Harvey Updyke is like a bad penny. We have no idea what a bad penny is, but we know that according to the adage it keeps turning up. So does Harvey. He’s the unwanted houseguest who just won’t go away.
According to multiple sources Updyke will appear in Mobile at a charity event where he will sit in a dunk tank and/or take pies to the face. T.J. Hodges, an Alabama fan living near Chicago, is organizing the event to help raise for his nonprofit organization, Roses From Linda, to help family members visit terminally ill patients before they die.
Great organization, worthy cause but offensive promotion.
As we watched Updyke’s strange saga unfold in the wake of his heinous destruction of a cherished Auburn landmark, most of us came to realize that Harvey is a damaged individual. He’s haunted by his own obsessions; made so deranged by a passion for something over which he has no control or influence that he resorted to an act of wanton destruction to appease the demons in his own mind.
We understand that his self delusion is so ingrained that he believes himself a warrior for a right and just cause; a defender of crimson virtue and pride. He fully expected to be celebrated as a conquering hero when he rained poison on Auburn’s cherished Toomer’s Oaks. He was dumbfounded when he wasn’t carried out on the shoulders of his Crimson bretheren. He was mystified and hurt when thousands didn’t publicly rally to his cause and he ended up fined and briefly incarcerated.
If we’re honest, many of us pitied the washed up old man we saw shuffling in and out of the courtrooms. We felt some small sympathy for his befuddled plight. In truth, the vast majority of us have come to terms with what he did and have found a way to forgive him for his misguided passions.
But we haven’t forgotten.
People like Hodges don’t allow us to forget. Maybe Hodges sees poisoning our beloved trees as just a harmless prank.
ESPN’s Mark Slabach seems to think as much, chuckling that with the dunking booth we’d get to “have our revenge” on Harvey.
Wesley Vaughn of al.com also sees the hilarity in having Harvey paraded around, by golly! He bets Auburn fans will get pleasure out of bringing ol’ Harv to justice.
What if a Tennessee fan had taken a sledgehammer to the statue of Bear Bryant? Would letting Tide fans hit him with seltzer water really assuage their hurt and anger? Would Slabach be so cavalier? A statue can be rebuilt. It took a century or more for the trees at Toomer’s Corner to grow to full size.
Would the American people dump Nickelodeon slime on the head of a man who dynamited George Washington off Mount Rushmore to “get their revenge?” Would Vaughn, bet on some fun-loving patriots coming out to chunk a few pies for fun, by golly?
While we can forgive Harvey the human being, we cannot — and frankly should not — excuse, overlook or minimize the depraved acts he perpetrated.
And yet many do.
Harvey is being treated like a celebrity. And not just a celebrity, but as a member of Alabama royalty. Appearing at an event that also features former quarterback A.J. McCarron and his high profile mother validates Updyke as a treasured and respected member of the Bama Nation.
Can Hodges truly be so insensitive that he thinks giving Harvey Updyke a public platform of this nature is not offensive to all Auburn fans? Does he honestly think that the carnage unleashed by Updyke on the Auburn campus is all in good fun and we should treat it accordingly? Or does he just find humor in our pain?
If Bill Curry had bulldozed Denny Chimes on his way out of Tuscaloosa, would a dunking booth arranged by an Auburn fan that featured the former Bama coach be accepted in the spirit of good fun?
There’s nothing funny, good natured or in good taste in relation to Updyke from our perspective.
We don’t really blame Harvey Updyke. He’s a bitter, delusional old man who wants nothing more than to be respected and revered by his Alabama cousins. He yearns to be feted like the hero he truly believes himself to be. He would do anything to keep his celebrity alive for another two or three minutes rather than being tossed to the cold ash heap of history for what he truly is — a deranged individual who took things too far.
Hodges deserves the blame for giving Harvey a stage. He deserves to be called to task for enabling Updyke’s celebrity.
McCarron must also shoulder a large portion of the blame for agreeing to appear at an event with Updyke. Just being there is a tacit endorsement of what Updyke did. McCarron, who has lived a very public personal life for the last three years, should realize more than most how his involvement with Updyke will be perceived.
To be fair, Paul Finebaum, ESPN and the new SEC Network deserve a sizeable portion of blame for keeping Harvey’s ghost alive as well. Rarely a day goes by that Updyke isn’t mentioned on Finebaum’s ESPN-based radio show. The ringmaster of the jackass circus has often used Updyke’s ignorant ramblings in promos for his network. Nearly half of ESPN’s Roll Tide/War Eagle documentary focused on Updyke, far more than he was worth. Beyond that, Finebaum skirted the requirement that prevents Updyke from speaking to the media by interviewing him for his book.
We’d be happy to put this entire sorry episode behind us and move on. Our cherished trees are gone. We’ve come to terms with that as much as it saddened us to do so. Most of us have reached the point of acceptance.
Until, that is, we’re reminded yet again by those who celebrate Updyke’s sorry legacy that the grief and pain we felt over losing a treasured part of our Auburn lives has little value to some. To them, it’s nothing but a big joke. Throw a pie at it and feel better.
No dunking way.