It was only about a minute that a cat dangled perilously from the upper deck of Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium, with nothing but an American flag — outstretched 30 feet below — to break its fall.
But the drama gripped thousands of fans who had ostensibly come to watch a college football game between then-No. 22 Miami Hurricanes and Appalachian State Mountaineers.
Ten minutes into the first quarter, the game itself could not possibly compete with the spectacle of a black and white cat clinging to a cable, by both front paws at first — then just one — as the fans below gasped and cried out.
Then, it fell.
On the deck below, a group of fans were holding out an American flag as a sort of net, which softened the cat’s fall enough for a student to grab it and hold it up triumphantly to show that it had survived. The fans cheered.
“He caught the cat! Unbelievable!” said play-by-play announcer Joe Zagacki on radio station WQAM, pausing only for a breath before calling a 20-yard rush by Miami running back Donald Chaney, Jr.
The Miami Herald tracked down the owner of the American flag, a University of Miami facilities manager named Craig Cromer, who told the paper that he and his wife Kimberly bring the flag to every game to hang over the railing in front of their seats.
When they saw the cat dangling, Cromer said, he tore the flag off its zip ties, and he and Kimberly stretched it out and waited for the cat to fall.
“It seemed like it took forever,” he told the paper. His wife Kimberly called the incident “probably the strangest thing that’s happened.”
With the memorable images of a feline clinging desperately by its front paws at a terrifying height — then held up triumphantly overhead — comparisons to The Lion King were perhaps inevitable.
There was no word on exactly why a cat was in attendance at the Miami-Appalachian State game, or how it slipped over the edge of the upper deck.
But for Miami fans, the cat saga was perhaps the only highlight of a game many Hurricanes fans hoped to have dominated. Miami needed a late-game field goal and heroic last-minute defense to squeak out a 25-23 win over underdog Appalachian State.
“I don’t know anything about that or what was going on, but I’ll tell you — if the cat can help our red-zone offense, I’ll see if we can get it a scholarship,” said Miami coach Manny Diaz after the game.