Hall of Fame
Hall of Fame
Harvard Athletic Achievements
Hall of Fame
Remembering Harvard Athletics
My decision to enter into the ministry came as a big joke to many of my fellow oarsmen. I suspect that was because I had also achieved notoriety of having a hot temper and a foul mouth to go with it. Hence the nickname, “Mad Dog,” and possibly something to do with the team’s nickname, the “Rude and Smooth.”
I can’t say 17 years of ministry and two teenage children have cured me of these charater defects, but I have achieved some semblance of tranquility.
Furthermore, I am forced to admit that much of that “peace of mind” came not with holiness or spirituality but with crew, which taught me the art of concentration and disciplined aggression which can be beneficial when channeled in appropriate directions. Hence my 15 minutes of fame at Harvard has had some long-term benefits, and effects, other than something to brag about in the company of young, rather arrogant upstarts.
But back to my days at Harvard. The cult-ish movie “Good Will Hunting” has brought to mind my days working in the kitchens of the former freshman union scrubbing pots daily from 7-9:30 a.m. I would watch all my hard-earned calluses dissolve away in hot, alkali solution. I wondered sometimes if I were at college simply to be a dishwasher and pull on oars. Nobody ever said Harvard was a utopia void of class distinctions.
Nevertheless I doubt if I would have completed Harvard had I not been on the crew. In a place which can often be rather cold and impersonal, crew offered me a camaraderie which was my mainstay during those difficult four years of soul-searching. Often I felt like an ant crawling around on a huge boulder, searching for an entrance into this huge, hard and amorphous sphere. And occasionally I wonder if I ever attended Harvard or was merely a visitor. A friend of mine, a physician from the class of 1972, tells me he has the same recurring nightmare.
Being part of the 1974 crew has reminded me that it was a reality after all, albeit an ivory-tower one.
Another reminder that I really did attend Harvard is this dream which I have had recurrently over the years. I am a senior at college and have dropped off the team for a year. Harry Parker comes and asks me to consider going out for the team. It is late spring. Already the racing season is well underway. But for some reason I have been given the honor of rowing on the varsity boat during the most important race of the season. As I don my rowing shorts and shirt in Newell Boat House, all I can do is worry, “Am I in shape? Can I make it through the race?”
Usually the dream ends with me awaking in a cold sweat, somewhat relieved that it was a dream, after all.
I had a brief emotional flashback last summer. Beth and I were driving south on I-95 and passed the New London, Connecticut exit. It was time for a break and I insisted we pull off and visit Red Top for a few minutes. A wave of emotion rolled over me as I stood there at the boat house looking out over the Thames River. For some reason I started to cry.
I suspect Beth seriously wondered if I were having a nervous breakdown. But I think my fellow oarsmen (if I may be politically incorrect) understand why I felt so overcome with feelings of gratitude that I could be a part of this tradition.