We have had this
conversation many times before. I ask Ned if it gets tense for a cox.
does," he says.
We talk for a
while about tension. In the course of the conversation the word gets fuzzy and
doesn't have anything to do with what is going on inside of me.
comes in and it is time for lunch.
2 p.m. We will be
on the water in half an hour. I am lying in my bunk. The tightness has crept
into my chest, just as I knew it would. Young is restless above me. He leans
down.' 'Want some honey?" "O.K.," I say. I want to have something
to do. I climb up onto the top bunk.
We drink the
honey straight. From Young's bunk we can see the dock. The Pennsylvania crew is
boating. The room comes to life, and people crowd around the windows to get a
look at them. Their freshman boat pushes off, rows by fours. Their liming is
bad. No. 2 washes out. We weren't worried about them much anyway—Cornell is the
real foe—but it is comforting to watch them bumble.
apoplexy. He writhes on his bunk. Gauld, the starboard spare, hurries over. He
thinks Young is faking, but he is worried. Young winks to me. He grimaces,
gasps. Three or four people gather about. "I can't make it, Stu, kid,"
Young groans to Gauld, "my stomach is killing me. Must have been that
honey. I'm dying." Young searches around in his game bag, pulls out his
crimson racing shirt. He turns his face away, hands it to Gauld. "Stu, good
luck. 1 know you can do the job." Gauld jumps. "1 don't want it."
Freddie comes in.
Time to dress. 1 put my stuff on slowly. Make sure the strings on the rowing
shorts are tied well, and tucked in. Once they got undone and fouled up in my
slide during a practice race. That was in my junior year at school. It was
quite a sensation, having my pants ripped off in the middle of a race.
giving us a fight talk. Very low-keyed. "Remember," he goes on,
"Ned is in command out there. Do what he says. If anybody catches a crab,
get started again as soon as possible. If the boat comes to a full stop, take a
short racing start; if not, try to pick up again at the racing beat right
away." Then he explains the 30-second rule. If anything goes wrong in the
first 30 seconds, they will start the race again. I know the rule. I don't
listen. Someone asks a stupid question. Let's get going. I am impatient.
"O.K.," says Freddie. "Let's go."
2:35 p.m. On the
dock. Boat in water. Good crowd. All the Cornell oarsmen, both heavies and
lights, are here. 1 hope we look good going away. When you look good going away
it demoralizes the opposition. The tightness in my chest is bad, but no worse
than usual. When we get on the water it will start to dissipate, and that is a
comforting thought. Everyone else looks very serious, but suddenly I am
beginning to enjoy the whole thing. The varsity and the jayvees troop down the
dock, shaking hands with each of us. Bob Russell puts his arm around my
shoulder. "Give it to 'em." "Will do. Good luck to you guys,
too." Freddie is the last man down the line. "Stick with stroke no
matter what happens," he says. "Good luck," he smiles. He is much
more nervous than I am, I think. We shake hands.