at home around the country, that make college football and this event that much more special.
David Mitchell is a sports writer for the Ledger-Enquirer. Follow him on Twitter @leprepsports.