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We've said all the way through the campaign to expect the unexpected, but we didn't expect this
April 9, 2012 12:18 PM   Subscribe

The 158th Boat Race between Oxford University Boat Club & Cambridge University Boat Club last Saturday was perhaps the most eventful in the event's 183 year history. The race was stopped after a protestor, Trenton Oldfield, swam out out the course and was narrowly missed by Oxford's blades. After a 20 minute delay, the race was restarted. Thirty-five seconds in, the Oxford cox was warned for steering into Cambridge's line, and then initiated a blade-clash that broke one of Oxford's blades. Cambridge rowed on to win by four and a quarter lengths (Official race report). After finishing the race, Oxford's bowman collapsed, and was taken to hospital; the traditional presentation ceremony was abandoned. The OUBC medical officer stated: "The sudden and premature stopping of the Race when concentration and exertion were at their peak was bad enough, but when the Race had lost its equal footing for having lost an oar, the psychological response was to try even harder. Oxford drove themselves to the limit to try to contain the damage. Alex Woods rowing at Bow reached the finishing line and found he had expended all reserves of energy; in my view he had rendered himself hypoxic, and this was the cause of his collapse". He has returned home to recover.

On a blog entitled Elitism is Tyranny, Trenton Oldfield posted a rambling manifesto "proposing the return of surprise tactics". He also called for others to "employ civil disobedience and guerrilla tactics . . . match the personal and the political" ("If you work in a restaurant where elitists eat, can you serve the food once it is cold or cook the wrong food?"). Commentators quickly pointed out that, despite his anti-elitist statements, Trenton was educated at the Sydney Church of England Grammar School in Australia, attended the London School of Economics, and claimed to be a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He was arrested for a Section 5 public order offence.

William Zeng, who rowed at 2 in Oxford's boat, tweeted: "When I missed your head with my blade I knew only that you were a swimmer, and if you say you are a protester then, no matter what you say your cause may be, your action speaks too loudly for me to hear you. I know, with immediate emotion, exactly what you you were protesting. You were protesting the right of seventeen young men and one woman to compete fairly and honorably, to demonstrate their hard work and desire in a proud tradition. You were protesting their right to devote years of their lives, their friendships, and their souls to the fair pursuit of the joys and the hardships of sport. You, who would make a mockery of their dedication and their courage, are a mockery of a man."
posted by James Scott-Brown (68 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
This they failed to do and a clash was inevitable.

I love this phrasing. That is all.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:26 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


You, who would make a mockery of their dedication and their courage, are absolutely doing it right. Well played sir.
posted by three blind mice at 12:28 PM on April 9, 2012


So there was a boat race and a row broke out?
posted by schleppo at 12:28 PM on April 9, 2012 [23 favorites]


You were protesting their right to devote years of their lives, their friendships, and their souls to the fair pursuit of the joys and the hardships of sport.

Well, the ability of certain people to have excessive amounts of leisure at the expense of others is certainly a valid subject of protest.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:29 PM on April 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


excessive amounts of leisure at the expense of others

If you think rowing is "leisure" I assure you that you are sorely mistaken.
posted by tommasz at 12:33 PM on April 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


If you think rowing is "leisure" I assure you that you are sorely mistaken.

If you're not rowing away from a shipwreck, it's leisure.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 12:37 PM on April 9, 2012 [29 favorites]


To have the boat race totally buggered by a swimmer's protest is the best test of character an Oxbridge rower could ever face.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 12:38 PM on April 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's leisure if you're doing it for fun. It's not leisure if you're doing it because you have to get somewhere.

By the way, rowing is such a white man's way of getting around on the water. Seriously, who gets in a boat and decides that they want to spend the entire journey staring backwards? It's ridiculous. I know how to row, but give me a canoe or a kayak any day of the week.
posted by Scientist at 12:39 PM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


10 years from now, there will be a killing spree by this guy somewhere and people will say "oh yeah, he always seemed a little off, despite his fine education he did weird things like swim into The Tideway during the famous Oxford/Cambridge boat race...
posted by Melismata at 12:39 PM on April 9, 2012


tommasz: "If you think rowing is "leisure" I assure you that you are sorely mistaken."

