By Coach Hayes
Everybody knows College Football is drenched in tradition from coast to coast. Most major universities have some sort of quirk that players buy into before a college football game. Every Notre Dame football player touches the historic sign on the way out of the locker room that says "Play like a Champion Today." Texas players touch a giant set of bull horns to get them fired up on their way to the field. The Ohio State band (best damn band in the land) scripts Ohio State on the field before every home game and one lucky member gets to dot the “I”. Michigan players run under Go Big Blue banner from the booster club before every home game. Auburn has the oak trees at Toomer's Corner and Clemson has Howard's Rock.
Well, last week some crazy fans decided to take things a bit too far. Howard's Rock is an historic landmark for Clemson football that has been atop the hill at Memorial Stadium in Death Valley since 1966 when a group of Clemson alumni transferred the stone from Death Valley, CA to its current home. It is an iconic symbol for Tiger fans everywhere, and on either June 2nd or 3rd, some rival fans took it upon themselves to remove the Plexiglas cover, break off and steal a chunk of the iconic rock.
When fans take things too far nobody wins. The unfortunate loser in this situation is a storied university now missing a piece of valued history. The speculation is that students or alumni from Gamecock country in nearby Columbia are responsible for the vandalism. Both schools have a history of animosity, but this act takes the rivalry too far and now Clemson has to deal with the heartache.
This is just another instance of fandom going too far. It reminds me of the tragedy that happened with the oak trees at Toomer's Corner at Auburn. A crazed fan, Harvey Updyke, took it upon himself to poison those storied oaks which have been standing for over 100 years. The fool then proceeded to call up an Alabama sports talk radio show to brag about his felonious act, even describing the poisonous compound that he used. The oaks have since begun to succumb to the poison and wither, effectively killing the tradition of Auburn students covering the beloved trees with toilet paper after home games.
In the end nobody wins when allegiance goes beyond passion and into criminal activity. College football needs its traditions, and when people take the fun out of it by stealing, defacing, and destroying these icons that, then someone should pay. It’s okay to hate your rivals; believe me there are plenty of schools that I can't stand. But I would never even contemplate ruining one of their valued traditions. Competition within the college football season is adversarial enough; let’s keep the rituals and customs out of the fight.
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