They drove and flew hundreds of miles, paid thousands of dollars for football tickets, and showed up in Miami a little tipsy and dressed like Leprechauns or sported hardhats with statues or even laundry-detergent boxes.
The fans of Notre Dame and the University of Alabama were dressed to kill … any sense of fashion.
Amid the seas of green, red and houndstooth prints, one man stood out: Robin Albano of Decatur, Ala.
Clad from head to toe in a red tuxedo bearing white elephant prints, Albano sported Alabama rings on each finger, two necklaces, a crimson hat and a mock-gold grill across his teeth that made him lisp.
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But it was missing something: It didn’t say “Bama.”
“I’m workin’ on that,” Albano joked. He said his tuxedo fabric was purchased by his wife and sewn by his mother-in-law.
“You will not find this in no store. I promise you,” he said. “It’s a one of a kind. I’ve got a patent.”
He said he had another suit of houndstooth in deference to the legendary Alabama coach Bear Bryant’s hat.
Even Notre Dame fans had to stop, gawk and photograph him. One man, who didn’t give his name, wore a kilt and engaged in a little smack-talk.
“You know it’s a kilt because I’m not wearing underwear,” he said.
Albano said it looked like a skirt.
The Irish fan turned his back, lifted his kilt and proved his point with a full moon before dusk.
“Well, that ain’t no skirt,” Albano laughed.
Nearby, lifelong Notre Dame fan Ken Herlihy showed off his latest Leprechaun threads.
“It’s brand-spanking new. I’ve worn another one for 20 years, got the new one for the National Championship Game,” Herlihy said.
“I actually found it at a costume shop, believe it or not, in Rochester, N.Y.,” he said. “I have worn it on St. Patrick’s Day. I’ve worn it on Halloween giving out candy to the kids, and Notre Dame games.”
So that beats the Alabama fans who can only wear their outfits to Crimson Tide games, right?
“Yes,” Herlihy said, adding that Notre Dame is better than Alabama in every way.
“That I don’t know. Probably not, but we’ll give ‘em that,” he said. “We’ll give Alabama the barbecue. But that’s it. That’s all they get.”
Scores of fans milled around outside looking for cheap tickets. They were tough to find.
Notre Dame fan Ron Nierzwicki, 53, flew from Chicago to Bonita Springs and then drove over to Miami-Dade with his daughters on Monday. They had tickets. He didn’t. He almost got one from a scalper for $850, but the man’s partner had sold the ticket moments before.
“I’m not paying $1,200 for a ticket,” he said before the game. “I’m having a good time out here, so it really doesn’t matter that much.”
The average price of a ticket: About $1,700.
Nearby, the Cohan family milled around outside, not caring if they got in or not.
“We drove down from Virginia just to be a part of this,” said Melinda Cohan, 39. “Got any tickets?”
Her husband, Dave Cohan, wore his father-in-law’s special game-day headwear: a hardhat with a box of Tide laundry detergent pierced with a roll of paper towels — a charades-like homage to the Alabama Roll Tide.
“I’m carrying on the tradition,” he said.
Hardhats were the rage. Tom Darrow of North Carolina spray-painted his gold one and topped it with a statue of the Virgin Mary.
“God doesn’t care if Notre Dame wins or not,” he said. “But his mother does. Go Irish!”