There’s a big difference – gi-hugic in fact – between being on a team and simply wearing the same jersey.
I would rather row a single than be in the same boat with another to make a double; or three others, plus perhaps a coxswain, to make a quad; or an eight for that matter – where every seat was taken, but we weren’t a team.
“The whole reason I like the sport (sculling),” says the fictitious Rob Carrey in “Flat Water Tuesday,” a novel by Ron Irwin, “is because it’s all about me. My decisions. My fitness level. My strategy in a race. If I lose, it’s down to me. Same when I win. It sucks needing other people to win.”
It’s not that I don’t play well with others.
It’s just that if the same drive, enthusiasm, work ethic, passion and purpose that are mine are not shared by the others in the boat – whatever the race distance; if the mission to reach the summit is not the objective that ties us together even as we tie in to the climbing rope – however high the mountain; if such fiery-eyed zeal in response to the crowd as we exit the locker room does not sustain us in dogged persistence to grind out the last few yards in the closing seconds even though the game has long since been lost, then I’m not interested.
Does a warm body; a hand raised in response to a request for volunteers; the typical caveat appeal ‘this won’t take much of your time’ – do these constitute the recruitment process by which ‘team’ members are acquired for your organization?
It depends on why your church, community, city council, corporation exists. If, truth be told, your purpose is hardly worth more than the paper it’s written on then yes, anybody will do.
My grown son Matthew and I, competing as a double in the largest open water rowing event in the Pacific Northwest – the seven mile Great Cross Sound Race – were a team. Of course it helps having the same gene pool.
At the blast of the shotgun over 100 human-powered craft – in a great war whoop of shouts and tremendous splashing of paddles and oars that churned the blue rolling water into white foam just off Alki Beach in Seattle – jockeyed for position heading out to bisect the shipping lanes, to round Blakely Rock off Bainbridge Island, to proceed south to the mid-channel buoy and sprint for home.
With maybe fifty or so yards to go we were leading.
That’s when we hit the sandbar – so hard, we were to find out later, the impact tore the skeg from our shell. As we struggled to free ourselves, our nearest competitor – a single – passed us by.
Nonplussed, or perhaps consumed by the so-close smell of victory – not to mention the sweet stench of sweat caked with saltwater – dangerously in jeopardy to the agony of defeat, Matthew ripped free from his Velcro foot stretchers, stepped out into the ankle deep water, and began running, stumbling and splashing his way to the finish line in pursuit of the single.
It was a photo-finish.
There was a picture taken from shore that – depending on the angle (judges huddled in kind of instant-replay mode) – determined the fellow leaping with hands outstretched in a wild, frantic, final diving lunge, complete with spray from the heave forward of his body as opposed to the splash of oars, and a shout of the magnitude he’d uttered when the race began nearly an hour before:
had crossed first.
Later the decision was reversed as race directors decided – although they admitted there was not a printed rule (in their experience this had never happened before, or since) – a rowing race cannot be started in a boat and finished on the run.
But that’s how a team finishes.