Monday, August 15, 2011
Rivals Unite for Recovery
Participating in the first annual Alabama Power Rivals Unite for Recovery flag football game softened my heart. It made me dislike Alabama less than I did the day before. It forced my to look long and hard at my priorities and to remember the way I saw my competitors in crimson while I was a player myself...as a fraternity of brothers grinding through the everyday rigors of life in the Southeastern Conference and the mental, physical, spiritual hurdles we all navigate living that life. He was a foe I would fight like hell against within the confines of the Iron Bowl, but also a friend I camped with, a buddy I got to know on official visits or at stadiums around the SEC, a peer that understood the same pressures and labels I lived with every day. The longer you're away from the game and exposed to fandom...you forget! The more you hear the vitriol and see each fan base desire to ruin the other off the football field, the more cynical you become...you follow the crowd...you run with the wolves. The herd mentality takes over and pretty soon your entire outlook has changed. That's where I was and Saturday knocked me back down to reality...or to a fairy-tale world...depending on your current view. When you spend time with a Siran Stacy and hear the passion and grace he lives his life...exuding an immense desire to serve others all the while knowing his story includes the tragic death of his wife and 4 kids...your heart softens towards a bitter rival. When you meet a group of former Bama players and they're so extremely grateful to collaborate with bitter rivals in orange and blue to benefit a community they adore that's been utterly decimated and it brings tears to their eyes...you're heart melts a bit for your arch-enemy. When you share the field with a Shannon Brown and you hear how he lost a daughter in the Tuscaloosa tornado, it makes you squeeze your own kids tightly and thank God you've been given another day to be a father. When you share a laugh with an Antonio Langham recalling antics and the humorous disposition of a mutual defensive coordinator, you realize how similar your college experience was at competing schools. Yes, I live in the real world! No, I don't think Alabama and Auburn fans should gather around a large campfire, join hands and sing kumbaya. I also would hope the intensity, pageantry, pandemonium that is the Iron Bowl never ceases to exist. I want my kids to know and appreciate the greatest rivalry in all of sport. And when the Tide lines up to play Tennessee or Mississippi State or LSU this year...I'll root against them. That's what true Auburn fans do! At the same time, my disdain for "the dark side...the evil empire" will be tempered by the proper perspective. I hope I never forget the Alabama QB or RB or head coach or scout team kicker is a human being. He is not an instrument performing exclusively for our pleasure and entertainment. And when he lines up against my beloved Auburn Tigers the day of the Iron Bowl, I hope he is whipped into submission from opening to closing whistle. But, at the games conclusion, he becomes a friend again...an Alabamian...a fellow servant of the Lord...a brother in arms...a man with for more in common with myself than uncommon...someone I can look in the eye for the rest of my live and know we competed in a special game...we share a bond others only dream of. I thoroughly enjoyed participating in this game to raise money for tornado relief. I hope the event will perpetuate into a yearly occasion. I hope the fans learn a lesson in humility from the players as we work together for the good of the needs of our state. Prior to taking the field, the presidents of both Alabama's A Club and The Auburn Lettermen's Club spoke to a locker room at full capacity, half crimson...half blue...about the uniqueness, the unparalleled display of loyalty to do the right thing. They were correct. Working together for the greater good of humanity in the state of Alabama was indeed the right thing to do. I'm proud I was a participant. I'm glad I was reminded of what's truly important in life...right before our state (me included) immerse ourselves in the roller coaster ride of college football. I'll do my best to remember these young men are students, get sick, take tests, have nagging injuries, have children, lose parents, have no income, and have more pressure to perform than you could ever imagine. I hope you will too!