Robert DeWitt, a Senior Columnist covering politics for the Tuscaloosa Daily News, has penned a column on the “poisonous” nature of the Iron Bowl rivalry. Not so much the rivalry between the teams—the game itself is played by players and coached by coaches that have a mutual respect for each other. That’s the way it should be.
DeWitt is writing about the unhealthy nature of the animus between the two fanbases, and has publicly called for an end to the annual showdown between the the state’s two college football programs. Whether you agree or disagree with him, you can’t fault DeWitt for not making some very valid points in support of his argument.
He doesn’t explore this in detail but in making his case, DeWitt touches on the notion that when legitimate, national media outlets publish stories regarding alleged NCAA recruiting and/or improper benefits at Auburn, the program’s fanbase—led by a handful of supposed internet insiders—floats a rumor or story that Alabama’s program is cheating. It’s a policy of deflection torn right out of former White House mouthpiece Robert Gibbs’ favorite playbook: Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals.
Let’s face facts. Auburn has likely gotten itself into some serious trouble. It’s football program is being assailed by accusations from numerous directions. The answer from the Auburn fan base and pro-Auburn state media has been “look what Alabama’s doing.” Twice since January, pro Auburn media has released unsubstantiated stories impugning Alabama. The first instance occurred when word first leaked out that HBO was interviewing Auburn players about pay for play. An Auburn web site broke a story saying an Alabama player admitted to HBO being paid by Alabama or its boosters. It wasn’t true. And I question whether the person who released that information ever believed it was true. There also appears to have been little effort by Jeffrey Lee of the Auburn Rivals site to do much more than regurgitate internet message board rumors about Calloway. Is it far fetched to believe that the release of what appears to be bogus information was done for little other purpose than deflect attention away from the pay for play allegations at Auburn?
Alabama fans who think this will change are delusional. And knowledgeable Alabama fans should realize that their program is not benefitting from it’s association with Auburn. Auburn should be cut adrift to fend for itself and hopefully find some kind of identity that isn’t defined by it’s hatred for Alabama.
Both the Chuck Oliver/Ingram Smith-authored rumors of Chris Keys’ alleged bombshell and the Jeffrey Lee-authored story regarding cash payments, a car and a mortgage payoff for Brent Calloway’s signature were proven false.
But DeWitt is right—Alabama fans who think this policy of deflection will stop have not been paying attention. It’s been going on since a bunch of Auburn boosters paid former Alabama player Gene Jelks to lie about improper payments during his career in Tuscaloosa.
In the very near future, more bad news is coming Auburn’s way. Chaz Ramsey, one of the four former Auburn football players who went on the record claiming to have been paid to play, is slated to be interviewed by NCAA investigators early this week. But there is other news on the horizon that isn’t ripe for publication yet. When it comes, I fully expect the same cast of usual suspects to attempt to deflect attention by channeling their inner Pee Wee Herman, pointing to Alabama and saying, “I know I am, but what are you?”
Absolutely none of the investigative journalism pieces by ESPN, FoxSports.com or the New York Times were instigated by Alabama people. Bama did not make a Sociology professor suggest academic fraud. Bama did not cause the Cam Newton investigation. Bama did not point NCAA investigators to Thibodaux. Bama did not interview Stanley McClover, Raven Gray, Chaz Ramsey or Troy Reddick. Bama did not cause, instigate or encourage Dakota Mosley, Mike McNeil, Antonio Goodwin and Shaun Kitchens to go “hit a lick” at a Lee County trailer park. Let me spell this out very clearly for the folks that think Heaven must look a lot like the 334 area code: We are not the cause of your problems, Tiger fans. The multiple predicaments you find yourselves in are of your own making.
Conversely, every single story since January about wrongdoing at Alabama was a product of Auburn’s obsessive imagination. Not one of them had any merit, whatsoever. See the difference?
Make up your own mind about whether DeWitt is right about ending the association, but there are two other points on which no one can disagree with him: The fanbase’s identity is defined by its hatred of Alabama, and the policy of deflection will continue.