About this time last year who would have thought that Auburn would not only beat Alabama in the Iron Bowl, but would go on to capture the SEC its fifth consecutive National Championship in football? Alabama was still king, fresh off their National Championship victory with the program's first ever Heisman trophy winner, Mark Ingram, and the rest of us were already growing tired of the wall to wall coverage of all things Bama and their gloating. And it was only May.
But the unthinkable happened once the 2010 football season finally commenced. South Carolina beat Bama, then LSU beat Bama, and finally, in arguably one the greatest comebacks in college football history, Auburn squeaked out yet another improbable win against Alabama at home with a phenom whose eligibility to play was questionable. Bama fans went from the pinnacle of victory to the depths of defeat in one short year. From SEC Champs, and National Champs with their first Heisman winner, to witnessing their most hated rivals winning their first National Championship in 53 years in what many consider a tainted season with a tainted Heisman winner amidst the whole Cam Newton frenzy/controversy. It was more than some could bear.
In January 2011, Harvey Updyke, an avid Alabama fan, called the Paul Finebaum show claiming to have poisoned Auburn's beloved Toomer's Corner trees as an act of retribution against Auburn fans. He later stated that he had "too much Bama in me." The story became national news and shone a very ugly spotlight on the state of Alabama and the "passion" of SEC football and its rivalries in the wake of such a controversial season.
But after all this some University of Alabama law students did the "classy" thing and formed Tide for Toomer's and helped raise $50,000 to help save the trees in an act to help unify the two schools and their fans. The photo below was taken on March 25, 2011.
Just over one month later, on April 27, the Southeast suffered one of the deadliest storm systems in American history and Tuscaloosa, home of the University of Alabama, sustained the greatest loss of life and damage. Taylor Nichols (pictured above, second from the right) lost his apartment on the same day that Auburn University sent him a letter of thanks and gratitude.
Immediately an Auburn fan, Warren Tidwell from Opelika, AL, began Toomer's for Tuscaloosa, in an effort to return the goodwill offered by Tide for Toomer's.
“I don’t want this to be about me,” Tidwell said. “I’m just trying to help.”
And help they have. A cursory look at the Toomer's for Tuscaloosa Facebook page shows the extent of not only their efforts but also their efficiency in getting supplies and relief to and from all across Alabama. And what was unimaginable a year ago, and even just mere weeks ago, then happened; Two of the most hated rivals in college football united in the wake of disaster.
Why is there suffering and heartache? No one can answer for certain. But this is undeniable, that no matter how great the tragedy, no matter how great the evil or suffering, good is always greater. Darkness cannot smother light, but regardless of the extent of the darkness, even the faintest ray of light will pierce it.