He's not saying that rowing is qualitatively the same as a weekend in Phuket. He's saying that, from the perspective of someone who has 24 hours, twelve of which must be spent working five of which must be spent feeding and clothing children and the remainder attempting to catch some fitful sleep, spending several hours a day lifting weights in order to triumph at a boat race is leisure for all intents and purposes.
posted by anewnadir at 12:41 PM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


When I missed your head with my blade I knew only that you were a swimmer, and if you say you are a protester then, no matter what you say your cause may be, your action speaks too loudly for me to hear you. I know, with immediate emotion, exactly what you you were protesting. You were protesting the right of seventeen young men and one woman to compete fairly and honorably, to demonstrate their hard work and desire in a proud tradition. You were protesting their right to devote years of their lives, their friendships, and their souls to the fair pursuit of the joys and the hardships of sport. You, who would make a mockery of their dedication and their courage, are a mockery of a man.

The wording is excellent, but the content is . . . well, if he really thinks that Oldfield was just protesting against a dozen and a half people who wanted to race a boat, then he's really missed a great deal.
posted by jeather at 12:45 PM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


The deafening silence about this guy in UK leftist media is mainly because, he's embarrassing. I was over the moon when I heard what had happened, and then I read his manifesto and facepalmed. This could have been done so much better.

Zeng's reaction is precisely what needs protesting.
posted by pickingupsticks at 12:46 PM on April 9, 2012


Oh Zeng. Oldfield might be a silly bugger, but it's not about you or the stupid things you get up to on a Sunday morning.
posted by Jehan at 12:46 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


What about the one where all the men committed suicide for that tart Zuleika Dobson?
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 12:47 PM on April 9, 2012


A friend was present and afterwards posted a photo on facebook. It shows a tiny little swimmer heading out towards some oncoming boats while four slightly unsavory looking gents (you know who you are) smile at the camera, resting their elbows on a river wall, with pints of beer held out over the water. It was titled simply "boat race".
posted by Ahab at 12:49 PM on April 9, 2012


I wish more sporting events were disrupted like this. I dislike sport, and while I'm normally happy to operate on a live-and-let-live basis with cultural activities that have no interest for me, sport intrudes on my life with a rude vigour and tactlessness I find constantly unpleasant. It dominates the media, it messes up my environment, it monopolises the conversations of my friends, it is taken with a seriousness I find oppressive.

Anything that upsets sport is fine by me. Next time, let there be a (what is the appropriate collective noun?) entire pod of walruses released suddenly at Putney, and may they all suffer with explosive dysentery.

As for a bemused and slightly batty young man finding his life of privilege indefensible and upsetting - would that thee were more like him.
posted by Devonian at 12:50 PM on April 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


initiated a blade-clash

A YouTube search for "rowing blade clash" shows it's not quite the gladiatorial spectacle it sounds like.
posted by exogenous at 12:52 PM on April 9, 2012


Is any word funnier than "coxswain?"
posted by Threeway Handshake at 12:54 PM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I tried out for the rowing team in high school. Didn't, couldn't make the team. Say whatever you like, whoever rows competitively is worthy of respect.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:58 PM on April 9, 2012 [4 favorites]



So then I went before the beak, giving a pseudonym, lest my Aunt Agatha hear of it, and I was given 15 days without the option for pinching a policeman's helmet.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:58 PM on April 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


When I missed your head with my blade I knew only that you were a swimmer, and if you say you are a protester then, no matter what you say your cause may be, your action speaks too loudly for me to hear you. I know, with immediate emotion, exactly what you you were protesting. You were protesting the right of seventeen young men and one woman to compete fairly and honorably, to demonstrate their hard work and desire in a proud tradition. You were protesting their right to devote years of their lives, their friendships, and their souls to the fair pursuit of the joys and the hardships of sport. You, who would make a mockery of their dedication and their courage, are a mockery of a man.

I can imagine no more striking example of the special privileges accorded such 'upstanding' and 'prominent' people as their ability to tweet something like this when the rest of us are restricted to 140 characters.
posted by Naberius at 12:59 PM on April 9, 2012 [10 favorites]


The sport's international success has helped drive an elitist agenda – not one based on social class but instead performance.

