published Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

Greeson: Updyke saga keeps unfolding

COLUMN

It’s been asked several times in the last three months since he leaked the news that he had poisoned the famed oak trees on the campus of Auburn University at Toomer’s Corner.

What to make of uber-Alabama fan Harvey Updyke in the “What’s Going Down at Toomer’s Corner” episode of “That’s the Iron Bowl Rivalry”? Updyke has all but admitted — as himself earlier this week and as the caller “Al from Dadeville” on the Paul Finebaum Show — to poisoning the oak trees that Auburn fans traditionally roll after big victories.

Updyke was in court earlier this week, the state refusing his plea for leniency. Of course, Lee County officials are aiming for the maximum for Updyke; how do you think the re-election campaign would go for an Auburn district attorney who allowed Al from Dadeville to escape jail time?

After he left the courthouse, Updyke allegedly was attacked. Some say it was a stunt, an effort to generate sympathy or possibly force a change of venue. Updyke claimed on the Finebaum show that his eyebrows were swollen and he needed treatment after being attacked at the Tiger Express.

This is in no way to justify anyone being attacked, but did Updyke really think it was a good idea to swing into a convenience store called Tiger Express to get a few gallons of gas or a Diet Mountain Dew?

And like most things with Updyke, there seem to be a few screws loose in the attack story. The police officer who checked out the attack told the Auburn-Opelika News that “the extent of his injuries does not equate to an assault charge” and that Updyke “has not really been too cooperative at this point.” There was not any surveillance videos at the gas station, and the attendant did not see anything unusual until all the reporters showed up asking questions.

We’ve now reached the point that anything is possible with this Updyke.

Here’s what we know:

• Of course Updyke’s a nut. But he may also be crazy like a fox. If he has copyrighted any number of the things he said on the radio Thursday, when he gets out of prison he’s going to be transformed from Harvey Updyke, nut bar, to Harvey Updyke, eccentric millionaire. Seriously, everyone in Alabama can see some logic in Harvey’s wisdom: “I’m not crazy; I’m an Alabama fan.” You don’t think that’s going to be on T-shirts in Tuscaloosa and in Auburn? Please.

• Who is his attorney, Lionel Hutz? Harvey’s facing possible jail time on a charge of criminal mischief and there are reports that the EPA is going to get involved and issue charges, and he goes on a national radio station and spills his guts? Did you skip that day in law school, Counselor?

• Finebaum has made a killing on this entire episode. Whether you think Finebaum is the bomb or a bozo is beside the point; he has been in the right place at the right time, and Harvey’s radio appearance Thursday on Finebaum’s show was gold. Like Charlie Sheen-meltdown-don’t-want-to-listen-but-can’t-turn-it-off gold.

• The emotions of the entire interview (and this entire episode, really) range from anger to amusement to sadness. At one point, Harvey told Finebaum, “I don’t want those trees to die. I would give anything in the world if this had never happened. I don’t want my legacy to be the Auburn tree-poisoner. I guess it’s too late now.”

Amid the giggles and the other heckles or hard words, it can be easy to forget the reality that this mistake could forever change a great Auburn tradition and will forever affect that family and has damaged the national perception of a great college rivalry.

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

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