This Guy Didn’t Go to Caltech
By Paul Myerberg // Feb 17, 2011
It’s one of the great pranks in college football history: Caltech, miffed by the fact that the Rose Bowl, located in nearby Pasadena, had yet to offer its football team — one that disbanded in 1977 — a berth in bowl season’s most cherished event, made a mockery of the 1961 affair between Washington and Minnesota. Back in the days when flip-cards were all the rage, a band of intrepid Caltech students broke into Washington’s stash of cards — sets that would spell out “Huskies” or “Washington,” what have you — and altered them to spell “Seiksuh” and even “Caltech,” believe it or not. The prank set the standard by which all future college football pranks, such as those involving goat theft or statue painting, would inevitably be compared.
The gentleman involved in the poisoning of Auburn’s Toomer’s Corner is clearly unaware of his college football history. To this individual — “Al from Dadeville,” perhaps — college football history revolves solely in the small corridor separating Auburn and Alabama, college football rivals whose often rancorous relationship takes another step in a bitter direction following yesterday’s news.
The particulars: calling into Paul Finebaum’s popular call-in radio show in Alabama on Jan. 27, “Al from Dadeville” confessed — bragged, rather — about going to Toomer’s Corner the weekend after the Iron Bowl and poisoning its trees, those visited by the Auburn faithful after each of the university’s major athletic victories.
It doesn’t get much dumber than this, nor more upsetting. The unbelievable stupidity of this gentleman, one who avenged his team’s tough loss to the eventual national champions by poisoning his rival’s hallowed ground, sets a new low for a rivalry which has long said that those outside it simply don’t understand; that you have to be part of the Iron Bowl to understand what it means for both participants.
Maybe that’s the case. Here’s what we know: this individual, who may be Harvey Updyke, a man arrested in connection with the crime earlier today, gives Alabama, the Iron Bowl and the entire SEC a very, very bad name. What kind of person takes solace after his team loses a tough game in doing something so hateful?
Armed guards were placed outside of Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium, protecting the statues of Bear Bryant, Wallace Wade and others, fearing Auburn retaliation. Would you blame an Auburn fan for gassing up his truck, rolling through the stadium’s gates and taking down one of these bronze statues before surrendering to the local authorities?
Basically, the Iron Bowl rivalry has just reached a new pitch — has gone from merely rancorous to Defcon 5. The whole state is on alert: allegiances are being unfurled or hidden, depending on your team of choice and your location. If not quite on the scale of, say, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the current environment resembles a powder keg; unfortunately, the craziest members of each fan base control the fuse.
People like Harvey Updyke, if he is indeed the poisoner, are crazy enough to make this Iron Bowl rivalry explode. As an aside, the next time you brag about your crime on sports talk radio avoid using your actual location — for example, if you live in Dadeville, Ala., don’t identify yourself as “(your name) from Dadeville.”
One could make the crack that only in Alabama could something like this actually occur. That’s not entirely true: yes, Alabama is one place you’d expect this to occur, but this is not exclusive to this state. It is exclusive to the SEC, however; U.C.L.A. may paint Tommy Trojan and Army might steal Navy’s goat, but the rivalry would never get to this point.
Welcome to the SEC, if you were unaware. Throw whomever is responsible for poisoning the trees at Toomer’s Corner in jail, helping both fan bases take their respective fingers off the button. Let’s not allow it to go any further. One thing we can all agree upon: they don’t quite make college football pranks like they used to.
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Tags: Alabama, Auburn, Toomer's Corner
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