Oxford family’s video of BCS Christmas surprise making the rounds nationally, watched by millions
by Bran Strickland
bstrickland@annistonstar.com
Dec 26, 2012 | 10361 views |  0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Daniel Buckhannan, left, holds a ticket to the BCS National Championship game. Don Buckhannan, Daniel’s dad, received the ticket for Christmas. (Photo by Bill Wilson)
Daniel Buckhannan, left, holds a ticket to the BCS National Championship game. Don Buckhannan, Daniel’s dad, received the ticket for Christmas. (Photo by Bill Wilson)
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OXFORD — The night before Daniel Buckhannan exchanged gifts with his father, he could barely sleep.

“I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about it,” he said.

After he gave the gift — a ticket to the Bowl Championship Series title game between Alabama and Notre Dame — he’s had a little more trouble with restful nights.

“I had to get up in the middle of the night and turn my phone off because I was getting so many direct messages and whatnot,” Buckhannan said Wednesday afternoon.

And that’s been the Oxford resident’s life since he uploaded the 90-second video of his father, Don, finding that ticket tucked inside a Bear Bryant-style fedora.

First it was being excited about modest YouTube views and a Twitter mention by writer and radio show host Clay Travis. Now, it’s at more than 3.3 million hits and early-morning phone calls come from New York television producers.

“We thought it was hilarious when it had 5,000 views on YouTube,” Don said.

Added Daniel, “We never thought about something like this.”

Travis, a writer at southern sports website Outkick the Coverage, said he knew almost as soon as he heard Don exclaim the first “Hot diggity dog,” just for getting the hat. Then 23 seconds in when Don’s smile broke and he was engulfed by a tsunami of emotions, Travis was certain the viral sky was the limit.

“I think I’ve got a decent internal thought process,” Travis said of a video’s viralness after the countless numbers he receives from his followers. “It’s that great essence of why people love sports.

“It’s that rare unvarnished emotion.”

Around 11 p.m., Travis tweeted “Bama grandpa gets BCS title tickets. Merry Christmas,” with the video to his more than 63,000 Twitter followers, and the rest is Internet history.

About 24 hours later as Christmas was winding down, the video stood at around 37,000 views and Daniel said his phone was “going ballistic.” Then it hit sports network giant ESPN and its bellcow, SportsCenter.

It was at 1.8 million before they left home Wednesday for an early supper at the Oxford exchange. It’d gained more than a million views before they’d gotten up from the table.

“I’d already been a little teary eyed sitting there watching the kids because they were so excited,” Don said. “ … they were just making me so happy.

“When that other happened, the volcano just kind of erupted.”

That shaky smart phone video where Don chokes back tears and trades words for yips of joy continues to make its rounds and captivates countless people ranking as the most-read story on Yahoo! on Christmas day.

The whole thing though is just another chapter — albeit more widely read — in the story of the life of this 20-year Alabama season ticket holder and his family. The smiles are chiseled in the faces of Don and Daniel when they talk about the family outings to Tuscaloosa on those hallowed Saturdays in the fall. Even when his job with the railroad took him outside the confines of the state where he was raised, they still had their Saturdays.

Don, 59, didn’t see his first Iron Bowl until he was 41. He took his oldest grandson, Mason, 4, this year.

When Alabama and Notre Dame exchange blows in Miami for that crystal football, this will be the family’s first bowl trip. Just another reason it’s so special.

“On Feb. 13, 1979, I held my newborn son right up here at RMC, held him in my arms and told him how much he and I were going to enjoy Alabama football,” he said. “Almost 34 years later, I’m reaping those benefits.”

Assistant Managing Editor Bran Strickland: 256-235-3590. On Twitter @Bran_Strickland.

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