Be A Good Sport

February 18, 2011

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On Thursday, Harvey Almorn Updyke, Jr. was arrested on one count of first degree criminal mischief.  His bond was set at $50,000 and Updyke faces up to ten years in prison for his crime.

What was his crime?  Being too much of a fan of the University of Alabama.

Updyke is a die-hard Bama fan, but lives near the campus of the University of Auburn.  In November, he drove to the campus and sprayed some trees in the area known as Toomer’s Corner with the herbicide Spike80DF.  The herbicide, which is use to kill trees, is fatal in conentrations of 100 parts per billion (or 0.1 parts per million).  Tests of the soil around the trees found concentrations ranging from .78 parts per million (7 times the fatal concentration) to 51 parts per million (500 times the fatal concentration).  In other words, the trees will almost certainly die.  I don’t think you need to be a “tree hugger” to be appalled by the wanton destruction of century old trees.

I’m not an Auburn fan, nor much of a follower of the SEC as a whole.  I wasn’t aware of the post-game tradition of fans toilet papering the trees to celebrate wins.  Apparently, it’s a pretty big tradition, and Updyke was trying to kill this tradition by killing the trees.

After Updyke called a Birmingham radio station last month to brag about the stunt, it was only a matter of time before he would be arrested.  He identified himself as “Al from Dadeville.”  Dadeville has around 3000 residents.  I’m sure a handful are even named Al … and maybe a couple of them happen to be Alabama fans in the shadow of the Auburn campus.

Updyke’s court appointed attorney filed a motion to withdraw from the case.  The reason?  Seems that the lawyer had perviously been employed as a part-time professor at Auburn.

I guess Updyke thought he would be hailed as a hero by Alabama supporters.  He certainly doesn’t have the backing of the Bama athletic director.  AD Mal Moore commented, saying that the poisoning was “a terrible thing to do.”  I applaud Moore for publicly denouncing the act, so that there can be no uncertainly whether or not the administration would condone such acts.  Rational people would realize that Alabama wouldn’t condone this, but perhaps Moore’s words stopped one extremist in his or her tracks.  I’m sure a great many Crimson Tide fans put aside their hatred of the Tigers for one day to feel some sympathy for Auburn.

Updyke should have asked himself WWBBD – What Would Bear Bryant Do?  I suspect that Bryant wouldn’t have stooped to vandalism.

Sadly, this sort of thing is not completely unprecedented in sports.  Back in 2002, White Sox fans William Ligue Sr. and his son (William Jr.) attacked a completely defenseless Tom Gamboa, the first base coach for the Royals.  Gamboa suffered permanent hearing loss as a result.  Sadly, the younger Ligue bragged about the incident online later.

And who can forget the knife attack on Monica Seles in 1993 – by a fan of Steffi Graf would hated seeing Graf lose to Seles.  Seles returned from the traumatic attack two years later, but nor at the same level of consistent excellence she had achieved before.

I’m a huge sports fan, and I have intense dislike for a number of teams.  Johnny Goodman knows how much I hate the Nebraska football program.  However, I would never dream of doing something like this.  Sports are great, but in the end, it’s a game.  There are more important things in life.  Ratchet the rhetoric down a bit.

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