Rites of autumn

By Brandon Evans | Published Wednesday, August 8, 2012

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Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“I will endure to be burned, to be bound, to be beaten, and to be killed by the sword.” – oath of the gladiator in Gaius Petronius’ Satyricon

A horde of helmets storm the field. They tear through banners and clouds of smoke.

The sky’s blue darkens in autumn. The sun sets sooner. And on Friday nights, spectators gather in every small Texas town’s version of the Coliseum.

Horns blare like the hearkening of knights onto a medieval field. The setting sun dips like the flesh of a brilliant backlit blood orange into the west behind Bull Memorial Stadium.

The aggressive nature of the sport, red in tooth and claw, mimics the harsh laws of nature. The normally tranquil masses teem for concussive shots and shattered bones. The strong, quick and furious are praised; the weak cast aside.

The empire demands spectacle. Youth dreaming of fame are eager to give blood.

Our roaming photographer captured this image last fall in Bridgeport. The rigid lines of the stadium contrasted with the soft edges of the clouds at sunset. But the round shapes of the people and instruments and bright lights mimic nature’s lines, like the brutal sport on the field mimics nature’s laws.

And as our young gladiators take the field, remember the words they said in ancient Rome before they entered the arena, bestowed with fanfare.

“Ave, Caesar, morituri te salutant.”
(Hail, Caesar, those who are about to die salute you.)

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