Proposition, Tim Schneider
As I haven’t spent the majority of my adolescent to adult life mechanically working out in anonymous gyms where walls are stained by sweat, despair and self-loathing, I will tread carefully. Rowers, as they so insistently tell us, are “bloody massive”, so I will measure my words against the constant threat of physical danger.
I’m not going to mention, for example, that rowers’ obsession with the perfect ‘erg’ score or with the flawless bicep probably masks a much deeper psychological insecurity. I certainly won’t say that the all-consuming nature of rowing renders most barely sentient and, with their talk of “PBs” and recovery time, upsettingly boring. I just won’t. The risk is too great.
What I will say is that rowing is certainly a spectacle. I defy anyone to walk past a fogged up gym unamused where a dozen guys, lycra round their waists and a boombox blaring, shout unimaginative platitudes that (for the infantile minded) lend themselves to innuendo. “Come on, John, you can do it!”; “You gotta want it!”; “Don’t put that in there, you’re doing it wrong” and the obligatory screams of “Yes! Yes!” For me, a non-participant, it’s certainly a fruitful use of time – an entertaining prop; for them, it’s just a guy laughing at the window.
In exchange for this glamour, rowing requires the kind of sacrifice usually demanded by cults or the Manson Family.
Not only must you pay for the privilege of dressing in full body lycra but you must also be grateful when the “coach” unloads a disproportionate amount of anger on you for failing to “tug” right (the terminology here may not be exactly right).
What rowing steals the most, though, is time. It robs time like a crew date robs all of their hope for humanity. It’s a time-bandit, a pickpocket of minutes, a seconds thief.And it’s not very discriminating – all who sign up are subjected to the customary 6am starts and 9pm finishes irrespective of talent or interest. Instead of working, socialising or (whisper it) sleeping, the impressionable are caught up in the rowing machine; a machine that depends on a large expanse of water nearby, thousands of pounds worth of equipment and unerring physical commitment.
For all that effort, what are rowers faced with? Poorly-informed derision. It’s just not worth it.
Opposition, Eddie Rolls
Despite being the most popular sport in Oxford, rowing has surprisingly earned a bad reputation for being a ‘waste of time’. As someone who has rowed for quite a while, I’d completely disagree with this notion. I believe that if Tim were to take a closer look at the subject he is studying at here at Oxford (English) then he would see a true example of a waste of time. Cheap academic digs aside, rowing does have many benefits which outweigh its notoriety for the amount of time you need to put into it.
The most obvious benefit of rowing is the physical fitness it gives you. Not only does doing exercise mean you can eat whatever you like whenever you like without significant weight gain, it also gives you the stamina to last until closing time with enough energy in reserve to wake up for that 9am lecture.
The structure and discipline of rowing also actually supplement everyday life, as opposed to being an obstacle to normality. Up for an early session? Since you are awake you might as well finish that essay you’ve been putting off. Finish that essay early? Might as well go on a crew date. Get laid last night? Thank rowing for sorting your life out.
There is also the competitive element of rowing. The hours put into training do actually have to have some quantifiable end. The pinnacle of this is in Bumps racing for Torpids and Summer Eights. There is something that is primitively stirring in a sport where the sole aim is trying to slam your boat into another boat whilst avoiding that same fate yourself. Perhaps this is what makes rowing so fun. The glory of getting that bump is amazing, whilst the fear of a near miss, or worse being bumped yourself, just makes the moment when you bump the crew in front with 100m to go that much sweeter.
In essence, rowing is a great use of one’s time at university. When people think of Oxford one of the first things that comes to mind is rowing. It is a sport steeped in tradition and has a social side that is often as important as the rowing side. I’m not going to try and claim that rowing is for everyone, but I do think that everyone should give it a go. Who knows where it will take you (other than the Cheese Floor at Park End). You will make great friends along the way, have a great time socially and get to bash your craft into the boats of other colleges. What else would someone want to do with their time?