BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (RNS)—University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban may not be bigger than God in Alabama, but he has more fans on Facebook.
Saban edged out the Almighty to claim the top spot in a ranking of Facebook fan page membership in the state. The omnipotent one—God, not Saban—did manage to finish ahead of Starbucks and Chick-fil-A.
The Fan Page Analytics ranking is part of an independent, automated analysis of fan pages on the popular social networking site. Created by a Boulder, Colo., computer programmer, the new system ranks fan page popularity by city, state and country and shows how Facebook users connect with people around the world.
The programmer behind the analysis, Pete Warden, said the concept of “fanning,” or joining what amount to online fan clubs, is more common in sports than in faith, “so I’m not too surprised that coaches beat out God.”
But in his blog, he noted God is “almost always in the top spot” in the South, with some exceptions. Oklahomans picked the Sooners first and God third, for example, and Florida favored Starbucks over the Almighty. University of Florida coach Urban Meyer didn’t even make Florida’s list.
Stephen Jones, senior pastor at Birmingham’s Southside Baptist Church, said he was surprised to learn Saban edged out God for the top spot in Alabama. But not terribly surprised.
“If the Blessed Virgin Mary was going to appear in a field in Alabama, and Nick Saban was going to appear, who do you think would draw the most people?” he said.
The Crimson Tide faithful are certain to revel in the quirky ranking, but shouldn’t get too full of themselves, said Jones, a 1977 graduate of archrival Auburn University. God is certain to be angered by his second-place finish to Saban, and there will be consequences.
“Alabama fans should expect a bad year,” he said.