Saturday, February 21, 2015

I just finished reading “The Boys in the Boat” by David James Brown. It’s about an eight man crew from University of Washington that won the Olympic Gold in Germany in 1936. It brought back my own, much more limited memories, of freshman crew at Dartmouth.

As a coxswain, I didn’t have to work as hard as the other eight guys, but I learned a lot about how important teamwork is to success. My job was to steer the shell and provide leadership and strategy to the race. That didn’t matter, however, if the stroke and the rest of the crew weren’t working together.

Our country, right now, is like one of those shells where everyone seems to be pulling oars at different times and with differing degrees of effort. The result is we are catching a lot of “crabs” and going nowhere. And the coxswain isn’t providing much leadership in getting things coordinated. We don’t know how long the race will run, where the finish line is, or who and what is our competition.

In crew that combination would lead to a lot of losses, dissension in the ranks and no gold medals.

I wrote “The Fall Championships” (Riding in Boxcars, 2006) about my experience in a race on the Connecticut River in 1965. It was a race where our crew put it together and entered that zone where everyone was doing their job. It is an experience you don’t forget if you are part of a team that finds that magic place. My reward was a swim in November in very cold water and a small copper cup. Our current crew in Washington, D.C. is competing in a far more important series of races for much greater stakes. So far, we aren’t working together very well and our shell is having trouble even getting out of the boathouse. Here’s hoping we get our national act together soon.

By the way, “The Boys in the Boat” is a great read even if you know nothing about crew.

Glenn K. Currie

Fall Championships

Fog rising, from the river,
Edgy silence at the gun,
Short, quick strokes, mark the start,
Then a pace for early run.

North wind knifing down the course,
Penetrating hearts and souls,
Water heavy on the oars,
Fingers aching in the cold.

Rhythmic movement, through the stretch,
Shell gliding in fluid grace,
Lungs burning, muscles straining,
Vision tunneled on the race.

Coxswain’s shouts, imploring more,
Drawing strength, from deep inside,
Strokes counted at fevered high,
Rising on emotion’s tide.

Driving through the finish line,
Crew bent, in exhausted rest,
Oars riding, their work complete,
Fog rising, from heaving chests.

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