The results of those performance-driven programmes are clear. Almost half of the likely British team for the 2012 Olympics were educated at a state school. Many of them learned to row as a result of programmes such as Sporting Giants. In particular, the selection in the British eight of Moe Sbihi, who attended a Surrey comprehensive, provides just one example of how far the sport has come.

posted by KokuRyu at 1:00 PM on April 9, 2012 [5 favorites]




Oops, double , sorry
posted by Bwithh at 1:06 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think the issue is not with rowing, but with the two universities which have a stranglehold on public life. Worry about rowing is missing the point.
posted by Jehan at 1:08 PM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


It is also nice to know that we feel to judge each other for having "excessive" amounts of leisure time, rather than an amount mandated by someone on the internet as acceptable. Out of interest, I looked up the rower who collapsed - who went to a state school, already has a doctorate and is pursuing a graduate degree in medicine (at 27), what a lazy toff.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 1:11 PM on April 9, 2012 [13 favorites]


I wish I could write some cogent response to the vitriol against the sport; as a former rower, I just can't imagine how some people can denigrate the complete and total dedication that it requires and the massive, unwavering effort that goes into being part of a crew.

As for those criticizing the rowers for having too much 'leisure time', I would advise you to get off of metafilter. Wouldn't want to children to go hungry, would we?
posted by erro at 1:14 PM on April 9, 2012 [22 favorites]


Into this discussion I am going to post a book that convinced me that I did not have the physical prowess to row nor the sheer will and that is Halberstam's The Amateurs, which is a very good book.
posted by jadepearl at 1:18 PM on April 9, 2012


we know who else was a rower, right ? Quentin Compson .. And we all know what happened to him ...
posted by k5.user at 1:20 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Will no-one think of the world class athletes being paid to do vanity masters in Earth Science while the parents of state school kids bankrupt themselves to put their kids through college?
posted by tigrefacile at 1:24 PM on April 9, 2012


Well, the ability of certain people to have excessive amounts of leisure at the expense of others is certainly a valid subject of protest.

If competitive rowing is evidence of leisure at the expense of others, can't the swimming protester be accused of the much the same, if not worse?

Not that I have such a big problem with a fly in the ointment, so to speak.
posted by snaparapans at 1:25 PM on April 9, 2012


Modestly constructed, adequate use of reflection, alliteration and assonance; to the hind an overuse of adjectives, repetition, and the ad hominem. Passmark -- barely -- Zeng. Study the masters if you want my chop for advancement: Bierce, Rickles, Shakespeare.
posted by seanmpuckett at 1:27 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


It is also nice to know that we feel to judge each other for having "excessive" amounts of leisure time, rather than an amount mandated by someone on the internet as acceptable. Out of interest, I looked up the rower who collapsed - who went to a state school, already has a doctorate and is pursuing a graduate degree in medicine (at 27), what a lazy toff.

I don't know what strawman you're aiming at, but the man went to a grammar school In Northern Ireland which takes dayboys for £2,200 and boarders for £11,000 a year. Even if he got in through the 11 plus and had his tuition paid, calling it a "state school" is off the mark. The poor Belfast boys who didn't get in don't have half the chances he has.
posted by Jehan at 1:28 PM on April 9, 2012


Oldfield is an idiot.
I was Captain of Coxes for the wider (college) rowing scene in Oxford, and I got there having never been in a boat before being at Oxford and never having been to public (USA types read private) school.
I worked really hard to encourage rowing for everyone - which never cost my college's students a penny to take part in.
I put a lot of time into local disabled kids taking part in the sport at no cost to them too and a hell of a lot of my peers did a way load more than me.
The boat race may not be inclusive - but no top end event is. Rowing at Oxford is.

