For that the evil ones comes here, and say,
“Fall down, O Simeon: thou hast suffer’d long
For ages and for ages!”
-- Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “St. Simeon Stylites”
Flagpole sitting became a popular fad in the United States in the 1920s and held the attention of bored jackasses for roughly five years. Somewhat on the low end of spectacles, flagpole sitting gained much of its appeal from the unspoken but undeniable promise of flagpole falling.
A promise too often broken since the, ahem, sport’s only skill was sitting in one spot long after the point most other people would have to use the john. Thus, flagpole sitting did not endure into the thirties.
Other than the altitude, little suggests its origins reach back to Saint Simeon Stylites the Elder, the ascetic who climbed atop a lone column among the ruins and found disciples by trying to escape them.
However, where and why a fad begins, what spark seizes the imagination into an inferno, is hard to pinpoint. If last week’s results alone were evidence, I could hardly defend the wildcat formation. What is so special about a jet sweep, a power run, or a counter fake? About three yards, apparently.
Simeon, by the way, would have been a poor inspiration for the bandwagon jumpers of the Roarin’ Twenties. He died on his pole. And brutally.
Years of exposure in the Syrian desert had left his body rotted with sores, and the sores crawling with maggots. When one of his followers climbed the ladder and attempted to clean them, the strange little preacher in the sky stopped him, saying that they were eating no more than what God had intended. Such a fate should await everyone with a divine plan.
Speaking of sports for sitters, the promised fall is the same reason NASCAR highlights only show the crashes and the victory lap (which would translate to a football reel of nothing but holding penalties and the scoreboard). It is a dubious element in man’s nature that brings him to watch the possibility of another’s destruction, and worse still the disappointment he feels when it does not come.
Some of the same element, though, is surely present when pulling for the underdog, the outmanned and outgunned opponent against impossible odds. Or at least a five-touchdown spread.
Such is the case tomorrow, when Alabama takes on Florida International, at team that has won only six games in the past three seasons. Five of them last year. So the Crimson Tide is a significant favorite, which is no surprise. After snapping a two-game losing streak, Alabama may well be a favorite in every game from now until after Thanksgiving.
In certain quarters, you might hear a team such as Florida International referred to by metaphor of a child’s pastry, a particular baked good, palm-sized, its top adorned with a layer of sugared frosting and miniature candies.
Not here though. The Great Leader has commanded that we “repect our opponent.” So let it be done. Let the teams play their best. Vegas and the flu be damned, I hope Bama stomps ‘em.