Trees remind of sports traditions

What if a Wright State fan burned down Hinkle Fieldhouse? Or a Valparaiso fan rented a wrecking ball to knock it down?

An equally devastating event happened at Auburn University a few weeks ago when Harvey Updyke Jr., a 62-year-old University of Alabama fan, allegedly poisoned  two sprawling oak trees at “Toomer’s Corner” with an herbicide because the Tigers defeated the Crimson Tide in a November football game.

The trees will be missed, which may sound silly to people north of the Mason-Dixon line. But the trees, which Tiger students cover in toilet paper after every football win, have been an iconic location in Auburn athletics for decades.

“Rolling the Corner,” as it’s known, has been a long-standing tradition at Auburn since the pair of 130-year-old oak trees were large enough to be toilet-papered.

For anyone to purposefully damage a school’s icon and end a tradition appalls me. Feel free to mock or verbally bash it, but don’t end it. Doing so only makes you look foolish, or even a little bit jealous.

Thank goodness Auburn police took action, arresting Updyke for first-degree criminal mischief.

Although now, Alabama law enforcement is forced to give time and energy to guarding prominant sites on Alabama’s campus for fear of retaliation. Police specifically fear that damage might be done to either the statue of former head coach Paul William “Bear” Bryant or the site where a statue of current head coach Nick Saban will be built.

Sports are full of traditions because they easily inspire pride and loyalty in fans. They are something that the older fans can teach the younger ones, which unites generations in a common goal—cheering for their team.

Traditions are priceless, especially in collegiate athletics, and should never be disrespected by rival fans.

Oddly enough, football has a near monopoly on some of the best collegiate sports traditions.

Some are landmarks, such as Toomer’s Corner or Notre Dame’s “Touchdown Jesus,” that symbolize past accomplishments.

But many of the most powerful are actions—things that all fans or participants do to symbolize their loyalty.

Notre Dame football players have touched a locker room sign that reads “Play Like A Champion Today” before they step on to the field ever since former head coach Lou Holtz hung it above the exit.

Florida State football has their Seminole-dressed mascot, “Chief Osceola” as he is known, ride a horse on to the field and plant a flaming spear at midfield.

Clemson football fans have “The Most Exciting 25 Seconds in College Football” as players gather around “Howard’s Rock”— a rock brought back from Death Valley by former head coach Frank Howard—and then run down a ramp while the band plays the Tiger Rag.

Professional sports aren’t short of the traditions, though, as bleacherreport.com’s “The 15 Best Traditions in Sports” pointed out.

Baseball has the seventh-inning stretch and the shaving cream pie in the face for hitting a walk-off. Soccer players exchange jerseys after games. Hockey has playoff beards and the New Zealand national rugby team has the Haka, a traditional Maori dance, they perform to intimidate opponents before every match.

Traditions unite people, whether it’s singing a specific set of songs during the holidays or going to a certain restaurant with friends.

Why should sports be any different?

So shame on you, Updyke, for seeking to harm a tradition and an institution. It doesn’t make Alabama look any better. In fact, it only made fellow Crimson Tide fans cast  you from their circle of trust and label your actions as those of a madman.

Oh yeah, and Auburn fans, don’t get any crazy ideas of retaliation. You’d be sinking to the same level of your most hated rival.

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