Being an empire, Rome was by definition always trying to annex more territory, generally by the sword-and-shield method. Whenever a newly defeated area became part of Rome, it was customary for the military leader who had achieved that goal to ride through downtown in a chariot as part of a victory parade. Caesar basically said, Well, OK, but every general in a victory parade must have a slave (long story, for another time) riding beside him in the parade to whisper in his ear, again and again, a single phrase: “Sic transit gloria mundi!”
When I was a kid, I guessed that this meant, “When I’m ill on a weekday, I ride the bus with Gloria.” But I later found out it’s a Latin phrase that translates loosely as, “All earthly glory is fleeting!”
Which, for me—at this time of year especially—brings up the subject of college football. I can only speak for myself, but on October and November Saturdays when the leaves just beyond our living room window are the color of the University of Alabama’s team jerseys and I’m suffused into the fabric of the recliner drinking iced tea and eating boiled peanuts and listening to announcer Eli Gold intone the timeless words, “...going from left to right, in crimson jerseys with white numerals, and wearing white pants with a double crimson stripe up the pant leg...” I have what can only be called an out-of-body experience. (Disclaimer: If neither Alabama nor Auburn is playing I’ll gratefully watch any game that’s on TV. In those games, though, my Scots-Irish heritage means that I’m always obligated to root for the underdog—which not only is harder than it looks, but by definition it means “my” team can never win. But I digress.)
I’m guessing part of my fascination with football is that I never played it, nor was asked to. As a kid, I was so short and skinny there was a rumor in the neighborhood (I wish I were making this up) that my parents had adopted a refugee. So, denied an athletic career, I set my sights on the stars.
John Glenn and the glorious space program were going strong, and I figured that the job title of astronaut wouldn’t be a bad second choice to quarterback. That was before I discovered that pilots and astronauts need two good eyes, and I only have one. But I digress.
The way this all relates to my self-growth is that on autumn Saturdays I really need to have somebody (non-slave) whispering in my ear above Eli Gold’s voice, the reminder “Sic transit gloria mundi!” Or more specifically, a voice reminding me that I need to take a shower, meet a writing deadline, call my mom, get the oil changed. Stuff like that. There are two reasons I don’t have my own Football Whisperer, I think. One is that I realize at some level, even as I’m watching, how fleeting these moments are in the bigger picture (I’m not talking about a 60-inch TV). And somehow I get the most necessary stuff done, eventually. Usually. For the most part.
And I know that every gridiron season ends the same way: the holidays come, a national champion is decided, at least five million bowl games is/are played, and that’s that.
Which is when I get out my worn DVD of “Apollo 13,” and life goes on.
Sic transit gloria Saturday!
Dale Short is a native of Walker County. His columns, photos, books, and radio features are available on his website, carrolldaleshort.com. His weekly radio program “Music from Home” airs each Sunday at 6 pm on Oldies 101.5 FM and is archived afterward on his website.