In some ways, Antony Hands is not that unusual when it comes to Alabama fans. He crowded into the lobby of the Wynfrey Hotel on Thursday to try to get a glimpse of Nick Saban or perhaps even an autograph. Same old, same old, right?
Not quite. Hands is from Australia, and came from Australia to try to get an autograph from Saban. As of the time that he spoke with me and another media member Thursday morning, he hadn't gotten it yet.
So you're a native Australian, from what I understand?
How did you get involved rooting for Alabama football?
I always loved American football. When I was a kid, you could see one game a week and it just really appealed to me, the strategic nature of it. Because I had very poor ball-handling skills; I couldn't play Australian sports. And I ended up marrying an American by chance, and she was an Alabama grad, and since then I've become a little bit crazy about Alabama.
What do you think of this whole event? Do y'all have anything like this in Australia?
There's nothing like this in Australia -- trust me. I told my folks, friends back home that, you know, over 100,000 people go to a college football game -- they've got no idea
What gave you the idea to come here to try to meet Coach Saban?
Well, my wife wanted to see her family, so I insisted that it be now, when Media Days are on.
Are you going to be disappointed if you don't meet him?
Yeah, look, I'll be really disappointed. But I met some of the players, which was really cool. And I'm still hopeful that, you know, after the interviews, he'll come out and I'll get a chance.
You were saying earlier it cost you $8,000 or $9,000?
Yeah, we're spending money, it's about that much. Flying two people out and accommodation and all that sort of stuff. It's not cheap.
How do you watch the games every week?
I normally have to watch online. ESPN broadcasts a couple of games a week. Very infrequently, it's an SEC game, but I get to watch that. And I also listen to all the games online on a radio broadcast. But it's really interesting, actually, because with the time change, at the start of the season when they play the early games, it's like three in the morning that I have to get up to listen to the football, and my wife doesn't really take well to me starting drinking beer at three in the morning. But, you know, I sort of figure it's a game tradition, right?
You could start at like 10 p.m. and --
Oh, I'd fall asleep then. Yeah, but when she gets up at about 9 o'clock and I'm -- she's like, "Oh, yeah, football."
What made you do the sign. Is this your best edge to try to possibly get --
Yeah, yeah, well, I figured I've got no chance at meeting him if I'm just standing at the edge. I didn't realize it'd make a fuss with anyone else, I just wanted to attract his attention.
Welcome to Media Days.
Well, I figure you guys like any story, right?
It's been kind of dull this week.
Well, you know, they never say anything. I read the interviews. You guys all come, and you all write the same stuff, and it all says nothing. And Les -- you know, Les hadn't even had a beer, so that was boring. ... If he'd had a beer, you might have had a fun interview.
What part of Australia are you from?
I'm originally from Melbourne, but now I live in a place called Tamworth, which is a region of New South Wales. It's sort of out in the middle of nowhere. It's about three and a half hours to the coast and about six hours to the nearest capital city.
So, how long ago did you become an Alabama fan?
Oh, about seven years ago.
Saban's arrival, basically?
Pretty much -- no, there was one season before he arrived, which was pretty sad. And then, you know, I've had a pretty good [run]. You all have been following Alabama your whole lives and had to go through Mike Shula and all those guys, and coach change after coach change. I came along and, you know, it was fantastic. I'm just very thankful that my wife wasn't a Kentucky grad, because that would be really disappointing.
What does she think of you now?
She's a bit embarrassed, she's a bit embarrassed. Because she's a grad, right, so she went to all the games at school and it's very ho-hum for her. It's a big deal for me, so you know she sort of puts up with it.
Have you ever been to Bryant-Denny?
I have been, yep, yep. I've checked out the stadium. ... Not when anyone was there, of course.
No, no, I can't, because of the job I do. That's my busiest time of year, is spring over there, which is --
What do you do?
I'm a wedding photographer. So every Saturday in spring, I'm shooting a wedding, so there's no chance of me being able to come over. It's fantastic being here, though; I'm really enjoying myself. It's great being around people I can talk football with.
I can report that the Australian Bama fan did in fact meet Nick Saban. Totally worth it.— Matt Scalici (@MattScalici) July 17, 2014