Published February 22, 2011 - 12:32pm
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I’ve purposely stayed away from this subject since it first broke, because sometimes when you write in an emotional moment, you tend to say things that are better left unsaid. The one thing that I have noticed since the crime was discovered is the difference in the true sportsmen, and the people who have no life outside of their sport. This isn’t isolated to one fanbase, or one school. You can see it clear as day in the week since this broke. There are genuine people on both sides who have come together in a sense of camaraderie, and those who have talked and posted about it as if it’s some triumph on the field of play. You have made yourselves readily identifiable by your actions and comments this past week.
Before anyone thinks I’m here to belittle the Alabama faithful, you’re absolutely wrong. Auburn people may not have poisoned a tradition, but they did some pretty stupid things. My son was the first person to show me the picture of the Bear Bryant statue with the Cam Newton jersey on it. I told him at the time that this picture was in very poor taste, and was also very stupid. Anyone who understands a rivalry game KNOWS you don’t give the other team locker room fodder. You know the coaches had one of those pictures in every locker in the Alabama dressing room at Bryant-Denny Stadium before the Iron Bowl, and Alabama came out and played like a team on fire in the first half.
I’m not going to get into the money thrown at Cam Newton before the Iron Bowl. In honesty, that’s always been part of the game. I can remember when opposing teams used to wave pizza boxes at Charles Barkley when he was at Auburn. Allowing “Take the Money and Run”, and “Son of a Preacher Man” to play over the Bryant-Denny Stadium was a bit over the top, though.
One other thing that has taken off like the Cam Newton rumors is the internet rumblings repeating the claims of “Al from Dadeville” that Auburn students rolled Toomer’s Corner when Bear Bryant passed away in 1983. Paul Finebaum was a writer for the Birmingham Post-Herald in 1983, and he stated emphatically to “Al” that it never happened… that he would have known about it or read about it if it had. There has now been an exhaustive search done, and no newspaper, radio or television station has a record of any such story. There is no one old enough to remember Bear Bryant’s death, that can remember this supposed incident. So, can we stop fanning the flames with that falsehood?
However, as an Auburn fan, I’ll be the first to admit that we have sometimes laughed a little too hard at things that were in very bad taste. I’ve seen pictures of a skeleton dressed like the Bear at Auburn-Alabama games, with signs saying, “Shake the Bear’s hand. $5″. If we’re ever going to make a better rivalry out of the Iron Bowl, it’s going to take both sides looking inward, instead of both sides pointing fingers outward. I’ve seen a lot of that over the past few days; Alabama people putting together drives to help try and save the trees, and Auburn people who are accepting this help with an open heart, instead of plotting their revenge. It’s times like this that give me hope that we can all get past this, and learn from it.
Trees or no trees, there will be celebrations on Toomer’s Corner. They didn’t start rolling the trees until the 1970s. Before that they rolled the power lines around the intersection. Putting the power lines underground didn’t stop the tradition of rolling Toomer’s Corner, and if the trees die off, the Auburn family will still find something to roll, even if the University has to create something for them. The trees may die, but as long as there is the Auburn spirit, the tradition will carry on.