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(We are updating the list of Memphis area relief efforts at the bottom so keep checking back for more information)

Sometimes, in the midst of a contentious game or series, it is easy to lose perspective on why we are drawn to sports. They are a microcosm of the human experience, complete with triumph and failure, love and hate, friend and foe. Earlier this month, as the Grizzlies and Thunder were locked in a closely contested playoff series, fans from both sides engaged in (mostly) good-natured trash talk about the opposing team and city. Some people believe that such banter represents all that is wrong with sports and caution against what it brings out in people. I disagree. It merely represents the flip-side of the same coin that brings rivals to the aid of one another in times of tragedy and loss.

The unfortunate events in Oklahoma this week provide confirmation that rivalry brings out the best in people far more than it brings out the worst. Monday night my Twitter feed was littered with dozens of messages from #GrizzNation expressing solidarity with #ThunderNation and the people of Oklahoma. The very fans who were bantering back and forth about who would win a basketball game ten days ago are the ones now asking if everyone was safe and what they can do to help.

I could post #GrizzNation’s tweets all day and never get to them all. You see, the negativity that sometimes comes with rivalry has its roots in something positive. Rivalry is born of pride in yourself and your hometown or home team. It is born of respect for your opponent, if not even a touch of envy. It carries an undertone of mutual understanding and shared experience about what it means to love something bigger than yourself. While these things may not be easy to see during a tense playoff series, they become clear when tragedy strikes.

There may be no greater example of a deeply divisive rivalry than the one between the University of Alabama and Auburn University. The saga between the two is littered with examples of individuals acting irresponsibly in a way that stoked the fire of the rivalry and embarrassed both fan bases. However, the elements that drive those sad and depraved few to act are the same ones that drive tens of thousands to stand in support of one another in the face of devastating tragedy.

On April 27, 2011, an EF-4 tornado struck the heart of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, leaving a trail of destruction and death all the way to Birmingham. The tornado took the lives of sixty-four people and caused $2.2 billion in damage. In the face of this tragedy, Auburn fans immediately began to organize relief efforts for their Alabama brethren. The Auburn football team drove to Tuscaloosa to help in the cleanup efforts. The rivalry that has too often been soured by the irresponsible actions of a few was redeemed by the benevolence of many.

Indeed, rivalry transcends wins and losses. One need only to look at the way the New York Yankees players, organization and team responded to the tragic bombing of the Boston Marathon to be reminded that these rivalries are about more than hate or sports. Similarly, when a gunman took the lives of thirty-two innocent people at Virginia Tech in 2007, the University of Virginia ground to a halt and held a vigil for the fallen. And now, as the full scope of the devastation in Oklahoma is still being measured, the City of Memphis and #GrizzNation stand ready to help.

Oklahoma is full of strong, capable and resilient people who have overcome countless tragedies over the decades. There is little doubt they will RISE UP once again following this tornado. That doesn’t mean that a little help isn’t needed and welcomed. The team at Welcome to Loud City has compiled a wonderful resource of information about the conditions in Oklahoma and instructions about how we can help. Also, here is the link for the American Red Cross and Animal Resources Center of Oklahoma City, two organizations in need of our support. I encourage you all to head to these sites and help in any way you can. Also, if you are organizing any relief efforts and/or collection drives here in Memphis, please let us know so that we can help publicize them.

Some things transcend sports, offering a perspective we wish we never needed. In these tragic moments are opportunities for those of us fortunate enough to be unaffected to stand up and offer a helping hand. These are opportunities to showcase the better side of rivalry.

 

Pray for Oklahoma, Memphis.

 

@jmay11

 

MEMPHIS AREA RELIEF EFFORTS - 

  • Newby’s on the Highland Strip will be collecting items to send to OKC from 3pm to 3am on Tuesday, May 21, 2013 – details are on the Newby’s Facebook page. Among items they are collecting: Diapers, Baby Wipes, Formula, Bottled Water, Gatorde, Hand Towels, Individually wrapped snacks, Work Gloves (no clothing). ​
  • Flying Saucer is collecting money for the Red Cross efforts in OKC. You can get more information on the Flying Saucer facebook page
  • WMC-TV5 said provided the following: To donate to the Red Cross to help the Oklahoma storm victims – call 866-9629467. To donate $10, text REDCROSS to 90999​.
  • The Memphis Grizzlies will be collecting donations at Game 3 (Saturday) and Game 4 (Monday) to help the people of Oklahoma recover from this week’s tornados. The team press release can be found here. Additionally, Tony Allen (OSU alumni) will be matching every donation! Make sure you find one of the Red Cross volunteers at FedExForum before or after the game and contribute to the rebuilding of Oklahoma.

 

This was post originally published by @jmay11 at GrizzGrind.com.

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