Sometimes a media member has to say what no one wants to hear. Here goes:
With obsessed, overzealous, out-of-touch, fans like the man who just poisoned the oak trees at Toomer’s Corner, the SEC is on the verge of destroying itself.
Certainly not all SEC fans are obsessed, overzealous and out-of-touch like the miscreant who phoned into The Paul Finebaum Show last month and bragged of using a lethal herbicide on Auburn’s 130-year-old, signature trees. Most fans are normal, law-abiding folks. But the number of dimwits like “Al from Dadeville” is growing.
Do you not think a redneck or two in navy and orange is currently plotting a retaliatory strike of some sort against Alabama’s campus thanks to the work of a redneck dressed in crimson?
You bet some are.
“The weekend after the Iron Bowl, I went to Auburn, Alabama because I live 30 miles away, and I poisoned the two Toomer’s trees,” Al from Dadeville boasted on January 27th. When Finebaum asked him if that was illegal, the caller said, “Well you think I care? … I really don’t. Hey, and you can tell Tammy (a regular caller on the show) I… nevermind. Roll damn Tide!”
Well, Al from Dadeville, here’s guessing the walls are closing in on you this morning. Your voice has to be recognizable to someone. And if you were stupid enough to use your real name and residence on the show — since you thought it wise to attack trees, you’re likely just that stupid — then authorities will soon be dropping by for a visit. Your pathetically stupid act is going to cost you either a lot of money, your freedom, or both.
(UPDATE — Harvey Almorn Updyke of Dadeville has been arrested.)
By now you know that Auburn officials discovered the same type of poison the caller referenced in the soil surrounding the Toomer’s Corner trees. The trees are unlikely to survive, though Auburn hoticulturalists are “doing what we can to give the trees a fighting chance.” There is also the chance of planting new, baby oaks to replace those that will most surely die. (And in the year 2141 they’ll have as much history as the trees just attacked.)
Auburn president Jay Gogue has called on members of the Auburn family to “continue to be ‘All In’ in upholding its reputation for class.” He does not want anger to be expressed “inappropriately or undeservedly.”
“It is understandable to feel outrage in reaction to a malicious act of vandalism,” Gogue said. “However, we should live up to the example we set in becoming national champions and the beliefs expressed in our Auburn Creed. Individuals act alone, not on behalf of anyone or any place, and all universities are vulnerable to and condemn such reprehensible acts.”
Kudos to Gogue for attempting to keep the peace.
Alabama AD Mal Moore called the action “an awful act, a terrible thing to do.” He added, “A lot of what makes our two programs so special is our many unique traditions. So, hearing this about Toomer’s Corner is upsetting to me in several ways. I certainly hope that whomever is responsible is held accountable.”
Moore’s statement is a good one, but if he really wants to heal some of the over-the-top choler between the schools, he should jump in his car, drive to Auburn and survey the scene today… offering personal apologies for the actions of one nut fan and making it clear that the University of Alabama stands alongside Auburn University in this matter.
Several Alabama fans have expressed anger and sickness over the actions of “Al from Dadeville.” The Birmingham News has collected a number of their responses here.
Of course, all the “we don’t support this” comments in the world won’t remove the black eye ol’ Al slapped on his favorite school’s face today. Next time the Iron Bowl rolls around, expect a few more folks from around the nation to be yelling “War Damn Eagle” at kickoff time. The national press is certainly doing its part to spread the story today. That’s the price a school pays for having a fan go so far off the reservation.
Tide fans really wanting to make a difference should offer in anyway to help at Toomer’s Corner. Again, there is an opportunity here for the schools to actually throw some cool water on their overheated rivalry.
As for Auburn fans, AU student Michael Moore summed up the mood on campus yesterday. “We see (these trees) every day as we walk around campus, and now they’re going to be gone. You can’t replace 130 years of heritage that some people’s great-grandparents rolled when they went here. You just can’t replace it.”
No. You can’t.
The SEC has become the dominant athletic conference in the nation thanks in large part to the support of its fans. The good news is: Their passion seems to be without bounds. Unfortunately, that’s also the bad news.
SEC commissioner Mike Slive has stated on several occasions that the only thing that can derail the SEC is the SEC itself. That’s exactly what happened in the old Southwest Conference. Infighting and bad blood literally brought the roof down on that league as conference partners rolled over on one another to the point that most of the SWC’s teams were on some sort of NCAA probation during its final decade of existence.
In case you haven’t been paying attention, this past year has been one of the nastiest in SEC history. Mississippi State, Auburn, Alabama, LSU and Florida fans have all tossed accusations back and forth regarding the Cam Newton scandal. School officials haven’t behaved much better. MSU coaches ratted out the Newton family to the SEC office — once Newton signed with another school, of course. When the folks at State determined the league wasn’t taking action quickly enough, someone in Starkville leaked the Newton story to the press. The controversy grew from there. And it grew to the point that someone actually revealed Newton’s academic records at Florida to a member of the press, apparently violating federal privacy laws in the process.
This is the way athletic programs and leagues are destroyed. Now that an Alabama yahoo has hurt thousands of Auburn followers, you can be sure that some of those Auburn followers will return serve in some way. So in addition to schools turning one another in for alleged cheating, we now have to worry about acts of vandalism — or worse? — committed by nutbag fans. Remember, in 2008 an LSU fan reportedly shot and killed two Alabama fans following a game between the Tigers and the Tide.
Accusations of NCAA violations. Kooky fans who literally commit murder for their schools. And now despicable acts of large-scale vandalism. Slive’s fear — that the SEC could stop its own progress — seems to be edging closer to reality with each passing day.
Al from Dadetown’s actions should serve as the Rubicon for SEC fans. His evil act can lead in one of two directions. Either the few out-of-touch fans out there can escalate the hatred in the SEC further or the many reasonable fans across the league can begin to dial back the rhetoric (on messageboads and talk shows).
Personally, I don’t get the whole hate thing. When I go to a sporting event, I enjoy meeting fans of the other team. I’d rather go through life and make friends than make enemies.
In 2009 I went to New Orleans, saw the Saints absolutely crush my Patriots, and still enjoyed a big ‘ol time with a good number of New Orleans backers before and after the game. How? It was a game.
Only two Saints fans — both young, both drunk — popped off about my team’s loss. In response, a number of good Saints fans decided to buy drinks for the poor sole in his Pats hat. My team may have lost, but I won.
The idea of keying a rival fan’s car or throwing a beer on someone is so foreign to me that I can’t even grasp the motivation behind it. Yet it happens. LSU fans have actually been known to attack the buses of opposing teams. Some fans just enjoy hating. Al has proven that.
So will things now get worse in the SEC or better post-Al? Are you the type of fan who thinks Al from Dadetown’s got the right idea? Or are you the type of fan who’ll be more welcoming to rival fans when they next invade your favorite campus? Will you learn to lose a game without screaming “Cheater” at the top of your lungs?
The ball’s in your court, SEC fans. The league’s future is in your hands.
Do you want to be Al from Dadetown? Or do you want to act like a sane adult who loves his school, loves his team, and loves his league?