Teams pass by each other between meals
By Michael Casagrande
ANAHEIM, Calif. — The scene outside Disneyland’s ESPN Zone was the definition of the clutter Nick Saban hoped to avoid.
It was late afternoon when Alabama was wrapping up its team meal and Texas was waiting outside to sit down for their own. Everything else was, well, clutter — Saban’s word of choice when talking about the distractions surrounding the much-hyped game.
Fans and autograph dealers posing as such clogged the plaza outside the themed restaurant in Downtown Disney as the sun set, and tensions occasionally rose.
Saban himself was mobbed as he exited despite flanking security guards and state troopers. One had to pull an overly aggressive dealer away when the circle closed in on Saban.
Welcome to BCS National Championship week: Alabama and Texas.
Less than a week from taking on the second-ranked Longhorns in nearby Pasadena, Tide players and coaches didn’t seem to pay much attention to their impromptu meeting with the delegation wearing burnt orange jogging suits.
Most of the players paid little attention to their counterparts, but not the two starting quarterbacks.
Alabama’s Greg McElroy said he got a chance to exchange a quick hello with Longhong Colt McCoy who was spotted signing autographs outside while wearing oversized, stuffed Mickey Mouse hands. The two already knew each other and both attended Manning Passing Academy over the summer.
Both also shared the experience of the hounding autograph dealers Saturday.
Working in groups, one would approach players with multiple helmets, deflated footballs or other collectables. While the signatures were made, another dealer would photograph the transaction to prove legitimacy. None wanted to go on record, saying only that they were “just fans.”
Their haul said otherwise and a few joked about giving fake names to reporters while preparing for the next wave of Texas players and coaches to emerge from the restaurant.
An Alabama spokesman said the school didn’t have a policy about allowing players to sign, saying they were used to it. Just weeks earlier, several dealers yelled at Mark Ingram when the Heisman Trophy winner skipped past them without signing. One even tore up the 8x10 photos he hoped Ingram would sign, making a healthy profit for the dealer.
Saturday’s in-take will be much more profitable for the group who waited outside the Downtown Disney ESPN Zone. Only a few players turned down the requests without much security protection although some coaches were quick to say no.
It was just another night of distractions in the bubbled-in world of playing for a national championship.
For Saturday night, clutter won.