Things aren't perfect but that prat makes my blood boil. The boat race might be elitist. Rowing (even at Oxford) is not.
posted by edd at 1:29 PM on April 9, 2012 [11 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that Trenton Oldfield's hang-ups about elitism stem mostly from having the most elite sounding name in the history of elite sounding names.
Also, why do i have a feeling that in the back of his mind as he dove into the water, he was thumbing his nose at some ancient patriarch whose vast fortune he is set to inherit a decade or two hence.
posted by jadayne at 1:33 PM on April 9, 2012


I rowed competitively for a few years, and I can't think of anyone in any of my crews that was particularly privileged or elitist. I suspect it required too much dedication and brutally hard training to appeal to someone who's used to having things handed to them.
posted by rocket88 at 1:35 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know, I hate Oldfield for making this about rowing and him. It's about neither, but rather the lopsided society that England is burdened with. Can we talk about that?
posted by Jehan at 1:41 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


There are a lot of things to protest about Oxbridge - subtle classism among students, academic insularity among fellows, remnant sexism, a general disconnect from the ways that other universities work, and a seriously messed up viva system for PhDs, at least at Cambridge...

but none of them are the boat race.

(even if some boaties could be a bit arrogant and annoying).
posted by jb at 1:53 PM on April 9, 2012


Rowing's a pretty expensive way to burn a few calories, which in general restricts it to people with access to a large amount of cash to throw away. Giving twenty poor kids the opportunity to join a program based on their exceptional physical abilities doesn't change this. In my experience, having gone to a private school with a rowing program, my brothers and sister rowed, etc etc, it's absolutely elitist. You want to be part of an inclusive, accessible sport, play soccer or go running, something that doesn't cost thousands of dollars just to turn up. Saying 'rowing requires too much hard work to attract elitist pricks' is laughable, do you believe the same of med school?
posted by jacalata at 1:56 PM on April 9, 2012


As for those criticizing the rowers for having too much 'leisure time', I would advise you to get off of metafilter. Wouldn't want to children to go hungry, would we?

I have relatively a lot of leisure time compared to many others, and it's not fair at all. Of course I'm not criticizing someone for not taking my dedication to my comment count seriously enough so the comparison is not completely apt.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:58 PM on April 9, 2012


No one claims that rowing is the sport of the UK -- that's clearly soccer/football, which is open to all classes.

In comparison, I live in Canada, where our national sport - hockey - is one of the most expensive you can possible do other than boating.
posted by jb at 2:04 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's hard to take Oldfield seriously after reading his list of suggestions for 'civil disobedience and guerrilla tactics':

If you clean the bathroom of someone that considers themselves elite or is an elite sympathiser, like a right wing professor, can you never put loo paper in their bathroom?

Even Laurie Penny, who isn't above a bit of old-fashioned class-war rhetoric herself from time to time, has to admit that Oldfield's manifesto 'reads like it was scripted by Monty Python'.
posted by verstegan at 2:12 PM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


In my experience, having gone to a private school with a rowing program, my brothers and sister rowed, etc etc, it's absolutely elitist. You want to be part of an inclusive, accessible sport, play soccer or go running, something that doesn't cost thousands of dollars just to turn up. Saying 'rowing requires too much hard work to attract elitist pricks' is laughable, do you believe the same of med school?

I guess it depends where and when you grew up. Growing up in Canada during the 70s and 80s, rowing was absolutely open to anyone. My public high school had a rowing team; you can rent the damn sculls at the lake.

One thing the anti-elitist progressives tend to forget in their rush to make it first to the bottom of the socio-economic ladder in order to establish their working-class credibility is that, as a rule, most people want to become more affluent. And, until very recently, upward social mobility was indeed possible in many countries.

So, no, rowing is not elitist in some places, and neither is medical school for that matter.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:19 PM on April 9, 2012


One thing the anti-elitist progressives tend to forget in their rush to make it first to the bottom of the socio-economic ladder in order to establish their working-class credibility is that, as a rule, most people want to become more affluent. And, until very recently, upward social mobility was indeed possible in many countries.

In my experience, as much as they are excoriated for being (and often unjustifiably stereotyped as) representatives of the elite, Oxford and Cambridge are truly fantastic mechanisms for upward social mobility. They are by no means perfect, wholly equal or very modern, but going through that system certainly transformed my life.

Oldfield may have a point, but it is such a pity he expressed himself in such an incoherent and antagonistic fashion.
posted by phwoartocracy at 2:31 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


One thing the anti-elitist progressives tend to forget in their rush to make it first to the bottom of the socio-economic ladder in order to establish their working-class credibility...

