I think by now we’ve all had time to digest the insane lack of sensitivity that ESPN.com writer Albert Lin showed yesterday. For those of you who haven’t gotten wind of it, in a Rumor Central post yesterday, Lin not only reported the death of Alabama offensive lineman Aaron Douglas but in the VERY NEXT PARAGRAPH discussed how that impacts the Crimson Tide depth chart.
Of course, ESPN.com went into full damage control mode after Lin’s piece went up. An apology was issued later in the afternoon:
Today, if you Google the name “Albert Lin,” here’s a sampling of what you’ll find being said about him:
In the span of a few hours, Lin went from being a semi-obscure ESPN.com writer to the current title holder of “World’s Most Insensitive Prick.” Bet he didn’t see that coming when he was eating his Toaster Strudel yesterday morning.
But instead of piling on the guy, I’m going to try to understand his motivation. Is he a cold, heartless a-hole with little or no regard for human life? Or might he be a college football writer who’s so laser focused on dissecting the ins and outs of rosters that he doesn’t care why players are being promoted?
Granted, being that obsessed with college football isn’t a great thing either, but at least it’s a half notch below being the World’s Most Insensitive Prick. If this is the dynamic at work, Lin probably does have compassion for the family and friends of Aaron Douglas. It’s just dwarfed by his insatiable desire to report on roster changes.
I’m guessing this isn’t the first time that Lin has gotten into hot water because of his need to put college football first, it just happens to be the most public instance. In the past, I can almost guarantee he’s been involved in a conversation that went along the lines of the following:
Papa Lin: “Dammit Albert, I’ve been calling you for 30 minutes, why didn’t you answer your phone?!?”
Albert: “Come on, pop, the Gameday crew was making their picks. You know I couldn’t miss that.”
Papa Lin: *sighs loudly* “Look Albert, I have some bad news. It’s your mother, she’s taken a turn for the worse. The doctors say she might not make it through the weekend.”
Albert: “Dad, I’m sorry, could you repeat that? Lee Corso was just putting on the Georgia Bulldog mascot head. That guy is so crazy.”
Papa Lin: “DAMMIT, ALBERT, YOUR MOTHER IS DYING!!! GET DOWN HERE NOW!”
Albert: “Wow, dad, calm down. I will be down when I can.”
Papa Lin: “What did you just say?!?”
Albert: “I said I’ll be over when I can. Look, the Northwestern game is about to start, then there’s the Arkansas game on CBS. You know my Saturdays, it’ll be midnight before I can break away.”
Papa Lin: “If you’re not over here in 30 minutes then you’re out of the will.”
Albert: “Will? I didn’t know I was even in it. What do I inherit?”
Papa Lin: “My autographed copy of “Bootlegger’s Boy” by Barry Switzer.”
Albert: “I’ll be right over.”
The goofy saga of Toomer’s Corner tree poisoner Harvey Updyke got a little goofier this week when he was allegedly attacked at an Opelika, AL gas station after leaving a court appearance. Conspiracy theories abound on this one because no one actually witnessed the attack, but for now I will give the guy the benefit of the doubt. Here’s a snippet from Evan Woodberry:
Updyke said he stopped to get a drink and was hit as he got out of his car.
“This is not a Charlie Sheen stunt,” he said. “I’m not winning. I’m losing.”
Updyke said he didn’t blame an Auburn fan for his alleged assault.
“I’m not saying it was an Auburn fan,” he said. “There’s a lot of Alabama people upset, too.” (al.com)
To invoke the name of America’s newly anointed Nuttiest Celebrity of All-Time is about the most blessed thing Updyke could have done in my opinion. Because if anyone can relate to the swirling storm of craziness in Charlie Sheen’s head, then it’s Harvey Updyke.
If Updyke was in fact knocked upside the head as he was getting out of his car, then there’s no doubt in the minds of many that the phantom perpetrator is an Auburn fan. And that has every college football fan outside of the South questioning not only the sanity of Alabama and Auburn partisans, but the sanity of SEC fans as a whole. Are they all batshit nuts?
Well, judging from this classic NSFW clip, you would think that might very well be the case:
To say that football is taken seriously in the South is an understatement along the lines of saying that Dolly Parton isn’t necessarily flat chested. You are more than justified to use words like “obsessed” and “rabid” to describe a great many SEC football fans.
One good way to gauge an obsession is to look at it from a dollars and cents perspective. If someone is willing to part with a hefty amount of hard earned cash on something that on the surface appears to be a pastime, then he or she is pretty damn serious about it.
