O say, does that star-spangled banner yet save strays from uncertain death at home football games?
It was the most breathtaking moment of the Sept. 11 football game between the Miami Hurricanes and the Appalachian State Mountaineers, and it didn’t even happen on the field.
Fans spotted the gray-and-white Tuxedo cat dangling perilously from the upper deck at Hard Rock Stadium early in the second quarter of Miami’s home opener and watched as the cat’s tenuous grip slipped from two paws to one.
A Miami fan reached down over the railing and tried to lift the cat to safety as it dangled cliffhanger-style from a cable. Instead, the cat pawed at the air — then plummeted.
But the gasps turned to cheers when the cat landed in the folds of an American flag.
Even play-by-play announcer Joe Zagacki, the voice of Hurricane sports, took notice and briefly broke from the game to call the stunning catch.
“He caught the cat! Unbelievable!” Zagacki said.
Craig and Kimberly Cromer, Miami season ticket holders, bring a flag to every home game and drape it over the railing in front of their seats, the couple later told the Miami Herald. The Cromers initially thought it was a dog or a baby causing the commotion. When they realized it was a cat quickly losing its grip, they ripped the flag from its ties and pulled it into a landing pad.
“They were trying to grab it from above and they couldn’t reach it but they were scaring it downward,” Craig Cromer, a facilities manager at the University of Miami, told the Associated Press.
A fan in student section scooped up the apparently uninjured cat and struck a pose from “The Lion King,” proudly displaying it before the stadium.
The cat’s postgame fate was unclear and details of where it came from or whether it was ticketed to enter remain unknown. Representatives with Hard Rock Stadium and the Miami Dolphins, which owns the venue, did not immediately respond to request for comment early Monday.
After the game, Hard Rock Stadium said via its official Twitter account it donated an undisclosed sum to the Humane Society of Miami and encouraged fans to do likewise.
“We are happy that due to the heads up nature of fans in sections 107, 110 & 208 the cat landed safely after a harrowing fall,” the message read. “We wish the cat the best in his remaining eight lives.
The cat’s rescue meant the real disaster of the game was the Hurricanes’ painful performance. The Canes managed to eke out a two-point victory over the Mountaineers, but the narrow win so displeased Miami Coach Manny Diaz that when he heard of the cliffhanging kitty, he mulled recruitment.
“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,” Diaz told reporters in a postgame interview.