Today I learned to hate the University of Washington.
Please, hear me out. The Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) competition came to the West Coast for the first time (ever?), bringing 4000 people to Folsom, California for the 107th Regatta National Championship. I went with Cal alumni friends to support Cal Crew. UCLA, we’re all in the UC family, right? I took a lot of ribbing for the “fact” that UCLA stole Cal’s fight song. Whatever. Anyway, it turns out Washington is Cal’s arch-rival in this sport, thus I was essentially obligated to wish them a last place finish at every opportunity. Unfortunately, they kept coming on strong at the end and besting Cal. In the final race, it was Washington, Cal, and Stanford, so we took solace in the fact that the East Coast was shut out. Bam!
Really, the key fact here is that oarsmen are delicious. Tall, tan, fit, leanly muscled, and wearing tight spandex shorts and flip-flops. (I’m owning my inner cougar, I guess.) Even the MIT guys had great bodies. Sure, they were a wee bit shorter than the rest, but no coke bottle lenses or visible pocket protectors. 🙂
Each team had a tent with chairs, food, banners, cowbells….and lots of older men remembering their glory days. Older as in, Grandma Wagg could have had lots of suitable boyfriend material. The Wisconsin tent (Go Wisco!) cooked up bratwurst and such, and pointedly flew their school flag a good 10 feet above the neighboring Princeton flag. Rumor has it the Dartmouth crew had to say a Republican prayer and/or invoke Dick Cheney’s name as they put into the water. The Navy tent boasted one of the only brothers in the competition. The day started with an alumni race; the starts are staggered so that teams with more senior members have an advantage. It’s considered a big success if nobody has a heart attack.
My friend Jana Hardy is a big supporter because her father, Jim Hardy, rowed with Cal at the 1948 Olympics in London, Henley-on-Thames, and won a gold medal. She has it encased in lucite in her home. Did she bring it to the event, as in “Oh, is that my father’s gold medal that just fell out of my purse?” She did not. I would have displayed it in my cleavage. Which reminds me, I was hoping Hugh Laurie would be there, as he rowed for Cambridge and his father was an Olympian. No such luck.
Back to rowing; apparently Washington has always been a powerhouse in this sport. (What’s up with that? Shouldn’t they just all sit around in the gloomy weather and get depressed? I guess this was long before Kurt Cobain.) At the 1948 Olympic trials, the Washington guys (some called them Huskies from Hell) were so confident of their superiority that they came packed to go straight to London (via boat) once they won. Alas, they lost to Cal. The Cal Crew was completely unprepared for international travel, with no appropriate clothes and no passports. They bought one jacket and tie, and took turns wearing it for passport photos. One guy called his parents for them to wire a copy of his birth certificate……and learned he was adopted.
Cal brought back a gold medal, and allegedly confiscated an Olympic flag that was hanging in the war-leftover military barracks where they stayed. The flag may have been smuggled to the US in a bag of dirty laundry. It may have hung in the workout room at Cal and may now be housed in plexiglass at the T. Gary Rogers rowing center in Berkeley. Due to unknown statute of limitations on international theft, I cannot offer more details.
Now Washington is bent on exacting revenge for lost opportunities decades ago. Those m___f____ers just blew past Cal right in front of us, here on our home turf. The rivalry continues.
Did I mention how good looking all the guys were?