Spending thousands of dollars on season tickets and transportation costs to and from games? That’s nothing for an SEC football fan. Thousands more can be spent on the right AV setup at home in order to ensure that the games they can’t actually attend are viewed in the best way possible.
When you throw in the team clothing that’s bought and the other costs associated with SEC fandom (memberships to recruiting web sites, memorabilia, etc.), you’re talking about a significant investment. And I haven’t even touched on the amount of scratch that boosters are willing to throw around.
But when you think about it, is what I just described totally unique to SEC football fans? Not hardly. On the professional level, think of the outlay of cash that a Dallas Cowboys fan has to make in order to ensure that he can see America’s Team live. For decent seats at Cowboys Stadium, a costly Personal Seat License (PSL) has to be purchased before that person can even buy season tickets.
What kind of cost are we talking about here? PSLs run from $16,000 to $50,000, but fortunately the Cowboys offer financing over a 30-year period with a fixed interest rate of 8% annually. Jesus, what I just described sounds like the worst mortgage you can possibly get in 2011. Therefore, I’d venture to guess that the guy off the street who’s willing to dump that much cash on tickets is just as obsessed with the Cowboys as any SEC fan is about his team.
Hyperfandom is by no means a phenomenon that is exclusively the domain of SEC football freaks. The various ways that passionate SEC football fans part with their cash are matched dollar for dollar by their NFL brethren. Think about it, you have to be mighty serious about something to buy and wear a hat that resembles cheese.
Now I can already predict where your mind is going at this point. You’re thinking that Harvey Updyke’s actions aren’t those of a passionate fan but more along the lines of someone whose love for his team has consumed him whole.
Well, to that end, I guess Updyke is a lot like the LA Dodger fans who put Giants fan Bryan Stow in the hospital. I could cite countless other examples not involving SEC partisans, but why waste the space? Look, the lunatic fringe exists in ALL fan bases, so why pin all the craziness on the SEC?
And I gotta be honest here, when it comes to the rank and file fans at sporting events, meaning those who won’t poison trees or try to beat up people in the parking lot, SEC fans (and college football fans as a whole) are FAR classier than their pro sports counterparts.
Ever been to a regular season New York Jets home game? I have, and I was stunned at the number of drunken, dead-behind-the-eyes folks I was surrounded by. It was like the worst keg party I’d ever been to, only everyone was wearing Curtis Martin jerseys and reeked of chicken parm.
Hey, I’m not trying to defend Harvey Updyke, I’m just trying to remind you that guys of his ilk are not solely the domain of the SEC. You’ve been warned, the crazies are EVERYWHERE.
In late January and early February of this year, I wrote some pieces on the curious recruiting saga involving Russelville (AL) linebacker/running back Brent Calloway. If you’ll recall, Calloway initially commited to Alabama, then switched his pledge to Auburn but ended up back where he started, inking with Alabama on National Signing Day.
It’s not unusual for a kid to waver the way Calloway did, but the circumstances surrounding his switch back to the Tide were a little odd. If you’ll recall, Calloway wanted a shot to play running back on the next level, something Auburn coaches had apparently told him they were happy to give him.
Doug Segrest of the Birmingham News tells us how Calloway’s switch went over with the kid’s adopted father, Peaches Winston:
Winston isn’t happy with the change of heart. He has nothing against Auburn. He just doesn’t believe his son handled it correctly.
“I’m from the old school,” Winston said. “When you shake a man’s hand, look him in the eye and make a commitment, you stick to that commitment.”
“I respect him and I’m going to root for him. But I don’t think he handled it the right way.” (Birmingham News)
Once his letter of intent was faxed into Alabama, it appeared this story was over and done with. I’ll let Izzy Gould fill you in on how things got complicated again:
On Jan. 30, three days before national signing day, Calloway shut down communication with outsiders. He spoke to his guardian, Harland “Peaches” Winston, hoping to find an escape to the thunderous recruiting storm.
“When he got through down there at Alabama he said, ‘Dad, I do not want to go home. I do not want to go home, I want to stay,’” Winston said. “He said, ‘I don’t want to go home because of all this stuff people are gonna be talking.’ I called the principal, and I called the superintendent, and I said, ‘Would it be all right if we keep Brent out?’ They said, ‘Fine. OK.’”
Winston said he knew his good friend, Darren Woodruff, was leaving town for a few days.
