Ok, Bama fans. I hope y'all just bear with me on this one. Or don't read it, if you are sensitive to me possibly showing some respect or a positive feeling in Auburn's direction. As for my Auburn followers and friends, this one is officially for you. Some of what will follow should come as a surprise to a lot of you, but I am just going to allow myself to be completely honest with everyone tonight. This is ALL me. Eric Blackerby. With no filter or concern for what anyone might think.
So I woke up this morning (Saturday, April 20), and honestly had spent the entire previous week, thinking I was going to be as classless and mean-spirited about the trees as I could be ALL DAMN DAY. Oh, I had so many jokes. It was gonna be great.
"Auburn fans won't have a place to hang themselves after all their losses now".
Also, I was gonna promote and laugh and joke unmercifully about Tuesday, April 23, being National Chainsaw Day. That is the day that the trees will be cut down. I was so looking forward to being a complete troll and pissing off a bunch of Barners. Most people have come to know that as one of my favorite things to do. I was so looking forward to it. And I made a few harmless jokes. I cracked on Facebook about the impossibility that Auburn would lose on the football field today, even though they are about to lose their trees. I was really anticipating reveling in the hatred I would get thrown at me and the hurt feelings I could possibly cause. If I'm being completely truthful here, I've just been MAD. I've been mad for a good while now. At Auburn. I've been mad since the 2010 [GAME THAT NEVER HAPPENED]. I've been mad that they ever won a National Championship in the first place. I had been bragging for years to my Aubie buddies that they would never win a National Title in our lifetimes. I was so offended by pretty much every outcome of the 2010 College Football Season. That season was the total opposite of everything that I ever thought was possible in College Football. And this was going to be my final gloat. That your precious trees were GONE. I really was going to be an asshole.
But I thought about a lot of things and I finally realized, for the first time, tonight, how much those big beautiful oak trees meant to so many millions of people through the years.
For those who don't know, rolling the trees at Toomer's Corner, the corner of College and Magnolia on the campus of Auburn University, after a victory (Or anything negative happening to Alabama) has always been one of the most recognized traditions in College Football, no matter what you or I think of it.
If you haven't known me since this happened, or don't know this about me, the reason I have so many followers and the reason that so many people, including Nick Saban, know who I am, is what I did at SEC Media Days in July 2011.
You can catch up on all that, if necessary, by clicking on at least one of the following links:
al.com: I Hate Auburn T-Shirt Guy
Shelby County Reporter: "I Hate Auburn" Man Returns Home
Kevin Scarbinsky: Scarbo defended the HELL out of me. I was so happy about this one in particular.
I got plenty of attention from Auburn fans over this.
War Eagle Reader: I Hate Auburn Shirt
Never To Yield: They had some really fun things to say about me here
If you would like to read MY RESPONSE to the NTY article, You can enjoy that here! I really had a great time writing this rebuttal
For those who haven't known me very long or are not familiar with some of my past on a personal level, I will share why I am an Alabama fan with y'all, how serious I am about it, what it means to me, and why. I've shared the following with everyone before, but I will do it now, again, as an update:
I was 2 or 3 years old when I first said the words, "Roll Tide"
Those words were taught to me by JW Blackerby in the mid 1980's. Everyone around my small little southern town of Wilsonville, Alabama knew JW as "Little Man", one of the nicest and funniest people they had ever met. He was somewhat of a local legend and was adored, respected, and WELL KNOWN by everyone in Wilsonville, and in the adjacent town of Columbiana as well.
I just knew him as Granddaddy.
In the early morning hours of my childhood, he would wake me early enough to watch the sunrise on our front porch after I had watched my Loony Toons and eaten my PERFECT egg sandwich that he would make for me.
We would head out to the porch while it was still dark and just sit there. In silence. He, in his rocking chair, and I in one of the plastic chairs that surrounded the table that was on the porch. He would drink coffee. I would drink hot chocolate, pretend it was coffee.
He was an expert marksman in the Army and was an outstanding hunter all his life, but he had a heart and love for animals. Not a stray cat or dog ever came around that he didn't feed and accept as his own. As the sun rose, squirrels would come up to the porch, some even being so brave as to jump up ON the porch, and Granddaddy would feed them nuts and bread and stuff. He even took a pet squirrel at one point. A baby squirrel that he had gotten out of a nest and named Nutty Buddy. Nutty Buddy would sit on and run around on Granddaddy's shoulder all the time. He'd even go to the grocery store with him, and go inside with this little squirrel on his neck.
He taught me how to shoot a BB gun but would tear my ass up if I shot any birds or squirrels that came around the house. He enjoyed getting up and all of the beautiful sounds of the wild animals rising as we just had. He didn't want me to run them off cause I was a bad kid and didn't listen to anyone.
He taught me how to fish. He taught me how to pray. And he taught me how to flirt. Granddaddy was the town flirt. But he wasn't a creepy old man, by any stretch. Everyone loved him. I'd ride to the store with him in the morning or to the Hardee's that was in Columbiana at the time, to get biscuits. And he would talk mess with anyone. He never met a stranger. He would talk to ANYONE like they were family or he had known them for years. He had the most outgoing personality I have STILL ever seen. He was just a hilarious old man.
|JW Blackerby, Private First Class, U.S. Army, early 40's|
Saturdays in the fall were Alabama Saturdays.
