I’m not sure it would be possible to top today’s Alabama-Auburn game for a sports event that produces the combinaton of a sweeter victory for one set of fans and a more devastating loss for those on the other side of the outcome. Consider:
Alabama-Auburn is the bitterest rivalry in college football. It makes Michigan-Ohio State look like a Pinterest argument about pesto recipes. Here’s an example of the level of craziness this game elicits:
OPELIKA, Ala. — The University of Alabama fan who poisoned Auburn University’s landmark oak trees at Toomer’s Corner has been released from jail and cleared to leave the state.
Harvey Updyke Jr., 64, left the Lee County jail in Opelika on Monday morning after serving 76 days following his guilty plea. Attorney Andrew Stanley said Updyke was on his way to Louisiana where he will live with his wife, Elva.
“He’s very sincere. He wants to go back to Louisiana and never wants to be heard from ever again,” Stanley said.
Updyke also was arrested last September, accused of making a threatening remark to workers at a Lowe’s store in Hammond, La.
“Certainly, he’s got this case pending in Louisiana that he wants to take care of. I think that’s going to be one of the first things he does when he gets down there,” Stanley said.
“He doesn’t want to have to deal with this anymore. He wants to pay his money back and be done with the five years, and never be heard from again.”
Sporting a handlebar mustache, Updyke was escorted to his bail bondsman’s pickup truck outside the Lee County Courthouse by a sheriff’s deputy. A judge banned him from talking to the media, and Updyke did not respond to a reporter’s question.
Updyke pleaded guilty in March to one count of unlawful damage of an animal or crop facility. He was sentenced to 6 months in jail and credited with 104 days for time already served.
Updyke will be on probation for the next five years with terms including a 7 p.m. curfew, a ban from attending any college sporting event and from stepping foot on Auburn University property.
He is also banned from that Lowe’s store under the probation terms.
Updyke was arrested after a man calling himself “Al from Dadeville” — Updyke’s middle name is Almorn — phoned Paul Finebaum’s radio show claiming he poured herbicide around the 130-year-old oaks after Auburn’s win over rival Alabama during the 2010 national championship season. The caller signed off by saying, “Roll Damn Tide.
Basically, these people are nuts.
What was at stake in this year’s game:
Alabama was on a path to its fourth national championship in five years. During last year’s run, they capped off the regular season by humiliating Auburn 49-0, the last game of an 0-8 conference season for their rivals. By winning today, Auburn could knock Alabama out of the national championship picture, get to the SEC championship game, and maintain a chance to get to the national championship game. Auburn had already put together a wildly improbable year, capped off by a miracle win last week against Georgia. Meanwhile, Alabama had pretty much destroyed everyone they had played.
Alabama had numerous chances to end the game in the last five minutes. They failed on a fourth and one play at the Auburn 13 with five minutes to go while leading by seven, had a holding penalty call back a play that took them inside the Auburn ten with three minutes to go (still leading by seven), and then missed a game clinching field goal 30 seconds later. Auburn then drove the length of the field in the final two minutes, scoring with 32 seconds to go on a trick play in which the Auburn QB came within an inch of crossing the line of scrimmage before throwing the game-tying touchdown pass.
Alabama then had a chance to get the ball into position for a game winning field goal. They apparently failed to do so when on what looked like the last play of the game in regulation time, the Alabama ballcarrier went out of bounds at the Auburn 39 as time expired. But Nick Saban, the Alabama coach, claimed that one second should still be on the clock. The replay official agreed, and Alabama attempted a 57-yard field goal. An Auburn defender caught the kick at the back of the end zone, and returned it 109 yards for the winning score. (The odds of this happening could be estimated as around 100 to one at best).
That’s the best win/worst loss I’ve ever seen in a sports event, considering the intensity of fan feeling, the stakes, and the combination of events that produced the outcome.