Harvey Updyke is Auburn's "Coma Baby"

Bear with me. I'm trying to hammer this out between jobs this morning. I'll probably have to come back and re-tool it later. Still, here goes.

Maybe you've read the book, or seen the play or movie, "Bright Lights Big City". I've only seen the movie twice and read the book only once (and that was years ago). But you know, when something sticks with you? Some concept that really makes sense and you find yourself applying it to other scenarios? This is one of those cases.

Bright Lights Big City (I'm referring specifically to the movie from here on) has the "Coma Baby" this meta-summary of the events that are unfolding in the movie seen through the periphery. The Onion's AV Club does a good job of summing it up in one of their Inventory lists:

You Can watch the full scene here:

My basic theory is this (with apologies to Dr. Hannah for a quickly researched and hastily put together thesis):

The "Coma Baby" exists as a social commentary we have no control over. In the film the Coma acts as a running commentary on the main characters life, in practice, The "Coma Baby" can refer to a media event that offers unwarranted yet cathartic commentary on another issue.

Harvey Updyke is Auburn's Coma Baby. This saga, which keeps getting weirder, is now playing out like a soap opera. It's only going to get worse. From the actual event, the trial, the "assault", and the long legal process this is going to take (and believe me, it will be long).

Outsiders see the Updyke Saga as "fandom gone to far" and "look at dem crazy rednecks", etc. That's true, but like the "Coma Baby" they are only gleaming the headlines and drawing conclusions. In my opinion, Updyke's story is a comment upon how the landscape of College Football, and the Iron Bowl rivalry have changed.

We created this beast. We, as college football fans, demand information constantly. We want updates. We want to know how far Zeke Pike can throw a ball. When a recruit leaves after a weekend visit, we want to know (within hours) what he said, how he felt, what his gut is telling him. When someone gives an interview we want to read the updates and quotes on twitter. We are hungry for knowledge. We listen to Paul Finebaum and curse his name, but like true junkies, we tune in every day.

That hunger has ratcheted up the rivalry to an ugly level. A rivalry that's never been on good ground to begin with (remember Auburn & Alabama had to take a "break" from the rivalry over a simple money dispute). It's created and given a voice to the fringe of both our fanbases that we tried to long hide.

Listen, you and me are normal football fans. You wouldn't try to burn down Denny Chimes or harm an Alabama fan just because you "hate" the other team. Yet, slowly we are becoming the minority. You can call them "sidewalk" alums (even though I absolutely despise that term) and try to ignore them, but I know plenty of folks who hold degrees from either school who can have moments and twinges of "fan-sanity".

So these fans, this crazy fringe, now has a platform. Instead of just being that crazy guy you talk to at passing at the Conoco, he now can publish a blog, fill up message boards, and call in to radio talk shows. As they do this, they increase their own "self-worth". They get e-"atta boys" and become legends on the internet.

This is where Harvey Updyke comes in. He followed that same rise. He called into Finebaum, he posted his brags on message boards, and the entire time he was lauded by other members of the fringe.

So the Updyke saga is playing out. His legal obligations are being followed around the country. Updyke's story is serving as Auburn's "Coma Baby" and showing us (and Alabama) what is going wrong with our rivalry and the current state of fandom. Just like the "Coma Baby", everyone has an opinion on how it should be dealt with. Everyone has a comment. Everyone wants to know what's next. We're perversely fascinated by it.

At the end of the Bright Lights Big City, the main character asks if the Baby wants to be birthed, if he wants to leave. His response?

“No Way, Jose. I like it in here—everything I need is pumped in.”

So what if I asked you, would you change the rivalry? Would you live in a college football world where there was no Finebaum, no message boards, no twitter updates? I'm pretty sure, for the majority of fans, the response would be just like the Coma Baby's:

“No Way, Jose. I like it in here—everything I need is pumped in.”

So for now, we're just going to have to sit back, and let the Updyke saga comment on the ugly state of our two fan bases. Let it play out and continue to fester and grow. Many people wondered if this would be the "final straw". I don't think it is. If anything, this is opening salvo, and it's only going to get worse from here.


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