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Thursday, February 17, 2011
Arrest made in poisoning of oak trees

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

An arrest was made Thursday morning in the poisoning of the age-old oak trees at Toomer's Corner in Auburn.


Harvey Almorn Updyke, 62, of Silver Hill Road in Dadeville, Ala., was arrested and booked into the Lee County Justice Center early Thursday morning, according to police. He is being held on $50,000 bond and has been charged with one felony count of criminal mischief. Updyke faces one to 10 years in prison if convicted.

From the beginning, when I first heard about this vile act, my first thought was that the appropriate punishment for the person who did this would be to hang him up by his toes from one of those oak trees.

Why is it that one deranged fan has to place a stain like this on the best rivalry going in college football?

If Updyke is indeed the "Al from Dadeville" caller who boasted on the Paul Finebaum Radio Show back on Jan. 27 that he's the one who poisoned the trees, then he deserves everything he's got coming to him. He signed off that day by saying, "Roll Damn Tide!"

I've seen the Alabama-Auburn rivalry bring out the best in people, and I've seen it bring out the worst in people. I would agree that it's been particularly nasty these last several months with everything swirling around Cam Newton and the fact that Auburn, on its way to a national title, went into Bryant-Denny Stadium and clawed back from a 24-0 deficit to stun the Crimson Tide 28-27.

Still, it's unfair to brand the person who poisoned those oaks as your typical Alabama fan. The Alabama fans I know are embarrassed by such behavior and understand, just like the true Auburn fans do, that anybody on either side who stoops to such a level only gives the rest of the country fodder to ridicule this great rivalry as one that's spiraled out of control.

As Finebaum points out, "If you spend enough time at an Alabama-Auburn game, you're going to see the fringes of both fan bases and the worst of both fans bases."

Boy, is he right. But that doesn't mean the lunatic fringe defines this great rivalry ... nor will it ever.