Rivalry vs. Reality

Posted: June 19, 2013 in Philadelphia

A few days ago, three radio hosts from Atlanta sports radio station 790 “The Zone” were suspended then subsequently fired after the station aired a fake phone call with someone being former New Orleans Saints safety Steve Gleason.

Now, the Atlanta Falcons’ biggest rival in the NFL is the New Orleans Saints. Having lived in Atlanta for a year and a half I can vouch for that, although Atlanta is more of a college football and baseball city (but that is beside the point). The point is, Falcons fans HATE the Saints and they will be the first ones to tell you that.

That being said, there is more to the aforementioned radio skit mocking former Saint Steve Gleason that cost three radio hosts their jobs. Steve Gleason was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, back in 2011 and continues to battle the disease to this day. Anyone who knows anything about ALS knows that there is nothing funny about it. The disease is debilitating and almost always fatal (and it’s not a quick death). Make no mistake about it, there is NOTHING funny about ALS, and the toll it takes on its victims is very, very serious.

This is where us fans need to be aware of the line that separates a rivalry from reality. Unfortunately, the three radio hosts (and the heads of that station for that matter) crossed that line.

This incident was not the only time that the line was crossed.

The rivalry between the University of Alabama and Auburn University is quite possibly the most fierce rivalries in the country, and it is the most fierce during college football season. After Auburn came back to beat Alabama 28-27 in the 2010 Iron Bowl (the name given to their annual matchup), A caller named “Al” from Dadeville, Alabama called in to sports radio host Paul Feinbaum’s radio show and claimed that he poisoned the famous oak trees that fans roll with toilet paper after big wins at Toomer’s Corner on Auburn’s campus.

Harvey Updyke Jr., a retired Texas state trooper, was taken into custody on February 17, 2011 and charged with one count of criminal mischief, a class C felony in Alabama. On March 22, 2013, he received a 3 year split sentence, which includes 6 months incarceration and jail credit for time already served. Upon release, Updyke is sentenced to 5 years supervised probation with a 7 pm curfew.

Harvey Updyke Jr., a retired Texas state trooper, was taken into custody on February 17, 2011 and charged with one count of criminal mischief, a class C felony in Alabama. On March 22, 2013, he received a 3 year split sentence, which includes 6 months incarceration and jail credit for time already served. Upon release, Updyke is sentenced to 5 years supervised probation with a 7 pm curfew.

After an investigation, there were large amounts of Spike 80 DF in the roots of the oak trees. “Al”, who was actually a rabid Alabama Crimson Tide fan named Harvey Updyke Jr., had in fact poisoned the over 200 year-old trees (which were recently removed).

This is yet another example of when fans cross the lines of a rivalry and venture into reality. Don’t get me wrong, I love a fierce sports rivalry. Rivalries make sports great, not to mention they make for some unforgettable games. However there is a certain point where it is no longer about sports or your team’s rival(s), it is about real life and real life situations.

It doesn’t matter how much you hate a team or the players on that team. Off of the field/court/ice, things are different. When news spread of the failed skit by the Atlanta radio station, everyone was outraged. When the trees were poisoned, Crimson Tide fans were just as disgusted with Updyke as Auburn Tigers fans were.

When you watch your team play, by all means cheer, boo, be a fan and enjoy the game. There is nothing wrong with hating your rivals, it’s part of what makes a great rivalry.

Just don’t cross the line into real-life. You will regret it, just like those three unemployed radio hosts in Atlanta.

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