Poisoning of Auburn trees is sign of times in college sports

Posted by puguh on Friday, February 18, 2011

Poisoning of Auburn trees is sign of times in college sports. The oak trees of Auburn can sleep easier tonight. There's been an arrest made in the Toomer's Corner attempted murder case.

The police are charging a 62-year-old Alabama fan with dumping poison on a couple of oaks that have been historic gathering places for happy Auburn Tiger supporters. I don't know if he's innocent or guilty, but when Harvey Almorn Updyke Jr. is asked for his plea, let's just hope he doesn't respond to the judge, "Roll Tide."

College football. Sigh. SEC football. Double sigh.

Their rivalries often enrich the sport, but not when somebody is bringing cans of Spike 80DF herbicide. You'd think blowing off steam on a talk show would be enough to get over losing to Auburn, rather than planning to assassinate 130-year-old trees.

This is a new and absurd symptom, but the malady is old and familiar enough, especially in that neck of the college football woods. Too many fruitcakes who forget it's just a football game. The SEC has given the world five straight national champions, but passion like that can be twisted into a weapon by the wrong mind. And it has.

Apparently, squandering a 24-0 lead against Auburn in the Iron Bowl pushed someone over the edge.

The foolishness sometimes leaks out in other ways. Language in the stands that is bluer than the Pacific. Booing teenagers. Behavior that would make a prison guard cringe. It is truly amazing and occasionally disgusting, what the activities of 20-year-olds can have 40-year-olds doing. But this sets the bar lower, and even if it turns out to be just one knucklehead, one knucklehead can do a lot of damage.

This time, the oak trees. Next time, what? Let's be clear. Most fans— including most SEC and Alabama fans — do not carry on so, and no one has done something like this before. Then again, the misplaced perspective that sends a fan after a tree is not entirely different from whatever malignant force drives coaches to cheat.

They are all polluters, some just more toxic than others. They are all signs of a lost grip on what college football is supposed to be.

One problem is how so much emotion is hyper-injected into the more rabid followers of this sport, encouraged by round-the-clock media and internet and whatnot. If you're from Alabama and you live with beating Auburn 365 days a year, what happens when your team doesn't? A game is inflated into a matter of civic pride, and there is nothing wrong with that, so long as everyone understands how to act after the clock runs down.

Some don't. We are not a society that has done very well lately in controlling our emotions. This incident looks like it was road rage with a football helmet.

The reasonable from both schools will not wish to include the current matter among the memories of their historic and torrid rivalry. Football fever probably runs higher in the SEC than anywhere, and highest in the Alabama-Auburn series. In many ways, it has done the game proud.

But not today.

Could it happen elsewhere? Do the Georgia hedges need protection? Anybody after Boise State's blue turf?

Let's hope for no copycats. For a proper relationship, Army and Navy come to mind. No one anywhere hungers to win a rivalry game more than they, but no one also better understands the place of football. They stand together after their games, and some of them head off to war. But never to kill off the other team's oak trees.

Source: http://www.usatoday.com

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