5 at 10: Vols Win, Dale Jr., and the Trees of Toomer's Corner

5 at 10: Vols Win, Dale Jr., and the Trees of Toomer's Corner

February 17th, 2011 by Jay Greeson in Sports

Here we go...

Auburn's famous trees poisoned

This is where we are? Really?

Someone poisoned the two oak trees at Toomer's Corner, the spot that Auburn fans and students celebrate big wins by throwing toilet paper into the trees.

Auburn officials tested the soil after "Al from Dadeville" called the Paul Finebaum radio show two weeks ago and said he had poisoned the trees. According to the AP story, ""The weekend after the Iron Bowl, I went to Auburn, Ala., because I live 30 miles away, and I poisoned the Toomer's trees," the caller told The Paul Finebaum Radio Show, saying he was at the Iron Bowl. He said he used Spike 80DF, also known as tebuthiuron, and the trees "definitely will die." The caller signed off with, "Roll Damn Tide."

That was the same poison discovered around the trees in the soil, which was sent to Mississippi State for tests.

The overflowing thoughts on this are, well, overflowing:

- College football is different because of the passion and the traditions. Without either one it's not as special. And defaming those traditions is incomprehensible. Picture tour team's biggest rival and answer the following questions. Is the hatred there? (Sure.) Is the intensity? (You bet.) Is the desire to defame or destroy part of the school or its tradition there? (If so, seek help. Now.)

- No matter how irate you are right now Johnny Auburn Fan, let it go. Seriously, to retaliate is senseless and petty and will just perpetuate the circle.

- SEC football has moved ahead of Canadian hockey and Indian cricket and ranks just behind soccer hooligans worldwide in the level of nutso. From recruiting to coaching moves to alleged violations to internet spewing, let's just say it's been a wild year for the SEC.

- The 5-at-10 has never understood the thought process behind the person or persons that committed this act. How tragic for those that only get happiness through other people's misery and saddness.

- The 5-at-10 has been to a bunch of Auburn football games and was on hand during a rolling of Toomer's Corner in 1989 as a youngster. It was a fun experience, if for no other reason than the joy and celebration and camaraderie that was shared was a perfect example of what all SEC fans feel in victory. They invest and they stress and they celebrate. If you don't like a school's tradition, make fun of it. Hell, the Interwebs are full of spots to take as many anonymous shots as you like. But to kill a living part of a school's tradition that's more than 120 years old? Wow. Does that mean Mike the Tiger or the Grove is next?

- This will only mean heightened security around campus facilities - especially on gamedays - around the league. Auburn may have lost the most, but the entire SEC in particular and college football in general lost today. Thanks, Al from Dadeville, or whoever you are.

- Sidenote: The soil test sent to Mississippi State was completed in a deal apparently negotiated by John Bond, Kenny Rogers and Cecil Newton. Cam Newton knew nothing of this deal - which will be known from this day forward as a "pay for spray" scheme. Allegedly Thayer Evans at Foxsports.com has already said there are 12 NCAA officials investigating. Kidding, kidding.

Vols escape to stay alive

UT's 73-67 too-close for-comfort win over SEC East cellar-dweller South Carolina was not always pretty. But it was enough to keep the Vols on track for an NCAA tournament spot.

Let's break it down old-school:

- The good

Scotty Hopson was awesome, scoring 23 points and channelling his inner-Dominique Wilkins with three huge, Huge, HUGE second-half dunks. Considering the seven shots USC blocked and the numerous others that were changed, the Vols shot an impressive 44 percent from the field and managed 13 offensive rebounds. Starting point guard Melvin Goins had six assists and Brian Williams came off the bench for 10 points, nine rebounds and five assists.

- The bad

Goins had five turnovers. Unless you're playing a Kentucky team or a Pitino team or one of Bruce Pearl's previous teams, that's way, Way, WAY too many for a starting point guard of an NCAA tournament team. The Vols made this game way closer than needed, missing 14 free throws - or two more than USC shot in the game. UT's edge in free throws (the Vols were 21-35 from the line; USC was 9-12) was staggering. The Gamecocks had five players with three or more fouls; UT had no one with more than two. FYI - this game was in Knoxville.

- The ugly

The 5-at-10 was in the car for most of the first half and listened to the Vols Radio netowrk. Nice job by Bob Kesling, who keeps the flow of the game going and does a nice job of tossing out stats and scores when possible (not the easiest thing to do in basketball when the action rarely slows down). It was not Vols Radio analyst Bert Bertelkamp's best game. He implored the radio audience to look at the length of a South Carolina player's arm (Bert, it's the radio, kinda tough to look), and after Kesling informed us that USC was last in the SEC in free-throw percentage and shooting less than 39 percent from the field in SEC games, BB offered, "They're not good offensively." Money? Money back, please.

College hoops primer, Vol. 4, Chapter 4

Let's move quickly here:

- Kimba Walker has the look of a player that can lead his team to the Final Four. He was outstanding as he and UConn snapped Georgetown's eight-game winning streak. He reminds the 5-at-10 of Scottie Reynolds at Villanova a few years ago.

- Vandy all-but punched its ticket with a come-from-behind win at Georgia last night. The Commodores also helped UT and severely damaged the Bulldogs' hopes as John Jenkins scored 21 points in the final 14 minutes.

- Nice home win for Purdue, topping No. 10 Wisconsin 70-62.

- Texas and Pitt cruised over overmatched conference foes and appear to be headed for No. 1 seeds. Pitt rolling does nothing but help the Vols' NCAA chances.

Junior in the rear

After a rough 2010, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was on the pole for Sunday's Daytona 500, and everything was put in place for a fantastic start to the 2011 season.

Then came Wednesday's practice and Junior's wreck and the accompanying trip to the back of the starting grid.

Here's what he told the AP after the wreck in a practice session that had been delayed by morning rain: "I didn't feel good out there in practice today," Earnhardt said. "I just had a bad feeling about it."

That's how his fans have felt for a long while now.

This and that

- Remember the 5-at-10's mailbag runs Friday and all questions are welcomed. E-mail them to jgreeson@timesfreepress.com or respond through the website.

- The poisoned trees weren't the only reasons for long faces at Auburn. The Tigers staff had its first defection under Gene Chizik when defensive line coach Tracy Rocker took the same job with the Tennessee Titans. Great hire by Mike Munchak (yes, it's his first great hire, and yes, those words took the 5-at-10 by surprise a little).

- The Lakers lost to the Cavs on Wednesday. That's right, the two-time defending champion Lakers lost to the Cavs, who earlier this month matched the pro sports record for consecutive losses. Yeah, that NBA season means a lot. The midseason NBA, where disinterested happens. Call us in April.

- The deadline passed and Albert Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals were unable to agree on an extension. It appears the game's best hitter will be a free agent at season's end, and the Cards curiously low-balled the 31-year-old slugger. Reportedly, the Cards' offer was in the $20-21 million range annually, which would be outside the top five. The 5-at-10 is willing to listen to that type of offer, but Pujols was not as accommodating.

Until tomorrow when the mailbag returns.