Football rivals like Alabama-Auburn can learn from tree tragedy
An attempt to ruin a football tradition by poisoning famous oaks illustrates the dangers of extreme fan behavior.
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The news of the tree poisoning that followed came as a shocker to the entire football-crazed state. Alabama coach Nick Saban was quick to distance his team, the university, and Crimson Tide fans from the incident, saying the perpetrator in no way represents any of them. Alabama backers even generously raised $50,000 to donate to efforts to save the oaks.Skip to next paragraph
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The gesture no doubt has helped to calm the waters and lend perspective to one of the fiercest rivalries in college sports. Still, there is plenty of room for more efforts to keep rivalries from taking on a mean edge and using them to promote good sportsmanship.
Here are several ways that major rivals, be they Auburn and Alabama, Michigan and Ohio State, or Florida and Florida State – all of whom face off this weekend – could possibly put a friendlier face on what are sometimes touted as grudge matches.
- Hold a joint pre-game dinner for the rival teams at which the players are seated alternately at the table to ensure that they mix and converse with one another. This has long been a tradition for the neighboring high school teams in Watertown and Belmont, Mass., before their big Thanksgiving Day game.
- Have the rival teams run onto the field together.
- Introduce the parents of the team captains at halftime, escorted by the opposing team’s cheerleaders.
- Have the marching bands play the alma mater of the rival school.
- Play a message on the in-stadium video board recorded by the opposing coaches that encourages sporting behavior by the fans.
- And certainly in the case of Alabama and Auburn, start a tree-planting tradition in which senior players from the visiting team plant a tree on the rival’s campus each year.