Streaks matter in sports. Forgive the obvious statement, but scores, records and streaks are a big reason why we all pay attention to this stuff. They’re a matter of pride and posterity, of staking territory on the sports landscape. For a fanbase and community, they represent a shared sense of achievement and recognition.

For alumni and fans of Washington State University, the streak of waving the Cougars flag, Ol’ Crimson, in the background during ESPN College Gameday is just such a mark. Ol’ Crimson has been there in the crowd for 166 consecutive broadcasts, dating back to 2003. But the streak was in jeopardy this past Saturday, as the WSU flag was having difficulty making the trip from Tuscaloosa to Tuscon, stuck in Mississippi as of Friday.

Fortunately for Cougars fans, the Gameday production crew also takes that Ol’ Crimson streak seriously. Very seriously, actually. Gameday senior producer Lee Fitting has been with the show for 12 years, with the WSU flag there present for every one of those broadcasts. So the streak and the superstition that comes with it was also very important to him.

How important? Steps were taken to remove a replica flag from the ESPN cafeteria and ship it out to Tuscon to keep the streak alive. And if the flag somehow didn’t make it, Fitting was considering drastic, dedicated means to avoid breaking this superstition.

“We were joking in the meeting today, if the flag does not make it, they can hoist me up shirtless on a flag pole,” Fitting told Scott Van Pelt on Friday night’s SportsCenter, “and I will paint myself in the Washington State colors and they can wave me around for three hours.”

But thanks to UPS Express Critical, such measures were not necessary. Ol’ Crimson made it to Tucson. And if the ESPN flag hadn’t gotten there in time for Saturday’s broadcast, another WSU alumni made the trip from Pullman with another replica flag to make sure the streak stayed alive.

Fitting was surely grateful for that, though a national TV audience and the producer’s colleagues may have been looking forward to him flying shirtless from a flagpole painted in crimson and grey. His dedication and courage are to be admired.

The entire ordeal has raised the question of College Gameday possibly making the trip to Pullman this season. Fitting called it “a must” and called for a shift in priorities on Twitter. So when would be a good date for that? CougCenter suggests WSU homecoming, which would be Oct. 17 versus Oregon State. But our Matt Zemek picked South Bend for Week 7, when Notre Dame hosts USC. What about Halloween when WSU plays Stanford? That’s the same week Georgia plays Florida in Jacksonville.

Regardless of whether or not College Gameday goes to Pullman, we know that Ol’ Crimson will be wherever the show is, flying in the background. If the dedicated Cougars alumni and fanbase don’t make it happen, ESPN and UPS Express Critical will keep the streak alive. Order will be maintained, even if it means Fitting has to be body-painted and waved from a flagpole. These things matter.


About Ian Casselberry

Ian is a writer, editor, and podcaster. You can find his work at Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He's written for Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation.