The official Dr. Saturday policy on hate among rivals is: Hate is good. But that position assumes certain parameters – you know, you taunt our star quarterback over the P.A. system, we subject your most venerable icon to minor vandalism and morbid mockery, everybody has a good time. Keep it legal, respect young children, and let the hate flow through you.
But even in a perpetual hate-fest like Alabama-Auburn, there's a fairly bright line between "clean, old-fashioned hate" and "psychosis." For an example of the latter, see the Crimson Tide fan who intentionally applied a lethal dose of herbicide to the famous live oak trees at Auburn's traditional postgame celebration point, Toomer's Corner, after Alabama's loss in last November's Iron Bowl. From Auburn's official release:
The City of Auburn Police Division is investigating the situation, and the application of this herbicide, known as Spike 80DF, or tebuthiuron, is also governed by state agricultural laws and the Environmental Protection Agency. The university does not use Spike herbicide. There is no reason to suspect any human danger from the herbicide, which manufacturer Dow Chemical says should be applied with proper clothing protection; a typical use of the herbicide is to kill trees along fence lines.[…]
The lowest amount detected was 0.78 parts per million, described by horticulture experts as a "very lethal dose." The highest amount detected was 51 parts per million, or 65 times the lowest dose. Experts believe a normal application by itself would have been enough to kill the trees, which are estimated to be more than 130 years old.
"We are assessing the extent of the damage and proceeding as if we have a chance to save the trees," said Gary Keever, an Auburn University professor of horticulture and a member of Auburn's Tree Preservation Committee. "We are also focused on protecting the other trees and shrubs in Samford Park. At this level the impact could be much greater than just the oaks on the corner, as Spike moves through the soil to a wide area." Additional tests are being completed to determine the movement and extent of the area affected, Keever said.
There is "little chance to save the trees," according to the university, though it plans to give its best shot by digging trenches around the trees and applying activated charcoal in an attempt to absorb the poison before it gets too far; in the meantime, a group of Tiger fans gathered after the news broke to roll the poisoned oaks at least one last time. Auburn president Jay Gogue tried to ward off the inevitable counterattack from his ranks, imploring fans in a statement to remember that "Individuals act alone, not on behalf of anyone or any place, and all universities are vulnerable to and condemn such reprehensible acts."
Fortunately for police – and unfortunately for Gogue's call for civility – the prime suspect has already confessed to the deed on the record, to one of the largest and most deranged radio audiences in the South. On Jan. 27, a 'Bama fan going by the name of "Al from Dadeville" called the hugely popular Paul Finebaum Show (for the uninitiated, think of it as a radio version of "The Jerry Springer Show" for hardcore SEC fans) expressly to gloat over his crime:
Al: This year I was at the Iron Bowl. And I saw where they put a "Scam Newton" jersey on Bear Bryant's statue.
Finebaum: OK, now, again, that's 28 years later.
Al: Well lemme tell you what I did. The weekend after the Iron Bowl, I went to Auburn, Alabama, because I live 30 miles away, and I poisoned the two Toomer's trees.
Finebaum: [laughing] Well that's fair.
Al: I put Spike 80DF in them.
Finebaum: Did they die?
Al: Do what?
Finebaum: Did they die?
Al: They're not dead yet, but they …
Finebaum: They will be?
Al: They definitely will die.
Finebaum: Is that against the law? To poison a tree?
Al: Do you think I care?
Al: I really don't.
Obviously, he really doesn't, because it really is. And everyone named "Al" in Dadeville may want to seek police protection for the night, or else an emergency Auburn license plate for their pickup to ward off angry Tiger fans, like lamb's blood marking the homes of the Israelites for the Angel of Death. Of course you know, this means war.
[UPDATE, 10:24 a.m., 2/17] And we have an arrest: 62-year-old Alabama fan Harvey Almorn Updyke is in custody on a charge or criminal mischief.
- - -
Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.