Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Crimson Commentary: The dark side of fandom

When it comes to college football, most notably football in the state of Alabama, the fans are as passionate as a starlet on an afternoon soap opera.

Great passion. For it is the vital piece to the formula that has earned this part of the nation the "honor" of having the best college football fans in the country.

The heart of college football lives in the SEC, and the fans live and die with each and every recruiting season, and each and every tackle, fumble...and touchdown.

However, like any strong movie script, the same qualities that make someone great, can also be the same qualities, that when used for evil, can transform them into a monster.
If you've bothered to take a peek at this post, you know the stories, and you know the participants in the "dark side" of fandom...and you also know the victims.

In no particular order, names like Harvey Updyke, Reuben Foster, Cade Foster, T.J. Yeldon, and Rashaan Evans are just a few of the individuals who have played a role in fandom turned evil.

Updyke, the most infamous member of fandom gone foul, is the known villain who killed the beloved and historic trees at Toomer's Corner in Auburn.

The players mentioned? Young men who were vilified for choosing "the wrong school," or in the case of Cade Foster, the Alabama field goal kicker who was vilified, several times in his career, for not splitting the uprights during the most critical of moments. Hated and harassed...by Alabama fans. His life threatened...by Alabama fans.

5-star linebacker Rashaan Evans, as mentioned above, allowing him to "introduce" his situation courtesy of a personal tweet, is the latest target of hatred and harassment.

As is often the case, Evans made the "fatal mistake" of picking the wrong school. The pride of Auburn High School slipped on an Alabama hat last week and inked with the Crimson Tide.

In a predictable fashion, which is unfortunate that something of this measure is now predictable, the current tool of harassment, social media, was used to harass Evans directly. Message boards also began gathering posts for negative chatter and mind-numbing vitriol.
I'm sure many of you have read the tweets, but if you haven't, you can guess the topics.

-You've turned against the Auburn family.
-You've turned against your (actual) family.
-How much did Alabama pay you?
Evans was Auburn since day one, correct? That's why he never gave a verbal commitment to Auburn, because he was "ALL IN" for the Tigers. Heh...

-You set us up.
-I hope you get injured.
-Your family is no longer welcomed in Auburn.

You know the rest of the story...

Fans, as if Evans' declaration to Alabama had a direct impact on their lives, acted out in the worst possible way.
Look at what you've done to US, was, in a nutshell, the overall sentiment by a large percentage of the Auburn fanbase. Rashaan, how on earth could you do this to us?


Again, as if somehow, on some bizarre level, Evans' decision would mean a horrible fate for Auburn fans. Almost as if the degree that Evans will now pursue from Alabama, will be their degree. A degree they never wanted.

In a strange and "cultish" sentiment via Twitter, an Auburn fan, instead of harassing, told Evans that he should send his National Letter of Intent to Auburn. The person in question also told Evans that he could be AU's "light," as if almost to suggest that Auburn would be "lost in the darkness" without Evans gracing the Auburn campus and football program.

Come back to the cult, Rashaan...you can do it! Cringe...
Holding true objectivity, this is not a "pick on Auburn" parade. As noted above, Harvey Updyke is a first-class bottom feeder, and so are those who weren't able to handle Cade Foster's mishaps without using Twitter as a forum to essentially close and nail his coffin.

Idiots are abloom, for it is the way of the world, especially here in 2014, and especially with the vehicle known as social media.

20 years ago, Rashaan Evans could have left Auburn High School for the University of Alabama, and the story would have appeared in the newspaper, but not the hatred.

With the Internet not yet a household tool, and message boards and social media not yet an avenue for conversation, those who hated Evans, and his family, would have been reduced to basic gibberish held under their breath, or perhaps the local drug store conversation with a group of five people or less.

However, today, stories like that of Evans, Cade Foster, etc, can become viral in seconds, and personal within the same amount of time.

In 1994, for example, some 55-year old man, devastated by Evans' decision to select the Tide, would have never been able to sit behind his computer, locate Evans personally, and then within seconds...tell the youngster to "drop dead."

What most sane people wouldn't give to go back to 1994. Am I right?

I don't have the answers, and I certainly don't claim to be the ultimate peacemaker, but it really doesn't take a genius to figure out that those who do the actions that have been documented above, and documented ad nauseam via the major media outlets...are simply sick in the head.

Some 5-star high school football player should never be your "light," and the outcome of a football game should never compel you to kill trees.

College football fans in this part of the country have a passion, but a small percentage also have a sickness.

To those who spread hate to high school recruits, current players, and even trees, you need to know that whatever upset you, was never about you. Don't take something personal, that was never personal.
As for Rashaan Evans, the young man is not on a journey to live the future you've selected for him, Evans is on a quest to live the future that he's selected for himself. A future, that in the end, only he can write.

So, middle-aged man behind the computer, your ship has sailed. Your adventure has ended, the 17-year old kid that you're harassing, his journey has just begun.

Respectfully allow Evans, and those like him, to take their journey...free of insults.

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