Auburn Trees Poisoned by 'Bama Fan Harvey Updyke: A Rivalry Gone Too Far?

toomers cornerThe 130-year-old oak trees at Toomer's Corner, a campus and city hub in Auburn, Alabama, have been poisoned. The Auburn trees were poisoned with a lethal dose of herbicide, and the police have arrested Harvey Updyke as their main suspect.

Sometimes when I'm peeved that my favorite team lost to a rival, I'll shout, "Dang!" Then I sulk for a few hours and get over it. Some people riot and start fires and break car windows. And then others wait 28 years, then take their anger out on plants.

That's what Harvey Updyke did. He was pissed that Auburn toilet-papered (or "rolled") these trees in celebration when the University of Alabama coaching legend Paul "Bear" Bryant died in 1983.


Harvey Updyke officially creeps me out. That's a long time to stew over something, anything! Let alone what some college kids did when their rival's coach died.

The trees have little hope of being saved, but Auburn University President Jay Gouge said in a statement:

We will take every step we can to save the Toomer's oaks, which have been the home of countless celebrations and a symbol of the Auburn spirit for generations of Auburn students, fans, alumni, and the community.

I feel for Auburn. Updyke has taken away a piece of their esprit de corps that Auburn, nor nature, can never really replace, which I'm sure was Updyke's exact intention.

Rivalries are important in sports. That's why we have rivalry week and tune in to see Duke vs. North Carolina, and Auburn vs. Alabama. They're fun to watch. Without rivals, one's own team loses a sense of pride -- everyone needs a common enemy and a cause. It builds togetherness and heart.

It's a shame when vandalism or, in this case, tree-murder is motivated by a rivalry, but it's not the first time retaliation has happened, and not the last. I hope Auburn students and fans take the high road here -- don't want to be reading about any 'Bama trophies going missing, or worse.

What do you think of rivalries?

Photo via Robert S. Donovan/Flickr

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