Taking a rivalry too far cuts both ways. Sure, Alabama fan Harvey Almorn Updyke crossed the line in poisoning trees where Auburn fans traditionally congregate, but in some cases, so did the reaction to Updyke’s actions. The Press-Register (Ala.) newspaper heard from some people who knew Updyke, including one person claiming to be his son – and according to him, things haven’t been going so well for the family since Updyke’s arrest.
“We have children and grandchildren getting death threats from Auburn fans,” he said. “We’re having to pull teenagers, 13- and 14-year-old kids, out of school because people are threatening them.”
We should mention that even if the above is true, it would be just as unfair to pigeonhole all Auburn fans for such behavior as it would be to stereotype all Alabama fans based on Updyke alone. But if the above is true: come on, people. College sports stirs up especially strong passion in people. We get that. Alabama-Auburn stirs up especially, especially strong passion in people. We get that, too. Be mad at the guy who so disrespected an Auburn tradition – the right amounts of anger can help make rivalries great.
But the wrong amounts of anger can take the fun out of just about anything. Thankfully, most Alabama and Auburn fans haven’t taken the rivalry this far, but any time the phrase “death threats” enters the conversation, it’s safe to say things have progressed to an unfortunate point.
It’s too bad because had Updyke come to his senses and not poisoned the trees, he’d likely be seen as the kind of guy whose zealous passion makes the Auburn-Alabama rivalry what it is. The same Press-Register story that reported the death threats said that “according to those who know him,” Updyke “has children named Crimson and Bear.” And one old high school classmate, Bill Humphrey, said he’s “never known anyone who had a bad word for [Updyke].”
But “coming to his senses” wasn’t in the cards, apparently. Updyke didn’t seem to have any reservations about the poisoning after the fact, since the person (presumably Updyke) who called radio host Paul Finebaum’s show and boasted about poisoning the trees was emphatic about not caring whether what he did was illegal or not. That, combined with the death threat reports, makes us wonder just a bit if Alabama and Auburn both being this good at the same time is just more than this rivalry can handle.