Policing their own a must for SEC fans

By now, just about everybody has seen or heard about the despicable incident in New Orleans which led to the arrest of Alabama fan Brian Downing.

He’s charged with committing sexual battery against an unconscious LSU fan on Bourbon Street following the Allstate BCS National Championship Game, all of which was caught on video and made the rounds on the internet.

Downing, who’s from Smiths Station, Ala., turned himself in to New Orleans Police on Thursday night. His bond was set at $10,000.

I’d refrained from weighing in on this latest black eye involving a supposed Alabama fan for a couple of different reasons.

For one, I wanted to see what additional information came out about the situation, and what was fact and what was fiction.

And even more importantly, the less attention given to such garbage, the better off we all are. At least, that’s always been my take.

But, hey, it’s a national story now, and SEC fans (Alabama fans in this particular case) come off looking like the stereotypical uncouth knuckleheads that they are portrayed to be in other parts of the country.

I know better.

For every Brian Downing and every Harvey Updyke, there are scores of fans across the SEC that exude class and would never in their wildest (or drunken) dreams think about doing something like Downing and Updyke are accused of doing.

Again, I know because I’ve met you during my travels the past five seasons while covering college football for ESPN.com.

I met many of you in New Orleans -- Alabama and LSU fans -- this month leading up to the big game.

You were passionate, opinionated, emotionally charged and steadfastly loyal to your team.

Most of you were kind, too, and that’s whether we were sitting in the airport, partying in a blues club on Bourbon Street or walking out of the Superdome.

But in no way were you threatening, vulgar, obnoxious or out of control.

Sadly, the latter is the rep attached to SEC fans thanks to the Brian Downings and Harvey Updykes of the world.

It’s not just Alabama, either. Fans in this league are notorious for pointing the finger. Every school has that that small cluster of fans that screws it up for everybody else.

So when those people do something stupid or embarrassing, don’t glorify it. Repudiate it.

Reportedly, Updyke was in New Orleans for the game and posing for pictures with fans on Bourbon Street.

Here’s a thought: If you run into him again, ignore him. Maybe then he’ll go away.

I’m not suggesting that SEC football fans sit around and sing “Kumbaya” and never look to stir it up or get under the skin of their rivals.

They revel in doing so. This is, after all, the SEC, the league that reinvented the phrase, “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.”

But it’s also important to note that the Brian Downings and Harvey Updykes of the world are the exception and not the rule.

They just tend to get a lot more attention than the family with three generations of Alabama graduates that flies in from different parts of the country to be together for the game.

The same goes for the wealthy Alabama donor who owns a successful business and gives his tickets to the game away to a fan who can’t afford them.

And that’s ditto for the guy who played on Bear Bryant’s first team at Alabama and is determined to be there to see his alma mater win another national championship.

SEC fans are unique, no doubt, when it comes to the fervor with which they follow their football teams.

But there’s a marked difference between a school’s true fan base and the lunatic fringe.

The last thing anybody in this league wants is for the margin between those two groups to somehow become blurred, which means the onus is on the fans at each SEC to police their own.