ESPN personality Paul Finebaum said he would “never be able to outrun” infamous Alabama fan Harvey Updyke Jr., even though he’s tried.
Updyke confessed on the Paul Finebaum Show in 2011 that he poisoned the oak trees at Auburn’s famous Toomer’s Corner after Auburn beat Alabama in the 2010 Iron Bowl. Finebaum reflected to the Charlotte Observer on how they will forever be connected after Updyke died earlier this week at the age of 71.
Finebaum calls it single most memorable moment
Updyke called into Finebaum’s show as Al from Dadeville and said he poisoned the trees in retaliation for Auburn fans putting a Cam Newton jersey on the statue of Bear Bryant at Alabama.
“That’s the singular most memorable moment that I’ve ever had,” Finebaum said Friday, via the Charlotte Observer. “I’ve had a lot of happier moments and more enjoyable, but never one that just is stuck to you like that…. Whatever you do in life or in your career, you can’t run away from it. And I’ve always felt from that moment on, I would never be able to outrun him — even though I’ve tried.”
Finebaum didn’t believe the caller at first, and said he didn’t know “Al from Dadeville” would be telling such a story on air. He told the Observer earlier this year his obituary would likely include Updyke in the first paragraph.
He added it was an “amazingly sad story” that a guy would be so consumed to do it, and told the Observer that Updyke told him multiple times it was “for Nick Saban” because he thought Newton should have been ineligible for the Iron Bowl game.
On keeping in touch with Updyke
Finebaum spoke with Updyke throughout the years and their final conversation was Nov. 8, 2019 when Finebaum called him an “idiot” and a “lunatic.”
Finebaum told the Charlotte Observer:
“By no means were we friends. In the last call, I was fairly ugly to him.”
“There was an attraction to him,” Finebaum said, “like there’s almost an attraction from a newspaper reporter to a serial killer. You want to leave those lines of communication open, because when he was calling me he was still in the news…. But he just became, sadly, a carny barker as time went on.”
The trees died and Auburn had to replace them. Updyke pleaded guilty via a plea deal to poisoning them in 2013 and spent less than 70 days in jail. He was given probation and had to pay $800,000 in restitution. But he was summoned back to court in October for paying only about $5,000 of the money owed.
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