This is the year
for tossing college deans downstairs and locking professors in their offices,
so there was no surprise in the fact that eight burly Harvard men bore down on
university Crew Coach Harry Parker one day last week and, to the accompaniment
of wild cheers from an enthusiastic crowd of picnickers and grass-sitters,
tossed him bodily into the waters of Lake Quinsigamond near Worcester,
unsurprisingly, Coach Parker loved every minute of this horseplay. For a split
second, as his head bobbed up above the water, the most successful college crew
coach in the U.S. looked his old solemn self. Then his face lit up with the
beaming smile that had lingered on it almost continuously for nearly a
week—ever since his varsity crew broke a winning streak of 34 straight
victories in college competition by losing to Pennsylvania on the Schuylkill
River on May 3.
In contrast to
the suddenly lighthearted Parker, Pennsylvania's Coach Joe Burk had spent the
week since the Adams Cup race looking as gloomy as a man whose pet Pocock shell
had just been rammed by a rowboat. For years Burk's Quakers had been digging
their sweeps into the water in a vain effort to catch up to boatload after
boatload of seemingly invincible rowers trained by Joe's ex-pupil, Parker.
Always the Harvard boat pulled out ahead. The meeting between these two rowing
powers at the Olympic Trials in California's Long Beach last year had resulted
in what many connoisseurs called the finest eight-oared crew race ever rowed.
But, as usual, Harvard won, even though the margin of victory was so slight as
to be almost unmeasurable.
Then two weeks
ago came the Adams Cup competition in Philadelphia, a race held before a crowd
of fans that had come to hate the Harvards as no athletic team had been hated
since the days when the New York Yankees won all their ball games.
It turned out to
be a fine day for Philadelphians. In their first meeting of this season Burk's
Pennsylvania heavyweights clobbered Harvard, and in so doing shattered a legend
of invincibility. Making no excuses, Parker admitted that his crewmen had rowed
as well as they could and insisted that they had been beaten by a stronger
outfit. Nevertheless, knowing that the Harvard shell had steered a somewhat
wobbly course along the Schuylkill and suspecting that other things might have
been amiss as well, Burk, the victor, began to worry. Perhaps wiser than anyone
else in the game, he had a notion that the upset might have been a fluke.
For Burk and
Parker, as well as the vast multitude of rowing fans across the nation, the
Eastern collegiate sprint championships—in the varsity heavyweight division,
anyway—might as well have been a dual meet, since there seemed to be only two
crews competing. But not everyone felt so exclusive. There were 15 other
colleges present on the lake, each of which was fielding one or more crews to
compete over the 2,000-meter course. Among those crews there were, believe it
or not, some who felt they, too, had a chance to win.
today is in a state of unusual flux and growth, with skills improving on rivers
and lakes all over the country. There are many experts who truly believe that
the days of such great rowing dynasties as those of Parker and Burk and the
once-fine Navy crews are on the wane.
There were many
at Worcester last week for instance who gave Coach Pete Sparhawk's newly
energized Princeton Tigers somewhat more than an outside chance to beat both
Harvard and Penn. Part of their thinking was that the two favorites had been so
concerned with each other that they might well overlook all other
Then, too, there
was Northeastern (which actually beat Princeton in the morning heats) and a
resurgent U.S. Naval Academy, whose varsity and junior varsity boats are so
evenly matched that Coach Carl Ullrich finds himself faced with the continuing
problem of which crew to place in the main event. At the Adams Cup, Navy's
jayvees rowed handily away from the jayvees of both Penn and Harvard. They were
so swift, in fact, that they, rather than Navy's varsity, were chosen to face
the top two in last week's races.
If there was one
attitude that stood out most clearly among all the oarsmen at the sprints last
week, it was that neither Penn nor Harvard was invincible. But if either Harry
Parker or Joe Burk shared this attitude, he managed to conceal it well.