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When Does Fandom Go Too Far?

The sports story that swept across America about a 62 year Alabama fan poisoning the oak trees at Auburn’s sacred Toomer’s Corner has received strong reactions. Many were shocked by the story. Or were they?

Harvey Almorn Updyke Jr., 62 of Dadeville Alabama, was arrested early this morning for allegedly poisoning the live oaks at Toomer’s Corner where Auburn fans have long celebrated big wins. Harvey called into a nationally syndicated radio show and gloated about his act. This led the Auburn police department to look into the matter, and discover the lethal dose of herbicide in the soil around the trees.

Many called our shows today expressing sincere astonishment. Others did not seem surprised at all. I fall into the latter category. Matt Hayes of Sporting News wrote than in the 21rst century, nothing should astound us when it comes to the American sports fan.

Sadly, this is where sports has evolved in the 21st century—and it’s not just college football.

When Ron Artest goes into the stands to attack a fan; when Donte Stallworth and Leonard Little kill the innocent while drunk driving; when Delmon Young throws his bat at an umpire—and are all still paid millions to play a game—the dynamics of our sports world irrevocably change.

Why would Harvey Updyke, a 62-year-old grandfather and devout Alabama fan, allegedly pour a chemical on the ground to kill Live Oak trees shrouding Toomer’s Corner? The same reason a Wisconsin fan last week spit in the face of Ohio State freshman center Jared Sullinger.

It’s the same thing: a complete lack of class and character in a world of I Deserve What I Want. Look, I don’t want this to turn into a parenting moment, but poor behavior—wait, unspeakable behavior—isn’t learned, it’s modeled.

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I wish I could sit here and write that Harvey Updyke is one of a kind. He’s not. If you are unnerved about Updyke’s crime, prepare yourself for more appalling stories about a monomaniacal 21rst Century American sports fan. Unfortunately, it’s only a matter of time.

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