The reaction to yesterday’s Never to Yield Foundation column on The Cult of Updyke was predictable. It was so predictable we could almost have scripted the responses in advance. There was the expected support and the anticipated derision. We braced ourselves for a rush of profanity-laced replies and were not disappointed. Those we deleted. We also planned for a deluge of apocryphal “well what about this” responses listing the alleged sins of Auburn fans. Those followed in droves.
One question we expected was “why?” Why bring this up at all? Why bring it up now?
That answer is simple. You spoke. We listened.
Over approximately the last 18 months as incident after incident piled up the question we heard most often from our supporters both in public and in private was “how many isolated incidents can there be?” We heard repeated requests to respond to slights both large and small. As we reviewed the requests there was an undeniable repetitive theme.
We resisted the urge to paint with a broad brush when supporters sent us information about rival fans who had been arrested for a variety of offenses, major and minor.
As we well know, after our own experience with the four former Auburn players who were charged with burglary, all programs are susceptible to occasional missteps. Players and fans get in trouble. They do things that bring shame on themselves and on the programs they represent.
As we considered writing The Cult of Updyke, those incidents were not our focus. Had that been our intent we could easily have culled stories of marijuana use, drug distribution, NCAA violations, robbery and violence from recent headlines.
The focus of The Cult of Updyke was instead on the multitude of offenses directed at other fanbases, primarily Auburn’s, by fans of the Crimson Tide. Our objective was to review a pattern of behavior, identify the trend and determine possible mitigating factors.
The article accomplished that.
It was our purpose to provide a list of fully sourced, verifiable incidents. We selected events that were public knowledge and had legitimate evidence of proof, whether it is image, video or link. That’s vastly different from someone’s unverifiable claims of stolen flags or any other allegation made without substantiation.
Each event listed occurred and there is proof to back it up. We believe that the repetitive escalating pattern does represent a trend and we’re hardly the first to think so.
Even the article cited by John Archibald, hardly an Auburn apologist, admitted that due to the constant stream of negative events, national perception of Alabama fandom is defined by these offenses.
Given what many believe is an escalating level of animosity and response, we felt it important to detail some of the most publicized offenses. Again, the only incidents cited in the column are those that purposely damage, demean, destroy or deface rivals.
We also felt it important to examine what we believe to be a root cause.
The gulf that exists between what Alabama head coach Nick Saban says and the behavior he exhibits that is emulated by his legion of adoring fans is vast.
Saban earned respect on the field. His achievements as head coach are undeniable. The very fact that he is successful appears to give Alabama fans license to adopt the worst of his abrasive personality.
The purpose of The Cult of Updyke was not to say that every Alabama fan in the world is capable of the acts of the multitude that were listed. There are some great Alabama fans who know how to keep a football rivalry in perspective. By the same token there are some boorish Auburn fans. Every program has its own albatrosses.
The problem comes when the exceptions seem to outnumber the so-called majority. In recent months the negative roar from the Alabama fanbase has far outweighed the positive.
Whether that’s perception or long-term reality remains to be seen.
Since the earliest days of the Never to Yield Foundation we have decried the escalating cycle of animosity that appears to plague the Auburn/Alabama rivalry.
We believed then and believe now that one of the primary factors in the push toward negativity is the chorus of lies and mistruths that were spread by a contingent of the Alabama fanbase. For all the protestations that those voices were the minority it was theirs that was most often heard.
Far too many blindly accepted their crackpot theories that were cloaked in fraud. Far too many aided and abetted their campaign of lies by giving them a platform.
We struck out against those who created the lies and shined a light on those who assisted them. That’s part of our mission.
Our hope is that those who can keep things in perspective, those who now appear to be the minority in a fanbase that has lost its way, can reclaim ownership by truly ostracizing the people who occupy the dingy corners of the internet and traffic in malicious rumor. We hope they can change the current perception by honestly rejecting the act and actions of Harvey Updyke, Brian Downing and all the others like them.
It’s not what you say, it’s what you do.
We hope that instead of merely providing lip service fans will embrace a positive direction with their deeds.
When you see images of Harvey Updyke wandering the streets and being embraced as a hero, when you watch a video of an unruly mob agitating more and more extreme abuse against a defenseless rival, however, you can’t help but assume the inmates have taken over the asylum.