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To Forgive, or Not to Forgive (that IS the question)–repost

By on July 31st, 2020 in Football, Memories, News, Other Sports 5 Comments »

Photo credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

(Author’s note:  This is an article I wrote seven years ago.  With the news of Harvey Updyke’s death, I hope I am keeping my promise below.)

Six months of prison, about half of which has already been served, with a laughable probation after that.  And when he gets out, he’ll be a hero to thousands, if not millions, for the rest of his pathetic life.

Upon first reflecting on this, I figured that if Hell didn’t exist already, God would have to create it for a situation like Harvey Updyke.

I went to A-Day, but I was not able to attend the “One Last Roll” that evening.  My understanding from Track ‘Em Tigers founder Jay Coulter is that far from being a funeral, the Last Roll was a testament to the Auburn Spirit, and nothing but positive.  Justin Lee at The War Eagle Reader even wrote “Thanks, Harvey” for the opportunity for all of us Auburn folks to unite in celebration of everything good about Auburn, without dwelling on the injury itself or even acknowledging the existence of the “other side” in whose hijacked name this heinous act was committed.

Although I know I would have enjoyed it and been caught up in all the enthusiasm and positivity, it was probably good that I did not go, considering how far from positive I still feel about this whole thing.  (I wanted to bring an effigy of “Al from Dadeville” to hang on the trees, even though I know that would have been totally tacky and out of place.)  I watched the “Roll Tide / War Eagle” DVD last weekend; seeing that son-of-a-bitch lie through his teeth about not poisoning the Toomers Oaks just re-affirmed my nothing-but-negative feelings about Updyke.

But there is another side to this whole episode.  Rarely are any of us presented in our lives with such a clear-cut challenge to fulfill Our Lord’s command to forgive those who do wrong to us.  In this case, we even have the luxury of losing “only” a pair of trees, rather than a human loved one, from this act of violence.

With my unhealthily overdeveloped sense of justice, I have a very, very hard time excusing anyone from anything (including myself).  However, real forgiveness is not something that excuses anything.  It is more an acknowledgement of the tragedy of human failings, or a disappointment that a person didn’t live up to what they could be.  Perhaps this is what makes forgiving one’s own self the hardest thing to do sometimes.

Driving around Atlanta, I see many bumper stickers featuring the Spanish word “Perdona.”  A search on the web revealed a Spanish-language site dedicated to spreading the message of forgiveness, including quotes from many great figures pointing out that the act of forgiving benefits the forgiver more than the forgiven.  On Christian radio, there is a song entitled “Forgiveness” (by Matthew West) with lyrics such as these:

It’ll clear the bitterness away
It can even set a prisoner free
There is no end to what it’s power can do
So, let it go and be amazed
By what you see through eyes of grace
The prisoner that it really frees is you

You even have the Lord’s own words from the cross, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”  (Of course, as I pointed out in an earlier post, this perpetrator is so stupid that he really didn’t understand the enormity of what he did, which was to attack and try to kill everything good for which Auburn stands.)

It’s hard to argue with all of that, isn’t it.  I guess all of this is calling us to a specific action, isn’t it.

Consequently (and since I am writing this down for everyone to see, God and everyone else can hold me to it), Harvey Almon Updyke, I forgive you.  I hope you come to a sense of regret beyond merely that for being caught, or for the “harm” you caused your Crimson Tide “family,” or being the butt-end of the righteous indignation, anger, and hatred from hundreds of thousands of AU (and many UA) folks.  For your own salvation depends on coming to that true sense of regret, just as mine requires me to make good on my statement above.  So, Al from Dadeville, I hope I see you in Heaven.

The way I still feel, I wouldn’t lay odds on either of us being there, though.

Michael Val

(who hopes he can really forgive him who trespassed against us)


  1. zotus zotus says:

    I know a lot of Bama folks. Some are relatives. Some are friends. Some are just folks.
    Not one Alabama person who I know — when the subject has come up — has ever said that ‘Al from Dadeville’ did something that should be (or needed to be) forgiven by anybody, much less anyone from Auburn. Furthermore, I’ve never heard an Alabama fan use the words ‘repentance’ and/or ‘forgiveness’ in the same sentence as the name Harvey Almorn Updyke. That idea appears to be off their radar, not even in the conversation.

    So, possibly you’re giving forgiveness for an act that some Bama folks — maybe even the late ‘Al from Dadeville’ himself — wouldn’t consider to be a transgression of grievous magnitude. Maybe you’re getting the cart before the horse, as it were.

