So Good Fans Stay Away?

The first two or three dozen times someone ridiculed Alabama having over 92,000 show up for the spring A-Day football game, I merely considered the source and moved on. That event was nearly two months ago and it continues to be discussed...and not by Alabama fans.

Alabama had its spring football game on April 20. There probably is not a Crimson Tide fan who does not know what a spring football game is. The A-Day Game is a glorified scrimmage.

Coaches everywhere recognize that what is usually the final practice of 15 allotted spring practice days is frequently somewhat wasted, particularly if the team attempts to entertain its fans with a game. From a practical football coaching standpoint the time could be better spent.

But if a coach is willing to put the team on public display with a spring game, why would a follower of that team not want to watch it? At Alabama this year over 92,138 wanted to see what new Bama Coach Nick Saban had to offer.

Crimson Tide fans know football, and they knew that the A-Day Game would not be representative of the team that will be on the field in the fall. For one thing, it is hard for any team to supply enough quality players to put two good teams on the field. That's why Alabama's first offense went against the first defense. For another, that is not every player who will be wearing crimson and white when Alabama opens its season September 1 hosting Western Carolina.

(For those interested, there will be 92,138 for that game, too, and for every other Alabama home game, just as there was last season.)

There were probably over 92,138 who saw the A-Day Game, at least part of it. That's because the fire marshall was treating Bryant-Denny Stadium something like a bar on the strip. Once capacity was reached no one could go in until someone else left. And that's what happened after halftime: some left and new ones took their places in the stands or standing on the spiral ramps.

It has been suggested that there must not be anything to do in Alabama because so many went to the A-Day Game.

So what do fans of other schools do when their team is playing the spring game? Finish up work on the Great American Novel? In all probability they do what most Americans do on a spring Saturday, which is not much. Golf or fishing or yardwork or shopping and the like.

Are those who don't attend a college spring game somehow better fans or more knowledgeable about football? That logic escapes me.

One thing that seems to bother the fans of other schools is that Alabama's recruiting may have been helped by the full stadium for the spring game. Several hundred prospects watched the Crimson-White game and the stadium full of those in crimson and white, and they were impressed. Most of those prospects went to at least one other college spring game. Are those prospects to be criticized for being attracted to a team where fan interest appears greatest?

I've been involved in sports coverage for over 40 years and the overflow crowd for the A-Day Game is one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. I never expect to see it again, at Alabama or anywhere else.

Only a handful of schools could ever have 92,000 for a spring game because that is more than the capacity of their stadiums, but it is more than infrastructure. It is testimony to Alabamians enjoying college football, and there is no reason to apologize for that.

And I can understand the envy.

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