Allegations surfaced last week when Rivals.com reporter Jeffrey Lee alleged in a radio interview that a person “very involved in the athletics department” at Alabama had transported Calloway out of state. Rivals.com later identified the man as Woodruff, president of Petro Chemical Energy, and reported he had paid Winston $2,500 and gave Calloway a car to sign with Alabama. The website reported the car was later returned.
Investigators from Alabama investigated the claims Friday and determined no wrongdoing. The school did not file a report with the NCAA. (al.com)
Woodruff is a longtime friend of Winston who may or may not be an Alabama booster, depending on who you talk to. Yesterday on SportsRadio 730 in Huntsville, AL, Woodruff was interviewed by Johnny “Ballpark” Franks (is that the most unfortunate nickname in radio?) about this whole sordid affair. I found the following part of that interview to be very interesting:
In that clip, Woodruff seems to be implying that you can tell very little about a kid’s athletic prowess when he’s in the ninth grade. He stops short of calling Calloway a pencil-necked geek who didn’t blossom as a football player until he was a senior.
Woodruff’s assertion might sound good to the average layperson, but in this case, it doesn’t stick. That’s because Calloway was actually turning heads on football fields as an eighth grader. Brian App of the Decatur Times Daily provides the particulars from back in 2008:
After starting the last two games in place of Freeman, Calloway, a sophomore, now boasts 16 touchdowns this season, his first playing tailback.
“He’s irreplaceable,” Russellville quarterback Joey Howe said. “He can just smell the end zone. I can’t really say how he does it.”
Let Calloway explain.
“I’ve got to score when I get the ball; that’s the mentality I have,” he said. “After the year I spent away, I just had to come back and run hard every play. I’ve got to make up for last year.”
Calloway had to sit out last season after transferring from Florence, where he played a few varsity games as an eighth-grader at defensive end and outside linebacker. (Florence Times-Daily)
Not many eighth-graders get the call to play varsity football, and it’s safe to say that those who do are special athletes. Also, think back to your time in high school. I would venture to guess that the most exceptional athletes in your ninth grade class went on to be the most exceptional athletes in your senior class. Hell, that’s how it worked at my school.
Therefore, Woodruff sounds a little full of it by insinuating that nobody could predict that Calloway would ever blossom into a football player that colleges would fight over. But this isn’t the only contradiction involving the kid that Woodruff has been caught in this week. He was interviewed by Kevin Scarbinsky of the Birmingham News and said the following:
Calloway’s final change of heart came after he visited Tuscaloosa on the last weekend before signing day. That visit, Woodruff said, was the key to the decision for several reasons.
One, it came three days after Auburn received a public verbal commitment from Lake Worth, Fla., running back Tre Mason. One of Calloway’s reasons for committing to Auburn in early January was the opportunity to play running back, a position with little depth.
“He mentioned that Auburn had promised him they would not recruit another running back, and they had one to commit,” Woodruff said. “That had some bearing on it.” (Birmingham News)
That’s interesting stuff, because back on January 29, Calloway himself didn’t seem to be the least bit irked by the fact that Mason had given a verbal pledge to Auburn. Here’s what Calloway told Doug Segrest of the Birmingham News:
“I’m not afraid of competition, but I’d rather go against one or two than five or six. Alabama has (at running back) Corey Grant, Dee Hart and (Demetrius) Goode. Plus, Eddie Lacy and Trent Richardson are back.
“Auburn only has two (Onterio McCalebb and Mike Dyer) at running back, plus (commitment) Tre Mason and a walk-on. I know for a fact competing there would be easier.”
That’s where father and son disagree again.
“I feel he has a better chance to get to the NFL on defense, whether it’s linebacker or safety,” Winston said. “I feel for my son. I don’t see him making it as a running back in the pros.” (Birmingham News)
Getting back to that interview he had with “Ballpark” Franks, Woodruff directly addressed the allegations brought forth by Lee:
Fair enough, because the burden of proof is all anybody wants. That would be a welcome change from the various contradictions swirling around this story right now. The entirety of the “Ballpark” Franks interview with Woodruff can be found here. And yes, that was just another excuse for me to work “Ballpark” Franks into this one more time.