Thanks, but I was actually attempting to establish that I am not and never have been anywhere near the bottom of any of the ladders available. Sadly, I may well have been commenting based solely on British, Australian and US rowing - must have forgot Canada.
posted by jacalata at 2:36 PM on April 9, 2012


Trenton Oldfield has a blog (linked in the original post), "Elitism Leads To Tyrrany". His blog does not have a comment section. In this context, isn't that a bit ... elitist?
posted by iviken at 2:39 PM on April 9, 2012


Thanks, but I was actually attempting to establish that I am not and never have been anywhere near the bottom of any of the ladders available. Sadly, I may well have been commenting based solely on British, Australian and US rowing - must have forgot Canada.

My assumption is that Australia (and New Zealand) are actually more egalitarian than Canada was in the 70s, 80s and 90s. I have no idea what the UK or the US was like back then, but you can't just say that rowing is an elitist sport based on your own limited experience. That's laughable.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:47 PM on April 9, 2012


Even Laurie Penny, who isn't above a bit of old-fashioned class-war rhetoric herself from time to time
Despite being an Oxford grad herself, before she got appointed spokesperson for a generation in some vote I must have missed.
posted by Abiezer at 2:54 PM on April 9, 2012


My wife rowed for Canada, as did her brother. All you have to do to get noticed at a national level is to be great on an erg - and we just bought a Concept 2 (standard national team training gear) for $775. You can jump on a Concept 2 at any gym. It's one of the cheapest, most accessible sports going.

Access to boats is restricted at a club level, but usually the problem is finding able and willing bodies rather than having too much participation. A lot of public high schools here in Victoria have programs and pretty much anyone can walk on and try rowing at UVic.

If anything, in a place like Canada the biggest barrier is climate. When we were in Calgary my wife was coaching at the Calgary Rowing Club on Glenmore Reservoir - their season is May 15 to October 15, if lucky. You're not developing national-level rowers on the water in Calgary.
posted by jimmythefish at 2:54 PM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


iviken: Trenton Oldfield has a blog (linked in the original post), "Elitism Leads To Tyrrany". His blog does not have a comment section. In this context, isn't that a bit ... elitist?

He didn't remove the two instructional posts created when he set up his blog. Each has several hundred comments.
posted by James Scott-Brown at 2:58 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Access to boats is restricted at a club level, but usually the problem is finding able and willing bodies rather than having too much participation. A lot of public high schools here in Victoria have programs and pretty much anyone can walk on and try rowing at UVic.

Yes. I should have mentioned in my various comments that I grew up and now live in Victoria, BC, home of the Canadian Olympic rowing team. I attended the University of Victoria with many future Olympic rowers, and if the son of a plumber like me can get into university, anyone can.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:09 PM on April 9, 2012


I think the issue is not with rowing, but with the two universities which have a stranglehold on public life. Worry about rowing is missing the point.

Right, because there aren't any LSE graduates in public life...
posted by atrazine at 3:13 PM on April 9, 2012


"More than one in four - 27% - of the Commons and 42% of the Lords were educated at one of the country's oldest and most prestigious universities, according to the research by the educational charity the Sutton Trust." From here.
posted by Abiezer at 3:17 PM on April 9, 2012


And apropos of nothing, read someone refer to whoever this knob is as the 'Unaswimmer', which raised a guffaw.
posted by Abiezer at 3:23 PM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


He's saying that, from the perspective of someone who has 24 hours, twelve of which must be spent working five of which must be spent feeding and clothing children and the remainder attempting to catch some fitful sleep

I would vastly prefer to hear that perspective--which I agree is critically important and not enough of a centerpoint of public discourse in any country--from someone who actually lives that experience every day, not from Trenton Oldfield.

As someone who was a highly privileged protestor against oppressions I was not personally experiencing in my own youth, I have been too well schooled by actual grass-roots activists to have a lot of excitement about the Pankhurst school of big publicity stunt protests by the privileged at gathering places of the privileged (and at least the Pankhursts were themselves disenfranchised, even though they were otherwise infinitely more privileged than the majority of women's suffrage activists).

