A day after news broke of the tree poisoning at Toomer's Corner, we now have a face to put with the name, "Al from Dadeville." As news sinks in that the trees will likely die, it's easy to see there are no winners in this tragedy.
Auburn fans have lost something that's every bit as important as Jordan-Hare Stadium, Tiger Walk and the eagle's flight over Pat Dye Field. The University of Alabama and its fans have been characterized in the national media as rednecks who have taken sports in this country to an all-time low.
For Harvey Almorn Updyke, the man who stands accused of the crime, his life and that of his family will never be the same. With a face cast straight from the set of Deliverance, his image will forever be the one recalled when you think of an Alabama redneck.
What must his family be thinking and feeling? All of this because of a football game.
Whether it was on The Dan Patrick Radio Show or Colin Cowherd on ESPN, much of the nation today shook its head at what transpired at Toomer's Corner. For a state that has spent most of its history fighting stereotypes, the actions of one twisted moron has set the perception of Alabama back 30 years.
What a shame.
To those Alabama fans who have crowed on Facebook and message boards today, celebrating the demise of another school's landmark, I warn you to think twice. Toomer's Corner is not "just a bunch of trees" as some have suggested, anymore than Denny Chimes is just a bell tower or the Quad is just a park.
Nothing good comes from destruction and vandalism. While Auburn people continue to hurt, the University of Alabama will likely suffer worse because of the actions of a deranged fan that likely has never set foot inside Bryant-Denny Stadium.
It's hard to fight off stereotypes. Unfortunately, for the many good people at Alabama, they are about to find out the hard way.
Some today have called for a cooling off period between the two programs, even suggesting the football series be suspended for a set amount of time.
That talk is crazy.
What's needed more than anything is for the good people of Auburn and Alabama to lower the volume on a rivalry that's gotten out of hand. The vast majority of Auburn and Alabama fans take the rivalry for what it is, a chance to celebrate the differences between the two institutions and settle things annually on the football field.
Like politics, it's those who live on the fringe that we must worry about each day. Paul Finebaum has made a fortune in radio by providing a forum for these lunatics to spew their venom. The same can be said for message boards and some blogs.
We must all play a part in bringing civility back to this rivalry and the state of Alabama.
Let's hope in the weeks and months ahead, leaders from both schools find a way to ease tensions and celebrate what brings us together rather than the idiots who push us apart.