Harvey Almorn Updyke Jr., who was arrested after admitting he poisoned the historic and iconic trees at Toomer’s Corner, was released from jail over the weekend, and he made sure to give the media the appropriate salute on his way out. You know, because it is the media’s fault he is a blithering idiot who takes sports rivalries far too seriously.
Clearly it was media’s fault he called the Paul Finebaum Radio Show and shared his confession with the nationally syndicated radio show host and everyone tuning in. It was the media’s fault that when Finebaum questioned Updyke if it was illegal to poison trees the way he claimed to do he said “Do I care?” Yeah buddy, we’re all feeling for you today.
While there has been a rash of criticism about a rivalry going too far let’s sit back and reflect on this for a moment. Instead of rip on an entire fan base for the actions of one misguided fan (as a Philadelphia fan I feel I can relate to this), let’s take a look at the good to come out of this. I preface this by saying that old-fashioned prank wars are one thing, but what Updyke did was downright despicable. The killing of living organisms is beyond where I cross the line in rivalry and good sportsmanship, and I feel that I should not have to even say that.
I have never visited Toomer’s Corner and I admit that my knowledge of the importance of the trees may have limited at best. I suspect that may be the case for many college football fans, so when news of this broke I quickly realized how important the trees themselves were to Auburn fans. I knew Toomer’s Corner was a staple for Auburn celebrations, but I never really took into consideration the significance the trees themselves had. Of course they were important. Where else would Auburn fans throw the toilet paper in celebration? Foolish me.
While the loss of trees is sad on a few levels, it is great to see the support coming out of Tuscaloosa for restoring or replacing the lost trees. The two may be mortal enemies but Nick Saban and the rest of the Alabama community appear to have acted quickly in condemning the action of Updyke. Updyke’s actions do not represent the entire Crimson Tide fan base, nor should the actions of one fan for any school represent the profile of an entire fan base anywhere. Alabama fans rallying to raise money to offset the costs of replacing the trees should be commended and it should act as a model for future good sportsmanship and comradery among sports fans, no matter what team colors you root for.