Nothing's really changed. The smell's the same, the guys still run stadiums after coming in half-dead from the river, and freshman coxswains still rack up about one shell a year. Anyone complaining about the rapid changes at Harvard can retire to Newell Boat House and find stability.
I went down to the boat house yesterday to see how nostalgic I could get about it after over two years' absence. I was one of the 100 freshmen in September 1967 who crammed Newell to watch films of Harvard crews racing in Europe and to hear about the program from the man we'd seen on the cover of Sports Illustrated during our childhood, Harry Parker. We all sat there imagining ourselves in that shell rowing for Harry, and winning.
Sitting out there on the dock at 5:30 p. m. yesterday, I realized that it was dark. I remembered what it had been like the first time we had to cox in the dark; if we had been piling up shells in the daylight, how the hell were we to avoid it in the darkness? But there were no serious mishaps, maybe because we'd already had our accident-one freshmen crew had broadsided another. Last year's accident featured a freshman cox who decided to combat the offdock wind by heading in perpendicular to the dock and taking a power ten. This fall, one oarsman piled Harry's personal single into a bridge.
These were the thoughts that crossed my mind as I sat there contemplating the river, and inevitably, life. I reached no conclusions, and then three varsity pairs arrived. Jim Ehrman got out and went down on one knee on the dock. "Oh, my back," he muttered. "That was a bitch," Fritz Hobbs agreed. Hobbs graduated a year ago, but he still comes down to row at Newell. They felt that it had been the fall's toughest workout-a popular opinion at the end of a practice. It was so familiar.
Naturally, a lot of those freshmen who come down to watch the introductory movies are no longer seeing much of the boat house. But an appreciable number of this year's seniors-more than usual-are still there. Bill Hobbs, one of them, thinks it must be the fact that they "get along well." Undeniably, there is something to be said for the sense of fraternity which develops at Newell. And no one rationalizes his life as an oarsman without mentioning the word "satisfaction."
No sport at Harvard-or anywhere else, it would seem-demands so much practice time for so little time spent in intercollegiate competition. Oarsmen row five days a week during the fall, row six days a week in the tank during the winter, stay here for double sessions during spring vacation, and continue the arduous daily workouts during the spring. There is little recognition. This work prepares them for about seven races during the spring-adding up to perhaps an hour of rowing. "I guess you have to be a little nutty," Bill Hobbs reasoned.