The texts flood in, well past 2 a.m. Fifteen hundred. Two thousand. Twenty-five hundred. Most of them offer congratulations. There’s hate mail — hate texts? — packed in there, too. I’ll probably have to change this number, he thinks, after Signing Day.
Bedtime now. Time to shut the damn thing off. Another one lands before he does. A 614 number he doesn’t recognize. Who am I recruiting in The 614? He opens the message:
Saban humphs, peels back the flat sheet, creaks into bed, sinks back into the pillow. Three BCS titles in four years. A dynasty. He is entirely satisfied.
Well, mostly satisfied.
“Who does that?” he asks, aloud. “Who screws with my night?” Answer: HE does.
The “ROLL TIDE” chants continue through the night, outside his window. They wax and wane in volume as he drifts in and out of consciousness. Then he sits up, abruptly. He looks at the clock. 4:04. Son of a bitch. He reaches for his phone, flips it open, powers it on, calls up the text. Replying:
It is what it is. Whatcha gonna do?
So you’re still up?
Saban thumbs out his answer:
Yeah. You, too?
A minute later:
Sun is up here. Shining right into the WHAC.
There’s a pause in the exchange. About five, six minutes before the next text alert:
I said, LOOSE END, Brother . . .
He sighs and replies:
You know me, Urban. I’d tie it off if I could.
Two minutes pass. The phone shows him a blue progress bar. It grunts across his phone screen and finally delivers a .JPEG file. A flat field: grass and mud.
You still have that shitty flip-phone, don’t you?
Kentucky bluegrass in January.
His mind’s eye places Urban on an elliptical right now. Hands-free, forty minutes into a workout, crushing it, thumbing out texts in that manic way he has. Why the hell am I not sleeping right now?
That’s 319 miles from Columbus, 307 from Tuscaloosa.
For Christ’s sake. Saban puts the phone down. Feet on the floor. He scrubs them into the hotel room carpet, gets the blood flowing. Stands up, goes off to take a piss. Two more texts land in the inbox while he’s gone:
That’s a little more than halfway.
(We know how you all don’t like to travel north.)
Well, down south is where the action is.
Not all of it.
Can you give me an address?
It’s a field. There’s no address.
Just off I-65. Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Bowling Green? Nice.
: ) There’s a Miami up here in Ohio, if you like that better.
Bowling Green, KENTUCKY will do just fine. Give me a date, and I’ll charter the buses.
Your boys are beat up. Take all the time you need, and let me know.
I’ll be in touch.
Oh, I know you will.