Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Rocco's event

a voice from the rustbelt believes the most interesting, and impressive sporting event in Cleveland is Saint Rocco's greasy pole climb. It is held on Labor Day beginning at 2 o'clock during the last day of their parish festival. This year, the prise money was $3 thousand (the last two years had no winner), and team Dempsey would win for the 10th time. As they were celebrating, four navy fighter planes flew over the parish in a diamond formation.

This event is now a rarity. Before the first world war these events were common. Saint Rocco's began their parish with a festival, and the tradition lives on.

This year nine five man teams competed in the three rounds. In the first round only four are allowed to climb, it is not possible to win in the first round. What the first round does is to remove as much grease as possible, so as to make a climb and reach to the top possible. The pole would be six men high.

It was another hot day for the climb, officially reaching 89°F. The black asphalt in the open sun making it hotter. The guys wear grease absorbing clothes, cinched with duck tape. This year, the grease was a thinner coat; this did not aid as much as some thought. There was much less grease to throw down, fewer spectators caught the globs. Some years, the grease is so thick, and the air so hot, that the grease tumbles by itself.

The usual action has four men standing straight, with each man below bearing all the weight of his fellows above. A successful first round accomplishes this, some teams can not get the fourth guy up. The base man is largely invisible, there are so many people around him, the crowd can not see him. The next procedure has the guys at the top 'lock in', this is a more compact hugging of the pole, where their knees rise up. This causes their feet to be removed from the shoulders of the guy below. At that point, usually, the two guys on the bottom are free. Then the remaining group attempt to climb his brothers. Sometimes more than one tries to go higher, often the third guy (of the five) goes over the other two,and if successful makes the winning touch.
 After the climbing attempt, contenders recover their breath while carrying some grease on their bodies.

Climbing, very quickly, up and over a teammate, the point man for Team Ross makes his second attempt to reach the crossbar of victory.
...and two seconds later he is falling to the black top parking lot. Behind him is a cameraman filming a documentary. He lay on the ground for some minutes, but quickly telling people he would be all right. A wheeled stretcher came to transport him. He did give people the thumbs up gesture when he was taken away.

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