Seriously, there's lots of huge economic injustices happening right now in the UK. Some middle-class Australian guy disrupting a fancy English university sporting event doesn't exactly seem like big whoops in the light of the people all over the world who are risking their own necks for a better way of life for themselves (Syria and Mali are on my mind right now).
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:27 PM on April 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't think that rowing is particularly elitist as sports go. That Oxford and Cambridge rowers are entitled to the biggest stage in British rowing because they're Oxford and Cambridge and it's always been that way, does strike me as just the weird combination of tradition and elitism of which we could do with a bit less.
posted by nangua at 3:30 PM on April 9, 2012


KokuRyu: "Say whatever you like, whoever rows competitively is worthy of respect."

Why?

I mean, yeah, you can respect the effort that they put in, or respect the achievement of participating at a competitive level - but that doesn't make the person worthy of respect.

This difference is why I - and I suspect many others - have disdain for much modern sport (and, indeed, culture). It conflates respect for the achievement with respect for the person.
posted by Pinback at 3:43 PM on April 9, 2012


I'm pretty sure that Trenton Oldfield's hang-ups about elitism stem mostly from having the most elite sounding name in the history of elite sounding names.
Also, why do i have a feeling that in the back of his mind as he dove into the water, he was thumbing his nose at some ancient patriarch whose vast fortune he is set to inherit a decade or two hence.


The name was the giveaway. Dude went to a £15,000 / year private school, is a graduate of the London School of Economics, and -- you guessed it -- used to row crew.
posted by alexoscar at 3:57 PM on April 9, 2012


It conflates respect for the achievement with respect for the person.

what are we if not our actions?

I'm sure there are plenty of xbox playing, forum commenting people out there who deserve my respect, but I struggle to know what for.

Breathing perhaps?
posted by fistynuts at 4:45 PM on April 9, 2012


Someone started a rowing team while I was at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. For the record, that area has no major bodies of water and no historical connection to rowing. I had some experience doing rowing on a shoestring budget and I was amused to find that the UIUC team was using the donated behemoth ancient boats that my old team had started with. And they rowed in random agricultural ponds without docks, wading into the mire in order to launch the boats. I think they let anyone join too. I regret I didn't, but I had too many cold/wet/miserable memories from high school rowing with donated equipment in the polluted stinky Chicago river.
posted by melissam at 5:27 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Count me as another voice arguing that rowing isn't any more elitist than any other university sport. In the four (British) universities where I've had cause to find out,* joining and being an active member of the rowing team has been no more expensive than e.g. the soccer team. Joining fees have been in the range £2.50 - £30.00 per year then, if you decide to enter races, you need a lycra and a splash top. That's it. Those cost about the same as the university football strip, shin pads and a pair of boots.

(To clarify for Americans: while there are national leagues for univeristy sports teams in the UK, no-one who isn't currently in university, or a recent member of a team, gives a damn about any of them. From the few matches I went to -- football, basketball, ultimate frisbee -- I never saw more than a few dozen spectators, most of whom were partners or friends of the players. They're certainly not televised, and a typical sponsorship deal for the club will barely cover the cost of coach hire to a couple of away games.)

In the case of Oxford specifically, I have a close friend who went to the same (state) school as me, had no prior experience rowing and no money to spend on it, and was cheerfully welcomed into her college's rowing club.

So while the perception that university rowing clubs are only for wealthy students is weirdly common, it simply isn't true in any of the universities whose rowing teams I've encountered.

The position of the Oxford-Cambridge boat race in British culture is weird (but then, I also don't understand why people from outside Manchester support Man U) and, while the universities are making great strides in becoming more meritocratic in their admissions, they still have some way to go. But I don't think it's as wildly elitist as some people in here are making out.

*Two that I was directly involved with, albeit at a very low level because I wasn't very fit and didn't actually enjoy it that much, plus two for which a girlfriend of mine was on the first eight.
posted by metaBugs at 6:01 PM on April 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


I rowed for Wolfson College at Cambridge. Captained my boat, even, and my name is on the club web page design copyright. I'm from a state school, and was expelled three times at a teenager. I didn't find Cambridge or rowing exclusionary.