NC State fans had become so anxious over their school’s search for a new basketball coach that athletic director Debbie Yow felt compelled to do something, ANYTHING, to quell their fears. Courtesy of the Fayetteville Observer-Times, here is the email Yow came up with yesterday to do just that:
Yow’s note came on the heels of seemingly every decent name that was even loosely tied to NC State’s opening - Gregg Marshall, Sean Miller, Shaka Smart, Chaka Khan, Khan from “Star Trek” - deciding to take a pass. Adam Gold of 99.9 the Fan in Raleigh chimed in with a spot on assessment of what she said in the email:
There’s a pretty big difference between not winning enough and a program being in “bad shape.” The latter suggests a lack of talent or support, or worse, the specter of an upcoming NCAA investigation. Since none of those appear to fit the description of the state of the State program, I’m calling a technical foul on the athletic director for unnecessarily piling on Sidney Lowe.
Lowe didn’t leave the program in bad shape. Lowe left the program because he didn’t get the most out of the talent on hand. Maybe NC State didn’t have as good a team as we thought entering the year. They were certainly projected to finish in the top half of the league and challenge for the NCAA tournament — if not a pretty strong seeding — but that never materialized and the team seemed to disintegrate as the season grew. (WRALSportsFan.com)
Gold makes a strong point, because while it’s completely fair to get on Lowe’s case for not maximizing the talent he brought in, it’s a little goofy to characterize him as a program wrecker. In recent years I can think of coaches inheriting rosters in far worse shape than the one Lowe left behind (Tony Barbee this past season at Auburn springs to mind), and like Gold says, the NCAA isn’t sniffing around the basketball offices in Raleigh.
In the same blog entry, Gold also addressed the rumors circulating around concerning the fact that Yow is pretty tough to work for, which goes back to her time at Maryland:
It’s not a secret that Maryland’s future Hall of Fame coach Gary Williams has painted life working for Debbie Yow as an ordeal similar to scaling the North Face. That complicating factor certainly isn’t helping matters. What’s absolutely true is that stories about Yow being “in over her head” or “having a bad reputation,” (both preposterous in my view) are definitely circulating in the coaching community and anything that adds to the degree of difficulty in a job that already possesses obvious challenges is going to raise a scarlet red flag to anyone even remotely on the fence about the job.
Is Debbie Yow a difficult person for whom to work? Having never had that opportunity, I’m not qualified to give you that answer. But if demanding excellence and accountability make you a difficult boss, then you don’t ever have to apologize. In the male-dominated world of intercollegiate athletics, a tough, demanding woman will never be viewed the same way as her male counterparts. Unfair as it may be, that’s just the way the world works, even today. (WRALSportsFan.com)
I can personally attest to Yow being a demanding person, a trait which in and of itself isn’t necessarily a terrible thing. Last year I was tasked by CollegeInsider.com to do the press releases tied to their various coaching awards. One of those was the Kay Yow Award, named after Debbie’s late sister.
Keep in mind that this was just the press release announcing the creation of the award and who would comprise its selection committee, all of which was pretty straight forward stuff. As a courtesy, Insider agreed to let Debbie Yow review it before it was sent out. She proceeded to bounce the rough draft of that thing back at me THREE TIMES to make sure I got her sister’s biography just right.
If she’s as picky about the athletic department at NC State as she is about making sure her sister’s legacy is protected, then I can see how she might come off as a ball buster of the highest degree. But let’s be honest concerning her biggest critic, Gary Williams. The guy didn’t exactly follow up that national title in 2002 with a string of subsequent Final Four appearances. If Yow was on his case about that, then more power to her for holding Williams to a championship standard that he had already established for himself.
In regard to her current search, that ended late this afternoon with the hiring of Mark Gottfried, the former Alabama coach who’s spent the last two years working as an analyst for ESPN. Because his isn’t a name that’s had any amount of buzz attached to it, you had better believe those rumors surrounding Yow’s managerial style will swirl around for a while. I’m sure many NC State fans will wonder aloud, “Is this the only guy who’s willing to work for Debbie Yow?”
I will refer you back to Yow’s email and the following sentence: “But, right now, we need to remain focused on finding a talented collegiate coach who is a fighter, full of confidence and appreciation for the opportunity to lead our basketball program back to national prominence.” Hey, she wasn’t lying, because I’m sure there’s NOBODY more appreciative than Gottfried is to be coaching an ACC team today.
Like his new boss, Gottfried has also been dogged by the rumor mill, especially when it comes to the circumstances regarding his departure from Alabama. Zip over to Google and type in “mark gottfried college coed” and you’ll see what I mean. Did he or didn’t he? Who knows, but I’m sure more than a few callers to Paul Finebaum’s radio show today will be sure to bring it up.
