Thursday, March 3, 2011

shameless promotion (2.0): March 3, 2011

Editor's Note: In the ongoing effort of this blog to get its primary author firedpromote its primary author's failingcareer as a writer, we present to you this week's column from the St. Clair Times. As always, please feel free to leave your thoughts here or find us on Twitter. We thank you in advance for your feigning of interest.
Unity in the fallout?

There’s 40 acres
And redemption to be found
Just along down the way
There is a place where no plow blade has turned the ground
And you will turn it over
Cause out here hope remains …

Caedmon’s Call

A funny thing happened last week at Toomer’s Corner.

Actually, we should back up. The truth is that multiple “funny things” have happened at Toomer’s Corner in the past few weeks, mostly relating to one “funny thing” that wasn’t at all funny. In fact, the poisoning of the oak trees there (probably fatal, though some encouraging signs have emerged lately) was the opposite of funny; it was evil.

The aftermath, however, was something virtually no one could have expected.

See, the great thing about a rivalry like the Auburn-Bama rivalry is the passion and intensity. Our teams compete against one another like crazed animals, and we scream at the top of our lungs hoping we’ll beat one another’s brains in. I’ve been to more than a decade’s worth of Auburn-Alabama competition now, and the experience is something special that words can barely capture.

There’s a catch, though: Passion and intensity are also two of the rivalry’s most disturbing qualities. And it seems like it’s getting worse as time goes by.

In the immediate aftermath of the horrific shootings that occurred in Arizona last month, political pundits and public officials wondered if it wasn’t time to examine the health of our discourse in America. With improved technology and more immediacy allowing us (encouraging us, really) to react viscerally to every story we saw, were we spiraling out of control?

Auburn and Alabama fans seem to have reached a similar point, culminating in the attack on Toomer’s Corner. We all should’ve been slapping each other on the back and marveling at an incredible two-year stretch of football played at the highest level; instead, we spent the time accusing one another of cheating and finding reasons to ratchet up the hatred.

Ultimately, we came face to face with an ugly truth: For too many of us, this rivalry isn’t a fun escape from our real lives — this is life, and we are wholly consumed by it 12 months out of every year.

And that’s why what happened in the immediate aftermath was encouraging. A large portion of the Alabama fan base, as disgusted as everyone in orange and blue, chose to link arms with their Auburn brethren across the state, creating groups like “Tide for Toomer’s” to help raise money to support the cause.

A few even showed up to a “Toomer’s Tree Hug” in Bama gear, in a show of solidarity. And what’s more, the Auburn fans there embraced them … literally. It was a touching display in a rivalry that has precious few touching displays.

For a few minutes, at least, there were no Auburn or Alabama fans, just a group of people standing up for common decency.

It won’t bring the trees back to life. But it might have brought this rivalry back from the brink.

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