Sunday, June 15, 2008

Yale Captain Shows Us How Lame Rowing Is

The latest news around here was the earthquake that killed 11 people and injured about 150, and I'll get to that in due time. I was going to write about it now, but I came across a mock-worthy rowing article, and when it's natural disaster vs. making fun of rowing, I have to make the hard choice and go with rowing...

The Harvard-Yale race happened sometime in the last couple weeks. For those of you who don't know, this is the oldest American intercollegiate sporting event. A hundred and fifty years ago, most young physically fit men were doing things useful to society and needed to generate money for their families--farming, delivering newspapers, laying bricks, shoeing horses, stuff like that. Of course, when your family estate is maintained by a collection of slaves and underfed orphans, you have more free time to devote to activities that are super expensive and benefit no one, like racing row boats. So that's exactly what our well-heeled lads from Harvard and Yale did, and the rest is history.

So the race just happened--Harvard won--and I found this description by the Yale captain pretty funny:

"It was like a boxing match," said Yale captain Jack Vogelsang, who was in the six seat. "You throw a couple punches, then wait and see how they respond. They throw a couple at you, you put up your defenses and try to go in. So much of it is just being very patient and knowing when to go in. They played it well."

Definitive proof of how lame rowing is. The reality is that the race was nothing like a boxing match. Boxing is exciting and dramatic. There's a lot of fancy footwork, physical danger, and an incredibly fast pace. A sport where you can find a psychologically broken and physically exceptional specimen like Mike Tyson--a poor black kid with fire in his belly beating the shit out of everyone in his path. A sport with a pretty compelling narrative, warts and all.

The Harvard-Yale race is a bunch of rich white kids racing carbon fiber boats at relatively slow speeds. There is almost no guile or strategy. Each stroke is exactly the same. Basically, from the word "go" you try as hard as you can and hope you win. Occasionally your coxswain will tell you to "make a move," which means you try harder for like 20 strokes, but you're already trying as hard as you can, so usually not much happens.

This guy from Yale is trying to associate rowing with boxing to leech off some of the danger and excitement into his own relatively dull sport. I don't blame him...he's searching for a way to convey his excitement about the race and make it relevant to the rest of the world.

But the bottom line for me is that interesting sports don't have to metaphorically compare themselves to other sports to seem interesting. Correct me if I'm wrong, but do football players ever say "This game was like a boxing match?" No way man. They don't have to. They say "This game was like a badass game of football, where grown men are running into each other at full speed and breaking their bones."

My dream is to hear a hardened ex gang-member welterweight emerge bloodied from the championship fight and tell reporters that it was a lot like the Harvard-Yale race.


Tom said...

Funny! I think you have the makings of a comic novel here with some great characters.

It is funnier still when you consider you chose to write about that instead of the 7.2.

Nate said...

Yeah, if there's one thing that gets me all riled up, it's rowing...fear not, I'll get to the earthquake.