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This Guy Didn’t Go to Caltech

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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Comments

  1. Gotham Gator says:

    This is a terrible act, and one that hopefully is about to be avenged the right way – by having the individual perpetrator punished by law.

    I’m not sure, however, why the action of a single person “gives Alabama, the Iron Bowl and the entire SEC a very, very bad name.” That’s more than a bit of hyperbole.

    This is a horrible thing for someone to have done, but it’s still a single person. If his actions are allowed to spiral into similar reprisals, then yes, the Iron Bowl might be sullied, but that hasn’t happened.

  2. DMK says:

    Hate to be picky, but, whatever: the bronze statues at Bryant-Denny are just outside the stadium and unprotected by gates; and your hypothetical revenge-minded Barner would be gassing up a tractor, not a street-legal vehicle.

    Also, since it’s not unusual for actual people to get murdered over this game, maybe we should keep this in a little bit of perspective.

    I was low low low down after the Iron Bowl loss this year, but like most Bama fans, I could find some solace in the inevitable NCAA dismantling of Auburn’s season. And I still do take solace in it.

    Moral: don’t kill people or trees over football games and don’t festoon either one of them with toilet paper.

    Roll Tide!

  3. hugh says:

    Hate Auburn and hate Bama. Poisoning the trees is hilarious.

  4. schedule nit says:

    See, what’s really scary is knowing that I drive among this type of person every day. Get this guy locked up before he really goes off and be thankful it was only trees he killed.

    You wanna’ know who’s relieved? Every guy named “Al” in Dadeville!

  5. Washington Irving says:

    DEFCON 5 is the least severe of the defense readiness conditions.

  6. DMK says:

    I think he meant to write DEFCAM 2, which is the most severe form of cheating in intercollegiate athletics.

  7. Patrick says:

    Who ever did this definitely did not go to Caltech. But let’s just remember, he probably didn’t go to Alabama, either.

  8. Bob J says:

    If you want to read more about Cal Tech and the Rose Bowl scoreboard (and there is more), and to what lengths the Cal Tech students had to go to get control of the scoreboard, and what defenses the Rose Bowl operators put up to stop them, read it in “If At All Possible, Involve a Cow: The Book of College Pranks,” by Neil Steinberg.

    In many places this book is on-the-floor funny.

  9. pat says:

    I think this is one of those situations you can’t understand. Being from Syracuse, you would never put your identity or self worth into football because frankly there’s not a lot for you to hang your hat on. Further, you actually have other things going for you, such as a job, and education, good looks — well, not good looks, but you get the drift. Guys like Updyke or DMK have little sense of reality.

    Paul: No Syracuse ties for this guy. But you’re point stands. Folks outside the Iron Bowl don’t understand, just as Iron Bowl folks wouldn’t get U.S.C.-U.C.L.A., or Michigan-Ohio State, what have you. And that dig on my looks was valid but unwarranted.

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