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It is a sport of exquisite symmetry—crew racing—and of paradox, decorum and tiny men whose job it is to yap in the faces of huge men. Sometimes, not too often, the little fellows turn on each other. That is what happened in the Western Sprints last week at Vancouver, British Columbia in the finals of the eight-man varsity shells on Burnaby Lake. The two powerhouses, California and Washington, had drawn adjoining lanes and the Huskies started badly. Marco (Meatball) Meniketti, Cal's coxswain, crowed, "That's it, we're gonna break 'em!" His men got the message, but he also meant Washington to hear. Earlier Meniketti had said, "If a race is close, I'll do anything to encourage my crew and discourage the other one."
Halfway through the race, at 1,000 meters, Cal led by two seats, and Meniketti aimed his megaphone to starboard and yelled, "We're two seats up!" and then, "We're three seats up!" At that point the Washington cox found his voice. "They're one seat up," Ted Van Bronkhorst told his men.
Honesty is no virtue halfway through a crew race, and as Washington pulled bow to bow Meniketti saw fit to lie to his troops, "They're not gaining!" As Washington moved steadily ahead, Van Bronkhorst yelled sideward, "We're moving away!" Meniketti reasured his men, "They're not moving away!"
"We're up three seats!" called Van Bronkhorst.
"They're up one seat!" replied Meniketti.
Later Ted Van Bronkhorst said, "It's very demoralizing to hear the other guy shout 'We're moving away!'—especially if it's true!"
Cal Coach Steve Gladstone had seen it coming. His crew had won its first heat the day before, but had labored very hard for its 6:27.18 time. Washington had taken a second longer to win its heat, but hadn't worked nearly as hard. "One slight disruption of rhythm against Washington and that'll be it," Gladstone said before the race. But there were no disruptions. Cal's time was a fast 6:06.64, but Washington, five seconds faster, was a bigger crew, and on this day a better one.
Gladstone was glum, but dry. Ted Van Bronkhorst was happy, but he was also climbing out of Burnaby Lake, where, according to tradition, his teammates had flung him, and as he talked psychological warfare he was still dripping. "When you see that other crew looking over, you know they're in trouble."
"Was Cal doing that?" he was asked, and Van Bronkhorst just smiled.