If college football is a religion in the South, some personal shrines in Columbia County have been desecrated in recent weeks.
One such shrine belonged to Meredith Ray, of Martinez, and according to her, the football gods are watching.
In early October, someone stole a flag supporting her beloved University of Florida Gators from the front yard of her West Lake home.
It was the third such theft in four years, she said. In response, the Florida alumna nailed a sign to a tree below an empty flagpole bracket hexing the guilty party's favorite football team.
It reads: "You have angered the Football Gods! Stealing my flag has changed your team's Karma! Return my flag and your team will stop losing!" It is signed, "Yours truly, Albert Gator," Florida's team mascot.
The Rays aren't the only college sports fans to lose decorations, banners and other memorabilia stolen from their home or car. In an October sheriff's incident report, a man told deputies someone stole his Clemson University flag and flagpole from the front porch of his Martinez home.
Earlier that month, in a separate incident, another Martinez man told authorities someone stole several University of Florida car ornaments from his Honda Civic. The car was also damaged when someone scratched the letter "G" into the paint of the driver's door.
Although there have been some recent incidents, Columbia County sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris said his department has not dealt with an unusual amount of these types of crimes.
Though she doesn't have any suspects, Ray said she believes the culprit might be a University of Georgia Bulldogs fan, since the team from Athens promptly lost four out of its next five games since the latest theft - including a loss to the Gators.
"I'm not sure anyone as classless as to steal my flagpole could read my sign, much less understand the concept of karma," Ray said. "I put up the sign and they (UGA) started to lose."
So far, though, football karma hasn't helped return any of Ray's three stolen flags, leaving her with no plans to display another Florida Gators banner.
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