    Whatever the case, I do know this: It is the University of Alabama’s responsibility to deal with the legacy of Harvey Almorn Updyke. For better or for worse, ‘Al from Dadeville’ is part of Alabama’s history. They will have to live with that. They will have to wear that. They will have to own that. They will have to address that, as they see fit. It’s no one else’s job to do so.

  2. neonbets says:

    That’s a great post. I enjoyed it because ‘you really put it out there’ so to speak.

    My opinion, FWIW: Forgiveness (as in the act of forgiving, as opposed to ‘begin forgiven’) is like happiness. Pursuing either is futile because you cannot acquire them directly. Rather, these phenomena are indirectly acquired. They are consequences, if you will.

    Don’t pursue; let them ensue.

    It’s easier to understand with respect to happiness. Waking up today, and announcing–‘I am going to be happy!’ is just stupid. It doesn’t work that way. Instead, you have to do the work, and put in the effort on that which is important to you. Then, once you’ve achieved the desired outcome, or milestone, the happiness follows–as it should.

    But you can’t bypass the tough stuff, and go straight to happiness. It’s just common sense.

    Surprisingly, forgiveness follows the same arc. You can’t will yourself to forgiving someone–no matter how hard you try and no matter what edict from scripture you apply. It doesn’t work that way. You’re better off being honest with yourself by saying, ‘I don’t forgive that A-Hole; I hope he rots’. Yes, it’s ugly–but it is honest. [Forgive yourself for not forgiving. Irony or hypocrisy?]

    If what I just wrote troubles your sensibilities, then think it through–but without a trace of any notion ‘forgiveness’. Watch what happens.
    Harvey Updyke was a pathetic caricature of Neil Young’s ‘Southern Man’. All his life, there was no place for him to go. Rejected and reviled by a broader culture that would celebrate a stupid song like ‘Southern Man’ (God bless you, Ronnie Van Zant: RIP)–Harvey had no choice but to live in small town isolation. Not that there’s anything wrong with small towns–but when you’re family is hopeless, and broken—when you are physically unattractive—when you have a sub-90 IQ…life can be particularly difficult as a The Town Loser.

    And don’t kid yourself: The people in Harvey’s tiny orbit all knew he was a loser. Even worse, they all knew he represented the worst stereotype of a dumb redneck. At some level, they probably hated Harvey because it was people like Harvey who gave these fellow southerners a bad name.

    And all this was going on in Harvey’s teenage years. Since one strike begets another strike, life only got harder for Harvey as got older. No women. No money. No real friends. It seems Harvey’s sole purpose in life was to exist so others can heap their own failures and frustrations on to this pathetic, stupid, ugly little man.

    Enter Alabama Football. It’s one area where Harvey could not only find common ground–but he could excel! No, Harvey would never be loved as a man, or a father–nor would he ever be respected for competence or a work ethic. But damn, he could really be good at rooting for Alabama Football!

    So, Harvey finds his niche. He escalates—calling radio shows got him notoriety—but Harvey wanted more. Ultimately, those beautiful trees became the casualty of Harvey’s desperate attempt at acceptance and respect.

    Harvey Updyke was a pathetic man who lived a life of pain, and rejection. Unable or unwilling to adapt, Harvey desperately groped his way through a pathetic existence.

    I truly hope Harvey’s lonely soul finds peace.

  3. uglyjoe says:

    Forgive and forget…….nope, I just choose to forget in this instance. I have largely wiped Mr. Updyke from my brain. But I am going to dwell on Neonbets words….”forgive yourself for not forgiving”. Not necessarily related to the trees, because there are much more important things to worry about these days. In my spiritual vernacular, I think it Neonbets words may translate to “give it to God”……because I am too weak to will myself to do something that I really don’t want to do. Interesting thoughts….thanks.

  4. WarSamEagle WarSamEagle says:

    Really good article Mvhcpa. I’ve forgiven the guy a long time ago as the Lord expects of us but, forgetting is another matter. Me thinks that it’s only God that can truly forget an offense.

  5. sparkey sparkey says:

    You guys are great folks. I don’t feel bad. Look, someone can’t live their life a certain way and then people expect them to get a pass when they die. Nothing changed. The man was a domestic terrorist who could have killed thousands had the stuff gotten to the water supply. That is a scary thought.

    I want people to think about something. This man was a cop for nearly 30 years in Texas. Can you imagine that man pulling you over and seeing you have an Auburn shirt on or something of the sort? He might find things to plant on you. The man had no checks when he was off policing the state of Texas. That is something we should consider.

    Next, screw Bammers who like this guy. I’ve already punched one of them. Screw class I’m ready to knock them on their ass when they like this man. Most don’t, and truth be told, those that do simply are worth no time at all. War Eagle everybody! I am having login issues or I would have posted several articles by now. I can only post using my phone.

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