I love rowing, and I'm glad that I spent the time that I did working on it. I also realise the insane degree of work that moving up to the CUBC level involves; it's around 35 hours a week training whilst doing full time academic studies. While I was there, a rower gained a full blue for rowing in the Boat Race and got a first at their undergrad degree in medicine by reading up notes even whilst in between reps on the ergs. I would disagree strongly with the idea that he could be called the idle rich.

Even knowing that I look at this situation, and I have to say that the NHS being broken up is absolutely worth swimming in front of the boats for. Millions watching on TV, and access to worldwide press. Call it what it is: a privatisation of areas of health care that will kill people while money that could have been spent on the health care goes to private shareholders. That is certainly more important than having to rerun the race, more important than Zeng's moment, and I'd even say further protest and discussion of that issue is clearly more important than a crew member requiring temporary hospitalisation.

The NHS has protected me several times during accidents, and provided me with free asthma medication and care when required. It provided free of cost care and medicines for my grandfather after he fell out of a window during a two year coma, in-patient rehabilitation while he learned to speak and walk again, and nursing support for the rest of his life. It provided free medical care and prescriptions for my aunt whilst she died of AIDS as a heterosexual woman, but also gave equal support to homosexuals in the town I lived in without regard for economic circumstances or sexuality, and has touched the lives of almost everyone I know even setting aside that almost to a person the first hands to touch them at birth were those of an NHS nurse or doctor.

It also supported Alex Woods after his collapse via health care provided by the NHS at Charing Cross hospital, and I'd like to remind Americans that this would be the same as Harvard being prepared to take a rower to free-cost but well funded and run Medicare. Socialist medicine provided by the state for all and good enough to be used by those written off as the ultimate elite. That is a supreme achievement for a society, and something worth the risk of dying to protect.

For publicising the risible suggestions on this web page? The most heartbreaking thing is that the protection of effective provision of health care and social services is so worthwhile and the delivered message is so indistinguishable from self-parody.
posted by jaduncan at 6:19 PM on April 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


@jaduncan

The NHS debate is indeed a serious and important issue, an issue that is certainly more important than the boat race.

It is unfortunate for some, and tragic for a few, that the two had anything to do with one another. All rowers would have gladly rowed the race as they have so many others: without any of the media attention that risks this type of event. But hey, that's sport.

Richard William's article seems fair enough.

-A Fellow Mefite who really never expected a week ago for this to appear on the blue.
posted by wjzeng at 7:48 PM on April 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


I suppose the fact that, in a post with 63 comments, only 1 has been about what Oldfield was actually protesting while the rest have been about rowing, exposes a major flaw in his tactics.
posted by jadayne at 11:44 PM on April 9, 2012


fistynuts: "what are we if not our actions?"

Oh, I dunno. The sum of our actions, maybe?

"I'm sure there are plenty of xbox playing, forum commenting people out there who deserve my respect, but I struggle to know what for.

Breathing perhaps?
"

You'll excuse me if I respect Sartre for his philosophical consideration and insight over your undoubted skill in the realms of misquoting and pointless ill-informed snark.
posted by Pinback at 12:28 AM on April 10, 2012


Yeah, I'm fine with that, I'm pretty sure I respect Sartre more too...but you can't accuse me of both misquoting and being ill-informed, it's one or the other.

Your point is that we shouldn't respect these people for *just* being rowers?

The xbox playing, forum commenting people might turn out to be great humanitarians(or whatever criteria you believe garners respect?) as well?

I wasn't aware that was the distinction we were discussing. But feel free to correct me.
posted by fistynuts at 3:37 AM on April 10, 2012


I'd feel more sympathetic with Oldfield if he had protested privilege, rather than elitism. In my experience, those who protest elitism are more often than not those among the privileged who feel they haven't been privileged enough, despite their own mediocrity.
posted by Skeptic at 3:45 AM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


>KokuRyu: "Say whatever you like, whoever rows competitively is worthy of respect."

Why?

I mean, yeah, you can respect the effort that they put in, or respect the achievement of participating at a competitive level - but that doesn't make the person worthy of respect.

This difference is why I - and I suspect many others - have disdain for much modern sport (and, indeed, culture). It conflates respect for the achievement with respect for the person


Yeah, but it's an individual accomplishment. Have you ever played sports at a competitive level? Not everyone can do it.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:53 AM on April 10, 2012


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