The Twitterverse has pretty much universally panned the hire, but I’m not so quick to do so for a couple of reasons. First off, Gottfried has actually shown the ability to be a pretty consistent winner. He had a string of five straight NCAA appearances during his stay in Tuscaloosa before a dip in the win column sealed his fate. Let me turn to my partner in audio crime for his assessment of the guy:
Secondly, the experiences of Gottfried’s former colleague Steve Lavin could provide some insight into what NC State fans have in store. Both were assistants to Jim Harrick at UCLA, with Lavin actually succeeding him. Like Gottfried at Alabama, Lavin lost the UCLA job after a dip in wins and subsequently found refuge in broadcasting. After some time away from the game, Lavin jumped back into the coaching ranks this past season, inheriting a talented St. John’s team and guiding it into the NCAA Tournament.
The same scenario unfolding this coming season at NC State isn’t entirely outside the realm of possibility. Of course, if things get rough, I’m sure we’ll start hearing crazy stuff like Gottfried finding comfort in the arms of an NC State coed because Debbie Yow is just entirely too tough to work for. Rumors aren’t like old soldiers, you know. They never really fade away.
*** UPDATE ***
Wow, I wish I had waited about 20 minutes to post the original entry, because Debbie Yow dropped the following nuke at the press conference where Gottfried was introduced:
I’ll let the Baltimore Sun provide the particulars on Williams’s response:
Williams released the following statement shortly after the press conference:
“I haven’t talked to anyone coach or athletic director connected to the NC State search. I don’t have any interest in the NC State search, since I’m coaching at Maryland and working hard to run our program. Anyone who says I’ve had contact with a prospective coach or athletic director regarding this search isn’t being truthful.” (BaltimoreSun.com)
This thing just got extremely BLESSED in a hurry. So basically, at the press conference to introduce her new hire, Yow said the search was sabotaged WHILE THE GUY SHE ENDED UP HIRING WAS STANDING THERE. Jesus, I wonder how Gottfried felt at that moment, because in a way Yow was saying, “The people we really wanted were coerced into turning us down, so we ended up with this stiff right here.”
And just how did Williams sabotage this search? Did he call up guys like Smart and say things like, “Yeah, Shaka, that Yow chick tried to stab me with a letter opener one time after we lost to Duke. No joke, champ.”
I knew the guy who applied the herbicide to the oak trees at Toomer’s Corner in Auburn would look crazy. I just didn’t think he’d look THIS crazy:
That is Harvey Almorn Updyke, who is - get this - a retired Texas State Trooper. That means Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor, TCU, Texas Tech, Sam Houston State, UTEP, North Texas, Rice, Houston and every other football program in the Lone Star State dodged a bullet by not having this nutbag as a superfan.
So it turns out that a retired police officer did what every other police officer on the planet wishes someone would do during the course of an investigation: Harvey confessed in public on the Finebaum radio show and gave enough details to lead the fuzz right to his front door in Dadeville, AL. I guess all those years of stopping speeders on Texas highways didn’t do much to make Harvey a master criminal.
I can only imagine the crazy things this dude must have done to people during his career as a law enforcement officer. I’m picturing things that would’ve made Harvey Keitel’s Bad Lieutenant cringe.
Now before I go any further, I want to thank Mark Zuckerberg once again for screwing over multiple people so he could create Facebook. Harvey’s got a page on there, a page that contains a very interesting nugget beyond the houndstooth ball cap he sports as his avatar. In his friend list is the following person:
Her listed last name is Chavez, but the URL for the page itself refers to her as “cupdyke.” Did Harvey actually name his daughter Crimson? What kind of person names his DAUGHTER after his favorite college team’s mascot? For the record, I grew up in North Carolina and never came across one girl named “Tar Heel Johnson” or “Wolfpack Graham.” You know why? Because I never knew anyone with a parent as crazy as Harvey Updyke.
This is yet another peek into Harvey’s twisted mind. While we Americans are passionate about the sports we love, fandom is ultimately a pastime for the vast majority of us. Sure, I dig the sporting world enough to actually write about it, but in the course of naming my daughter, nothing related to any sports teams I follow ever came into the equation when it came time to name her.
I realize now that I’ve stumbled across yet another factor that separates the passionate sports fan from the batshit nuts sports maniac. Naming your kid after a team you follow puts you into the latter category.
I’ll let Charles Goldberg of the Birmingham News provide the particulars of what exactly Harvey is being charged with:
Updyke was charged with one count of criminal mischief in the first degree, which is a Class C felony. A Class C felony carries a punishment of one to 10 years. (Birmingham News)