April 23, 2011 — Harvey Updyke: Tragically misunderstood figure, a victim, a befuddled old man worthy of our collective sympathy.  What kind of human beings would we be if we didn’t extend a blanket of forgiveness toward this sad and broken creature?

That’s the message that was shamelessly peddled by Updyke advocate and attorney Glennon Threatt during two straight days of pandering on the Paul Finebaum radio show last Thursday and Friday.

Finebaum and Threatt did their dead level best to portray Updyke as a repentant and misunderstood man while they simultaneously minimized his actions with a steady stream of snickering and flippant comments.

In the hands of Finebaum and Threatt the criminal was lamented as the victim while the victims were criminalized and marginalized.

If Updyke is a victim, he is only a victim of  his own ignorance, arrogance and hate.

Updkye, the accused poisoner of the trees at Toomer’s Corner, is sad. Sad, pathetic, ignorant, shallow, bitter, frustrated and mean.  He’s shown nothing that indicates he’s worthy of sympathy or forgiveness and he until he illustrates some understanding, he deserves none in return.

Mere days after the poisoning of the trees was confirmed and the bleak prognosis for their recovery established, media talking heads and many opposing fans offered the opinion that the Auburn Family should just “get over it” and move on.

Some ridiculed us for our anger. Some snickered privately and others publicly, belittling us because they were just trees and would grow back or could be replaced.

We took that affront with the understanding that those who made comments of that nature had no comprehension of the meaning and importance of our tradition.

Now, however, due to the tone of much of sports talk radio with Finebaum and Threatt in the lead,  Auburn fans are being asked to view and accept Updyke as a tortured soul and a sympathetic character.  We are supposed to feel bad for him. We’re supposed to forgive and forget.

If we don’t shower him with compassion, somehow, according to Threatt and Finebaum that makes us the bad guy.

What has Updyke done to deserve any sympathy?  What has he done to earn our compassion? Why should we forgive him and move on?

Has he shown any real remorse?

No.  In the only interview on record the only regret Updyke offered was that he called Finebaum’s show to brag about poisoning the trees, a call that resulted in his capture. He also lamented the fact that he may have embarrassed Alabama fans.

Has he apologized for his actions?

Only to Alabama fans.

Has he apologized to the Auburn Family, to Auburn University itself or to Auburn administration?  No.

He says he is sorry he possibly made Alabama look bad and sorry he got caught.  That’s not an indication that Updyke understands the gravity of what he’s done or the impact it had on hundreds of thousands of people, not to mention the damage he inflicted on decades of tradition.

Rather than offer sincere and honest apologies, Updyke and his spotlight-craving attorney used the platform provided by Finebaum to create a fantasy world that does nothing but make the situation worse for all involved.

Updyke claims he’s received scores of threats since he was identified as the “Al from Dadeville” who called Finebaum’s show and boasted of poisoning the trees.

He’s also claimed through intermediaries to have been in exile, at various times living in his car on a riverbank.

If Updyke was in hiding, just how were these alleged threats delivered, by carrier pigeon?  If, as claimed, only a handful of people had any knowledge of his location, who exactly was sending threats his way?

One of Updyke’s friends and his former landlord claimed in an earlier interview on Finebaum that the tires were slashed on Updyke’s car in a Wal Mart parking lot when he was released on bail.  The allegation had no substantiation and is completely illogical. There was no receipt for new tires offered as proof.  Beyond that, no one knew when Updyke would leave the jail.  Nice story of poor old mistreated Harvey, too bad it seems most likely fabricated.

Now Updyke claims to have been hit in the head at an Opelika gas station after leaving court this week.  The “details” of that incident are fraught with inconsistencies, devoid of logic and seem primarily designed to help drum up public sympathy for Updyke.

Finebaum accepts in blind faith that Updyke has been repeatedly threatened — a charge that has never been verified in any way, shape or form.  Finebaum makes dire predictions about his inability to protect Updyke should he appear in person on the radio show.

Finebaum’s part in this charade is almost as disturbing as Updyke’s.  In his willingness to give Updyke and his attorney essentially an open microphone with no filter, and his eagerness to participate in the infantile snickering and giggling over the situation, he’s clearly established his position.  Updyke’s crimes are insignificant to him and he will use his platform to trivialize and minimize them.

Finebaum’s reaction likely comes from his frustration over being blamed for helping create an atmosphere where someone as unhinged as Updyke could possibly consider destroying a centuries-old landmark an appropriate response to a team he supports losing a football game.  Finebaum vehemently and defiantly defended his role in the apparently escalating hostilities between the rival fanbases when the tree poisoning was initially confirmed. Now by minimizing the impact, by casting Updyke as a deluded and sympathetic figure acting alone, by blithely accepting ludicrious stories of threats, tire slashings and assaults, he further distances himself from the situation.  It’s not his fault, it’s just the way things are.

Oddly enough, Updyke’s own words betray Finebaum’s stance.  In his latest interview he specifically blamed a Finebaum caller for providing the spark that fueled his hateful actions.  When Finebaum stirs the pot with his callers, as he is prone to do, he can’t pretend to be surprised when one of them boils over.

Finebaum allowed Updyke to call in on Thursday and babble on and on about the tree poisoning incident, the alleged assault and his pitiful existence in the aftermath.

Finebaum and Threatt took the opportunity on Friday to assail the character of the employees of Tiger Express who refuted most of what Updyke claims.  They praised Harvey as someone who hasn’t lied, while suggesting that perhaps the employees were merely Auburn fans who were “all in.”

So the character of an accused criminal is impeccable while the statements made by people who have not been charged with anything is suspicious?  Updyke, who seeks sympathy, wouldn’t lie to the police while innocent employees at a gas station would conspire to give false testimony?  On what planet does that make sense?

Updyke, signed off Thursday’s conversation with Finebaum with the same words he spoke at the end of the original call when he confessed to poisoning the trees: “Roll damn tide.”

Is that how someone who is truly remorseful, someone who understands the reality of what he’s done, someone who is really interested in healing or in repairing the damage he inflicted would respond?

No, it sounds more like someone who clings to the same bitterness and hatred, the same insecurity and arrogance that led him to act in the first place.

Sympathy?  No thanks.  Not until and unless he’s ready to accept his own culpability.


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