August 01, 2012 - It was obviously someone's idea of a joke, but Oxford Athletic Director Mike Watson isn't laughing.
In fact, he's pretty mad about it.
"I can't tell you anything else that makes me more upset than this kind of stuff because it takes away from our resources and what we're here to do," Watson said.
He was referring to the fact that some unknown person (or persons) used red spray paint to draw a large penis on the giant golden "O" at the center of the Oxford High School football field, which consists of synthetic turf.
"It's about the size of one side of the 'O' so it's got to be a good 5 yards tall," Watson said.
It's believed this act of vandalism was perpetrated sometime overnight between Saturday, July 28 and Sunday, July 29.
Inside the graffiti drawing were the letters "L" and "O," which Watson speculated stand for Lake Orion – Oxford's main rival.
"We've alerted Lake Orion (school officials) because it had an 'LO' in it," he said. "Whether that's our kids putting that in there or kids from Lake Orion, I don't know. We've alerted them so this thing doesn't escalate (and) they can keep a heads up."
Watson also wants Lake Orion and Oxford coaches to "keep an ear out."
"If kids talk, we can find out who did this," he said.
Watson noted this isn't an isolated incident. Since the Oxford Wildcats and Lake Orion Dragons renewed their intense football rivalry in 2010, there have been plenty off-the-field shenanigans.
"They've had problems with our kids. We've had problems with their kids," Watson said. "I think this really needs to be in the public eye."
Whether you call them pranks, vandalism or destruction of property, Watson fears it's these types of activities, which are crimes, that could lead to the discontinuation of the Oxford-Lake Orion football series again.
"We just don't have the resources to deal with this," he said. "Every single moment that we put into this stuff takes away from the whole purpose of why we have sports. It's sad and it's just not worth it because it draws attention away from the positives of having this rivalry."
Earlier this summer, a custom-painted blue-and-gold utility vehicle was stolen from the OHS concession stand by the baseball/softball fields. "The police found it burning on the Polly Ann Trail," Watson said. "That's an $8,000 piece of equipment. We just do not have the resources to deal with this."
When asked if he believes that vehicle theft and arson was related to the rivalry, Watson replied, "I have no idea. I know that it could be. I know that Lake Orion's had their baseball/softball concession stand broken into three times this summer."
"Until we can make an example out of somebody, we're just in firefighter mode right now," he added. "We're racking our brains as to what we can do to change this culture."
Fortunately, the damage to Oxford's football field isn't permanent.
"We don't have to replace the section (of vandalized turf)," Watson said. "Honestly, if (the vandals) used spray paint like Krylon, that's one of the easiest things to clean off the actual turf (using a special chemical)."
The hard part will be dealing with the ground-up bits of recycled rubber tires used as fill between the fake blades of grass in order to give the field a springy cushion feel.
"The paint will come off the fibers, but the paint stays on the rubber," Watson explained. "We'll have to really groom that rubber out to make sure that there's not like a faint outline of (the drawing) – we call it ghosting."
"The worst case scenario is that we vacuum out that rubber and replace it with other rubber," he noted.
"I'm really confident that the paint comes off the turf; it just doesn't come off the rubber very easily. It will come off over time, but you can't really scrub that rubber, so to speak. It's going to stay on that. That chemical (cleaner) will take some of it off. Actually the heat helps us in that regard. It will help the chemical be more effective. But there will still be some red rubber pellets on there."
Fortunately, it doesn't appear as though the vandal or vandals were able to do a very thorough job.
"Like any vandal, they didn't want to be out there for very long, so they didn't spray paint it very deep," Watson said.
Watson estimated the cost to clean the turf will be "anywhere from $500 to $1,000."
"For the most part the chemical's pretty cheap, but it's going to take labor," he said. "The deal with the labor is that it's (provided by) a contracted lawn company and so I pay them kind of a higher labor rate than I would our own people."
Anyone with any information related to the football field vandalism is asked to please call the Oakland County Sheriff's Dept. Oxford Twp. substation at (248) 969-3077.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.