I would sit on the floor in the living room of his house that I grew up in and marvel at these heroes that I watched every week, and the colorful language my granddaddy used as he would yell instructions at them during the game.
"RUN, YOU SUMBITCH, RUN"
It was everything to him, and it was the only team I knew there was that was worth rooting for.
I didn't know until I was a teenager that there really were serious Auburn fans, and that people really felt about Auburn and other teams the way I learned from Granddaddy to feel about Alabama.
I had only met a handful of AU fans when I was in middle school, and I didn't take them seriously at all.
I was 9 when Alabama defeated the loud-mouthed Hurricanes of Miami in that awesome Sugar Bowl of 1993. The Alabama-Texas game following the 2009 season was the first time, as an adult, that I had known the feeling of The Alabama Crimson Tide being the National Champion.
The man who loved Bama more than anyone I ever knew, who taught me the meaning of Saturdays in the south, died 13 years ago this August.
|Me and Granddaddy. Sometime around 1990.|
I like to imagine he is in Heaven right now, with Bear Bryant, enjoying watching a modern day version of The Bear roam the sidelines in Tuscaloosa and I'm sure he is proud of his team. I hope he is proud of the man his youngest grandson has grown up to be.
The Iron Bowl has always been a heated rivalry. One that had to be put to an end around the turn of the last century. The game wasn't even played for about 40 years because it had gotten too heated and violent.
For anyone who has been under a rock for the past few years, I will give a quick recap of what has happened and where we are at in this moment in time.
About a week or so after the 2010 Iron Bowl, a man who called himself "Al from Dadeville" claimed that he traveled to Auburn, which was 30 miles from his home. Armed with Spike 80 DF, an herbicide used to kill trees, he claimed that he poisoned the Live Oaks at Toomer's Corner. He made these claims in a phone call to radio show host Paul Finebaum. Auburn University confirmed days later that samples sent off to a lab tested positive for very lethal amounts of the chemical. The trees were not expected to survive.
Now it is well known that the trees were in the last years of their lives anyway, and Auburn people knew as far back as 7 or 8 years ago that the trees would most likely not live another 10-20 years anyway.
But that isn't the issue tonight, at least not for me. The issue tonight, for me, is one of the greatest traditions in the history of College Football coming to an end.
Now, as I have stated before, I can't love the University of Alabama any more than I do. And conversely, I can't HATE Auburn University any more than I do.
I want Auburn to lose every game they play. Ever. By 100 points.
I want them to get into trouble with the NCAA and be on probation.
I want all of their best players to be declared ineligible.
I honestly enjoy anything bad that can happen to Auburn's team, or football program in general.
But some things, however ridiculous they may seem to outsiders, are just sacred. College Football is treated like a religion in this country, and that is no more evident than in the south. We root for the team of our dad's dad and to hell with the team of yours.
We name our children after head coaches and players. We hold the very soil on these campuses to be sacred.
These college campuses are our churches. Our Holy Land. And we are faithful followers, whether we even attended the universities or not.
Whether the trees' collective deaths on their own was eventual or not, what Updyke did was wrong.
What Updyke caused is a damn shame. And it is in NO way a representation of the University of Alabama, or it's fans as a whole. Fans like myself, who wish every imaginable ill on AU most all of the time, but would NEVER stoop so low as to destroy or deface any of it's traditions, landmarks, or monuments. These things are sacred.
Obviously this is not a mere "game" for many fans. You can read the story that goes along with the tattoo below here
Today, Auburn fans have been flooding the internet with stories of their memories of this tradition. But I can find nothing from this week that compares to what my friend Aubielicious wrote for WarEagleReader a couple months ago.
YOU CAN READ THAT MASTERPIECE HERE
I also have my own personal story. It was 2004. I had become friends with a guy that I was working with. His name was Ian and he had been a student at Auburn before that year. He wasn't anymore, but he still had tons of friends down there and he invited me to ride with him to hang out at this girl's apt for the weekend. It is still one of the most fun weekends I've had in my life. I met Jason Campbell at a party. And I assisted, as I like to put it, in rolling the trees after this big parade they had that day for their undefeated team.
I did wear an Alabama shirt the entire time, so my dignity wasn't completely lost. The point, though, is that as surprising as it may seem to alot of you, I actually have a fond personal memory of Toomer's Corner and those damn trees.
So with all that said, Auburn fans, you have so much of my respect for how you showed up for this today, the last rolling of those trees before they are cut down, dead from Harvey Updyke's poisoning.
And no matter which side of the fence you stand on, you can't deny the outright awesomeness and glory of the images below. This was Auburn fans coming together to roll the trees for the final time, before they are cut down in a few days. This is college football fandom at it's finest and most passionate. This type of mass adulation for a University and it's traditions are what make College Football the best sport that exists and why CFB fans are the best fans any sport can claim. Alabama still has the best fans in the country, and always will. But I tip my hat to Auburn fans for their turnout for today's important event. It was very Alabama of them, to show so much support for their university.