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Chances are that it is 11 a.m. when you read this.
There you are in your Bishop MacPherson High School trunks and your undershirt, sprawled across the sofa. You had considered typing up the footnotes for your Gov. 106b paper, but decided that it is only an hour till lunch and by the time you set the typewriter up, look up how to do footnotes in that book from Expos freshman year, and crack your knuckles a few times it will be time for salad plate 21 and vegetarian cheeseburger.
Anyway, did you ever realize that there are some people who have been up for five hours. Count that back on your fingers. That's 6 a.m.--before WCOZ starts playing music, so don't set your clock radio to it--before the dining halls open for breakfast and even before The Crimson is delivered.
These wierd students are more than likely members of house crew teams and every morning for the last month they have been descending in flocks of nine on Weld Boathouse.
The whole thing seems like a scene out of the theater of the absurd. Crews trickle into the oathouse and silently--who has anything to say at 6 a.m.--stir a shell from its sleep, lug it to the edge of the dock and drop it into the river.
The entire ritual is choreographed by a little fellow, the cox, who invariably has a loud, hoarse voice and more than likely chooses to' bark his commands six inches from your ear.
A word about the cox. If he were to yell, "Jump in the water," chances are that eight oarsmen would be sloshing in the muck moments later. Some of these coxes have let the power get to their heads.
By 7 a.m., all the crews are there. 'The House coxes run rampant on the docks, each jostling for a place for their shell at dockside, moving boats up the ramp, down the ramp, over sleepy oarsmen, through them. It's Harvard Square gone wild.
In their boats, the coxes are in total control. On and on they drone as their crews flail away at their oars. The cox just sits up front taking in the sun and getting mad at the world.
So why would anyone in their right mind want to row? At 6 a.m., I honestly don't know. By 7:30 however, one can begin to appreciate crew as a sport. It can almost be serene, if the cox ever stays quiet long enough. The boat glides through the still water creating ripples that roll off into the distance.
But there's little time for serenity while you're actually rowing. Each individual must have the technique down: drop the oar quick, slide, release, feather, square up the oar and do it again. And again. And again. The rest of the team can't cover up for any one rower.
And then it must be put together. When each oarsman pulls at the same time the boat seems to leap forward. It's the perfect marriage between team and individual sports.
So it isn't total madness that drives these House crew teams onto the river each spring.
By the way. If for some reason you happen to be reading this before 11 a.m., why don't you hop a shuttle bus down to MIT at Weld Boathouse and catch the House crew finals, set for 8:30 to 10:30 this morning.
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