Lingering snow and wet roads could not stop Auburn fan Toddy Kelley from venturing out to the Carmike 15 theatre in hopes of seeing Tigers defensive lineman Nick Fairley land a hit on the big screen.
“It’s just going to be a fun, shared experience,” Kelley said of watching the broadcast of Monday’s BCS national championship game at the theatre. “We’ll be in there with all the other Auburn fans having a fun time, and this is a once-in-a-lifetime game.”
Kelley and his three sons -- Zach, 16, Brett, 12 and Garrett, 6 -- were among roughly 300 fans watching the BCS national championship game between top-ranked Auburn and No. 2 Oregon at the theatre on Whittlsey Boulevard. Many fans were decked out in game day attire -- quarterback Cam Newton’s No. 2 Auburn jersey was a popular choice -- and theatre employees walked the aisles hawking snacks.
“We tried to make this as much like the real thing as we could,” theatre manager Daniel Keigans said.
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Inclement weather led Auburn to cancel its own viewing of the game at the new Auburn Arena, and snow, rain and icy roads led to many local restaurant closings and kept many Auburn fans at home Monday.
“Before we had the storm come through, we thought we might have been totally full,” Keigans said. “There are still have a good crowd, though, and it should be a fun night.”
The restaurants that kept their doors open had large crowds. Parking for sports bars and restaurants such as Buffalo Wild Wings on Whittlesey Boulevard and The Sports Page Restaurant & Spirits on Veterans Parkway overflowed into nearby lots, and both restaurants were at capacity more than an hour before kickoff.
Some Oregon fans braved the weather to watch the game, too. Jesse Tillman, a Portland, Ore., native and the self-proclaimed biggest Oregon fan in Columbus, was with a group of about eight Ducks fans at the The Sports Page on Monday night. He said they enjoyed the atmosphere and camaraderie of watching in a group at the restaurant.
And with Oregon in its first BCS championship game, it was an opportunity Tillman said he wanted to celebrate.
“I’ve been an Oregon fan my whole life,” Tillman said. “It’s just finally paid off tonight.”
Chris White, 706-571-8571; follow Chris online at twitter.com/le_chriswhite and at facebook.com/lechriswhite.