Miami International Airport employees rolled stairs up to the port-side doors of the team’s Delta 757 charter plane. The aft door opened, and out came a frantic young woman, wearing a No. 14 crimson jersey.
She led emergency medical techs up the staircase and to reserve offensive lineman Arie Kouandjio, who suffered dehydration on the flight.
Orange Bowl spokesman Noah Sharfman warned media in advance about the minor medical matter, which wasn’t the only medical matter to impact the travel party. Sophomore tight end Harrison Jones didn’t make the flight because of what Alabama coach Nick Saban termed a medical issue but was to rejoin the team today, the coach said.
Was it the workout the team endured in Tuscaloosa on Wednesday morning, before boarding the plane?
Maybe flight attendants served peanuts but no drinks?
Whatever the cause of the day’s mini-dramas, it’s amazing what Alabama must do to make these arrivals less routine. It’s all in how one looks at it.
“It’s pretty special,” senior center Barrett Jones said. “I think it’s something that we try not to take for granted. People ask me all the time, ‘Do you get tired of playing in national championships?’ Of course not.”
Those questions come for a program going for its 15th national title, including its would-be third in four seasons and second in a row.
This time three years ago, there was a quiet touchdown in Los Angeles, followed by a Saban news conference at Disney Land. A national columnist asked if Saban was happy.
Last year, a trio of jazz musicians greeted the Tide in New Orleans, playing, “As The Saints Come Marching In” and other local staples as coaches and players stepped off the plane.
The Bowl Championship Series rotation brought the BCS final to Miami this year, and guess who’s here — second-ranked Alabama (12-1), which will play No. 1 Notre Dame (12-0) on Monday night in Sun Life Stadium.
There was no huge fanfare for Alabama’s arrival this time. The plane rolled to the tarmac fire station, receiving a water-cannon salute on approach. Nearly 100 media and bowl reps greeted the team amid 80-degree heat.
Saban, Jones and two other senior captains, defensive lineman Damion Square and guard Chance Warmack, took turns meeting with a huddle of reporters. They tried to talk over the noise of arriving and departing flights as reporters knelt to accommodate video camera operators behind them.
The Orange Bowl mascot was on hand, waving at all comers, but there was no music. There was no pomp and circumstance, which seemed appropriate for a program and players that have become accustomed to it.
Jones said the team will have no trouble settling in to preparations.
“I don’t think it’ll be hard,” he said. “I think a lot of our guys know we’re here for the national championship. While it’s going to be a fun trip, for us, it’s a business trip. We’re not here to really have fun. We’re here to win a game.”
Another year, another arrival for Alabama. Ho-hum.
Sports Columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter @jmedley_star.