Life is a Rowing Metaphor, chap. 27: What curse? – Rowing stories, reports and interviews

1972 Penn Frosh Light 8, 2nd place, Eastern Sprints Coxswain Frank Simone, Stroke Dennis Dixon, 7 Jeff Milsom, 6 John Phelps, 5 Eddie Ryan, 4 Jerry Dean, 3 Dave Talemal, 2 Kevin Barry, Bow Tom Cronin

In 1971, Harvard had beaten my lightweight Penn Freshman in the “Broken Centerbolt” Sprints. This year of 1972, my 27th on Earth, my 13th in the rowing family, it will be Princeton’s turn to outdo my Penn crew. This year, the Princeton lightweights are being coached by F. Fairthington Farthington, class of 1963 from the University of Pennsylvania, a fellow Quaker, tortoiseshell glasses with thick lenses, weak jawline, wisp of hair on forehead that regularly pull away like bobby kennedy used to. He seems so distant, formal, intellectual, intense. . . and intensely preppy.

and having read Road and Track Magazine start to finish from the day I snuck out of Kent school in the middle of the night in my roommate’s father Robb Carr’s red British MGA 1600 two-seater roadster with Dunlop tires on faux wire wheels, silently and surreptitiously rolled from his garage in Torrington, Connecticut, in the middle of the night, I can’t get over how much Fairthy resembles Masten Gregory, an American who drove Grand Prix cars in Europe during the 1950s, when the drivers racers were real men and they died in their racing cars. regularly. In fact, Masten Gregory died in his race car and is fondly remembered, even today.

In fact, I’ve known who Fairthy Farthington is for quite some time. When he was a freshman at Penn at the age of 19 and had yet to grow tall and robust enough to row, he had cheated on him one winter morning in 1964. Is this a small world or what?

Fairthy was training for the Tokyo Olympic Trials with a group of other recent Penn graduates. Among them was Frank Shields, who a year later would get his future ex-wife pregnant, and it would be Brooke Shields, of all people!

Brooke grew up tall and robust enough to follow in her father’s footsteps and row for Penn, but wouldn’t you know? Instead of her, she went to Princeton and looked for other options.

I met Brooke a few years ago at a theater in West Los Angeles and told her that although he had passed away many years ago, her father is still loved in the American rowing community. You see, he started the annual Power 10 dinner in New York, a formal occasion that is the social event of the year for many rowers. She cried and told me that she had made her day. Needless to say, she had actually made mine.

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A generation earlier, famed ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, a regular on the Ed Sullivan Show on CBS Sunday nights at 8 p.m. during my youth, didn’t send his wooden doll Charlie McCarthy to college, but he sent his daughter Candice in real life. to college, and the college they chose was none other than the University of Pennsylvania.

People called her “Cappy” back then, and she was already a famous model regularly appearing on the covers of Fashion Y Miss magazines. She became a classmate of mine. We’re fellow Quakers, Class of ’67. I even called her up once during freshman year and asked her out as one of my frat prank engagement chores. She turned me down without hesitation or malice, much to my relief, and then we had a pleasant conversation on the phone. It didn’t have to be, but it was very nice.

I met her at a party a few years ago, one of the benefits of living in Los Angeles, California, meeting Brooke Shields and Candice Bergen, and told her “our” story. Not surprisingly, he didn’t remember my phone call at all, which was over half a century ago by then, but again he was very kind.

Candice Bergen is quite tall, you know, tall and stocky enough to have rowed for Penn in her youth. Just as she would be Brooke a generation later. But Cappy Bergen didn’t row either. I looked for other options, thank you very much.

Anyway, Princeton’s lightweight freshmen absolutely crushed everyone this spring of 1972. After relegating my excellent team to second place (again!) in the Eastern Sprints, they go on to the IRA Championship and win the first year heavyweight Helmsman event, to my knowledge, a feat unmatched before or since. They are so good! There is no shame in finishing second behind them!

Now Princeton Varsity lightweight coach Fairthy Farthington is a singular person. She never looks at anyone directly in her eyes through those glasses of hers, but over the course of the year we became good friends.

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Fairthy is the first person who really made me think of coaching as a professional calling. He introduces me to the writings of Doc Counselman, the legendary Indiana University swim coach, an advocate of applying the tools of science to athletic training, and Arthur Lydiard, a New Zealand running coach who emphasizes the long distance training at submaximal levels. . In this era, every other rowing coach in America is enamored with 500-meter interval bursts at higher-than-race pace. As were the Undine Barge Club Lightweights and Vesper Boat Club Heavyweights in 1965.

Fairthy opens the door to new dimensions in my understanding of sport. He becomes a mentor, a kind of father figure for me. During the year, Fairthy also shares with me his plans to organize a summer 1972 European tour for a team made up of USA lightweights: an eight, a coxless four and a single sculler. FISA, the international rowing federation now called World Rowing, is about to officially add these lightweight events to the World Championship calendar, and our initiative could tip the scales for 1973.

I’m interested? You bet Am! After my performance on the board last summer, I have completely forgotten about Jayvee’s scar curse, boat carriers, and boat plugs. I’m about to turn 27, running and lifting weights like never before, and even spinning that newfangled invention from Australia, the ergometer, as well as any lightweight except my former freshman phenom, Mic Feld. Mic, who just finished his sophomore year at Penn, is alone in a class in America. I’m looking forward to taking on the world though, and with Mic on my boat, thank you very much.

Fairthy organizes everything: the selection camp at Harvard, the airline flights, the tickets to the regattas in West Germany, Denmark and Austria, the transportation, the lodging, everything, but he himself cannot accompany the team. Some personal or family conflict or something that summer. Fairthy even puts the selection of athletes before we leave the United States in the hands of Steve Gladstone, the Harvard lightweight coach, undefeated for many years now; Harvard, under his direction, has supplanted Cornell as the premier lightweight program in America.

And even get him to agree to act as rower/boatman/manager/VW Kombi driver in Europe. Concierge, so to speak.

“Voting service, sir.”

To be continue . . .

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