Although Christopher Whitehead was born and raised an Alabama fan, he currently attends Auburn University. I sat down with Chris recently to discuss what his reaction was to the poisoning of the Toomers oak trees, as well as some of his experiences in being an elephant on campus.
While the egregious actions of the weekend following the Iron Bowl were almost certainly the acts of one Harvey Almorn Updyke and only him, it is not lost on anyone that he is a rabid Alabama fan. Although some Alabama fans may have looked at this crime in a joyful manner, they are surely in the minority with these views. For the most part Alabama fans are like Chris, wanting to distance themselves from this man and what he stands for.
Being an Alabama fan in Auburn has not been as difficult as Chris thought it might be. He may not be as hardcore as some Alabama faithful, but there is no mistaking where his pride lies. Chris says he came here because the campus is beautiful and the people are genuine and friendly. The small town lifestyle and close proximity to family hunting land suited him better than the more urban setting of Tuscaloosa. His Auburn experience has been much like many, but it is interesting to see his side of the story knowing his views.
Says Chris, “When I first rolled Toomers Corner my freshman year, it was 2006 when Auburn beat Florida. At that moment, it became more to me than just a stupid tradition, which is the way I grew up looking at it. Seeing how happy it made my friends, it just made it mean so much more to me than I ever thought it could. As much as my father would hate to hear me say it, I have had some good times and made some good friends under those trees.”
That is coming from a true Alabama fan. Even though Chris may be partially biased, he says he really did feel bad when he first heard the news. When talking to some of his friends in Birmingham that went to Alabama, he says that they had a similar reaction. “Most of my friends were saying how they felt they should not be held accountable for the actions of this one guy, but they still felt bad for the Auburn family,” Chris says. Of course there will be some people who do not care less, but these people once again do not represent the majority.
When the story broke about the oak trees, it certainly saddened the entire Auburn community, as far reaching as it may be. Several groups that were not affiliated with the university stepped forward showing sympathy with kind words and prayers as reaction to the terrible tragedy. Even our fiercest rivals have started donation funds to help in any way they can. These continuing acts of unity and kindness show that even in the most bitter of rivalries, friends can co-exist and new friends can be made in the most unlikely places.