Right, time for a little rant….every year at Boat Race time there is the round of detractors who try and belittle the race, and frankly, this year, I’ve had enough. It’s time to put these people (some of whom should know better) in their place.
In particular there were two specific instances that got my goat this week. First of all it was an article in the Daily Telegraph by Alice Arnold – wife of Clare Balding who is fronting the BBC’s coverage of the race
This article is primarily about the women’s race and the move to the same Tideway course as the men. But what really got on my nerves was this little gem:
” in recent years, it’s been obvious that the crews for each team are made up of postgraduates from America, brought in for their rowing rather than their academic acumen. (The in recent years, it’s been obvious that the crews for each team are made up of postgraduates from America, brought in for their rowing rather than their academic acumen. (The Winklevoss twins, anyone?)”
This is just so condescending and demeaning to the athletes involved. To suggest that anyone can get a place at either Oxford or Cambridge if they are not academically qualified is just ignorant. I challenged her about this on twitter:
to which she replied:
I’d love to see her tell some of the Boat Race athletes (male and female) that they are not academically qualified to be there! Yes, there are lots of top rowers who decide to further their academic and rowing careers by studying at Oxbridge and trying for a Blue. There will be a few who want to win a Blue and try and find a course that will allow this. But to suggest that they are not academically qualified is very disappointing.
The second instance was a twitter post by the MP for Huddersfield, Barry Sheerman. He responded to a tweet from Clare Balding with this:
@clarebalding Shouldn’t these meaningless boat races be changed to include other universities & genuine sporting competition?
oh dear, oh dear…..let me explain something to you Baz…The Boat Race is a private competition between the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge and has been going on since 1829. Mr Sheerman and his ilk cannot abide the perceived elitism that Oxford and Cambridge represent. Of course they are elitist…the are 2 of the top 5 Universities in the World (according to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings), and sport is, by it’s very nature, elitist – and long may it continue. Mr Sheerman seems to imply that “they” (whoever “they” may be – he doesn’t elaborate) should open up the contest to other Universities. Perhaps he thinks the Boat Race is run by British Rowing or by the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS). IT’S NOT….it is a PRIVATE race. If the television cameras, the sponsors, the crowds all disappeared overnight, the race would still take place. There are an increasing number of other Varsity races around the UK as universities take on their local rivals, some of which (like the Scottish Boat race between Edinburgh & Glasgow have been contested for over 100 years).
Now, I didn’t get into Oxbridge (despite trying) so I went to UL instead. Now when I was at UL (at the end of the 80’s) UL were, without question, the best university rowing club in Britain and possibly the world. It used to drive us mad to see the sort of exposure that the Blue Boats were getting and we used to try and beat them wherever, and however, possible (you knew there would be fireworks in any UL v Oxbridge fixture when the UL coaching launch always carried a couple of spare oars!) When people talked of Oxford or Cambridge being some of the best crews in the world we would respond in the same way that John Lennon did when asked if Ringo was the best drummer in the world…”Best drummer in the world? He’s not even the best drummer in The Beatles”. The best crews in the world? They’re not even the best crews in Britain”. But it would never cross our minds to try and muscle our way into the race. It is, always has been, and I hope always will be, a truly unique British sporting event.
My apologies for what has been a bit of a rant, and as this is a rowing blog I’m probably preaching to the converted, but I just needed to get that off my chest.
Thank you for listening…well…reading, but you know what I mean.