It’s May, and that means it’s time for a series of Ron’s View reports on the NCAA men’s lacrosse tournament. The opening round will be played this weekend, with four games Saturday and four games Sunday. Each day, ESPN2 will broadcast one game and ESPNU the other three. Last year, this arrangement (and the addition of ESPNU to our cable package) made it possible for me to watch parts of all eight games. I don’t expect to be so lucky this weekend, if for no other reason because Sunday is Mother’s Day and Gail hasn’t chosen to celebrate by watching four lacrosse games.
Each year, when I turn to lacrosse, I review some essential background. Here goes.
First, the tournament format. Sixteen teams are invited, with eight of them seeded 1 through 8. Each seeded team gets to play its opening round game at home against one of the unseeded teams. These are the eight games taking place this weekend. The eight winners play their quarterfinal games the following weekend. If all goes to form and the eight seeds win, then they pair up in the traditional way, with #1 playing #8, #2 playing #7, and so on. These games are played on neutral sites. This year, four teams travel to the University of Maryland to play, while the other four go to Indianapolis. The semifinals and final are played the weekend after, which is always arranged to be Memorial Day weekend, with semis on Saturday and final on Memorial Day Monday. In recent years, the final weekend games have rotated between Boston (well, Foxborough), Philadelphia, and Baltimore, at the stadiums of the Patriots, Eagles, and Ravens.
Second, some history. Until the last decade or so, seven teams dominated the tournament, winning every championship among them and almost always supplying the runner-up as well: Syracuse, Johns Hopkins, Princeton, Virginia, North Carolina, Cornell, and Maryland. That the dominant teams are from Atlantic coast states is no surprise. The game has historically been played at the high school level mostly along the Atlantic coast (especially Maryland and Long Island) and in upstate New York, a close match to the locations of these schools. But now the game is going national. Even here in the Seattle area, it has become popular among local high schools. And with westward growth, other schools are becoming powers, ranked and seeded highly. Some of the new powers, such as Duke, are still in the traditional areas of strength. Others, such as Notre Dame and Denver, aren’t.
Of course, there are many other Atlantic coast school that have traditions of excellence, such as Navy, Loyola, and Hofstra, to mention three in the Maryland and Long Island lacrosse hotbeds. Navy was runner-up twice, in 1974 and 2005. Loyola was runner-up in 1990.
Lately things are changing. Duke, most notably, was runner-up in 2005 and 2007 before breaking through to win the championship in 2010. (Yes, Duke’s story is complicated, with the premature end to their season in 2006. The surprise may be not that they broke the seven-school-stranglehold on the championship, but that they didn’t do so sooner.) Notre Dame was runner-up to Duke in 2010, in the only final not to include one of the super seven. And last year, Loyola had its own breakthrough, earning the first seed and beating in-state rival Maryland in the final.
Which brings us to this year, and still more change at the top. I caught parts of two conference championship games last weekend. In the Big East championship Saturday, Syracuse closed out its history as a member of the Big East by beating Villanova. And on Sunday, Yale won its second consecutive Ivy title by beating Princeton, which had won over Cornell in a dramatic overtime semifinal. This was not a good year for Princeton. It needed the win and the Ivy championship to earn an automatic NCAA tournament bid. In basketball bracket language, it was a bubble team, and the loss burst its bubble.
That evening, the NCAA announced the bracket. No Princeton. No Virginia. And no Johns Hopkins! The lacrosse world is changing. In their place, new powers in the making snagged seeds two through four. I mentioned Notre Dame and Denver. Also Ohio State, which edged Denver 11-10 in their conference championship game the day before, scoring the winning goal with 24 seconds left.
Here are the seeds:
2. Notre Dame
3. Ohio State
5. North Carolina
8. Penn State
The other participants are
Though they’re not seeded, I’ve listed them in the order I assume the selection committee had in mind, with Yale playing #8 seed Penn State in the opening round, Cornell playing #7 seed Duke, and so on. The last two had records below .500, earning bids only because they were conference champions, thereby squeezing stronger teams out of the tournament.
There you have it. A tournament missing the three teams with the most championships after Syracuse. A tournament reflecting the westward shift of the game’s center of gravity. A tournament with only three of the traditional seven seeded. A new order.
I couldn’t convince Gail to head to Philadelphia for Memorial Day weekend. We’ll have to settle for TV. I’ll be watching as much as I can.
[Gene Puskar/Associated Press]
It’s been a while since I’ve written about college hockey. I’ve explained before that I used to be a big fan. That happens when your older brother goes to school at one of the great hockey powers out west (which wins the NCAA title his junior and senior years), and then you head to school at one of Boston’s four great hockey powers—ranked #1 frequently during your time there—only to watch another of the Boston powers win two titles in a row, with the championship games played in Boston three consecutive years.
Starting sophomore year, I never missed a home game or a game in that best of all Boston sporting traditions, the annual midseason Beanpot tournament. Boston schools continue to dominate, BC having won three championships in the five years prior to this one and BU another. Harvard, though, has fallen on hard times, with former doormat Yale becoming the best Ivy team of late.
Well, none of this is germane to the point of this silly post, which I’ll soon get to.
In recent years, I haven’t followed college hockey so closely. There was a bit of a revival of interest when Joel attended one of Boston’s big four schools. I followed their hockey fortunes more closely than he did. And at the same time, a good friend of mine became president of a new hockey power, Miami University in Ohio, which lost the championship game way too painfully four years ago after leading BU 3-1 with just under a minute left.
So I keep up. A little. Enough to have learned that the NCAA tournament has come to be run in two parts. Sixteen teams are selected. On the same weekend that the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments reach their sweet sixteen and elite eight stages, hockey’s first two rounds are played, producing the four teams that go to the Frozen Four. (Get it? Frozen Four, not Final Four?)
Then something incredibly annoying happens. The four finalists are in top shape and eager to go at it. But the next weekend, what does the NCAA do? Okay, get ready. This post is not about hockey. It’s about a pun, one I used in explaining the situation to Gail two weekends ago, when basketball was on but not hockey. Here’s what happens:
The NCAA puts their hockey tournament on ice!
Yes, they put it on ice! Instead of letting hockey get lost amid the basketball, they postpone the Frozen Four a week, as if delaying will focus more attention on the hockey games. I just don’t get it.
But how about that pun? I was proud of it, as you can see, proud enough to devote an entire post to it.
As for this year’s tournament, the championship game was played two days ago, Yale playing another hockey upstart, Qunnipiac. (Imagine that! Suddenly Boston isn’t the epicenter of college hockey. Greater New Haven is, with two schools just six miles apart, though much farther apart in their histories.) Quinnipiac was ranked #1 in the country and had beaten Yale three times already this season. Through almost two periods, the game was scoreless. With seconds to go in the second period, Yale scored, adding three more goals in the third to shock Quinnipiac 4-0. Yale, national champions of hockey. I never would have expected the day to come.
With work and travel, I haven’t been posting, being content instead to add to my coming attractions list (here and here). One more time, with catchup scheduled to begin tomorrow, if I can tear myself away from final-round Masters coverage.
The list so far:
1. Lunch two Fridays ago at La Grenouille, one of the great restaurants of New York.
2. Andrew Delbanco’s College: What it Was, Is, and Should Be , which I started reading on the plane flight to New York two Thursdays ago and finished last Monday.
3. Hockey on ice. A silly little post about a pun.
4. Our flight to Atlanta last Sunday, views of New York and Delaware Bay and the Chesapeake and downtown Baltimore, and my inability to come up with a clue to the Delta flight magazine crossword puzzle clue “New York’s ____ Island” even as I looked down on the very island and pointed it out to Gail.
5. Last Monday at the University of Georgia.
6. Dinner Monday night at Athens’ great 5 & 10.
7. Last Tuesday at the Masters. A dream come true.
[Photo by Dan Nakano]
8. Wednesday visit to the University of Georgia sports museum (Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall).
9. The subsequent visit to the Georgia Museum of Art (the state museum, on campus).
10. Wednesday lunch at another great Athens restaurant (who knew they had so many?), The Grit.
12. Our flight home Thursday in a 767 set up for international travel, with a change in the weather.
Hmm. Maybe I won’t get through all of this. But doing so is the plan.
13. Oh, and one more post, on yet another long history book I need to add to my ever-growing list: William Dalrymple’s Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, due out Tuesday and reviewed today in the WSJ. It came out in January in the UK, to strong reviews. And Dalrymple has an op-ed piece on Afghanistan in tomorrow’s NYT.
The Olympics end tomorrow. Whenever possible over the last week, I’ve spent lunchtime watching the live internet feed of the track and field finals. With that done on any given day, I didn’t have much reason to tune to the NBC primetime production. I had no stomach for their endless teases and dragging out of events.
One unintended consequence of my viewing pattern has been that I’ve hardly seen any Olympic events other than track lately. What I know about them comes mostly from reading. Fortunately, some of the gaps in my viewing have been filled by excellent videos at the websites of The Guardian and The Wall Street Journal. If you have gaps too, I highly recommend their work.
The full list of Guardian videos can be found here. I was particularly pleased to see their coverage of the weightlifting final for the highest weight class. And, having missed so much of the rowing during week one, I was able to catch up on the men’s coxless four final, a thrilling matchup of Great Britain and Australia (above). Another highlight in their series is the men’s track 100 meter race:
The WSJ has their own compelling series of Homemade Highlights, including the women’s beach volleyball final:
One can never watch the transcendent Usain Bolt too often. Here is the WSJ’s coverage of his 200 meter victory.
Finally, moving outside the arenas, I can’t resist including the video from opening day that made Londoner Rachel Onasanwo an unexpected Olympics star.
Two nights ago, I announced that it was put up or shut up time. After years of complaining about the difficulty of following Olympic rowing on TV, I now had the option of watching any event I wanted live through NBC’s internet feed. If the men’s eight race was so important to me, all I would have to do is get up at 2:30 the next morning (yesterday) and watch it. But would I? I promised an update, and here it is.
Some background first. The traditional setup in a major rowing event is to have heats in which the winners advance to the finals, but the others have to row again in a “repechage” round to fill out the field. I hadn’t followed closely enough in recent years to know who was in good form, but I’d read that Germany was favored. True to form, they won their heat, in a very fast time of 5:25.52. The other heat, was won by the US in a time of 5:30.72, slower than the times of Great Britain and the Netherlands in the Germany heat. The repechage was won by Great Britain, followed by Canada, the Netherlands, Australia (all qualifying for the final), Poland, and Ukraine.
I set an alarm on my iPad to go off yesterday morning at 2:22. I figured that would give me enough time to open the Olympic live feed app, find the rowing, and get the feed started by the listed 2:30 AM start time. I awoke at 1:45 AM and wondered if I should just stay up. But I didn’t. I awoke next at 2:32 AM. The alarm never went off. Or I never heard it. Then again, maybe it did go off, which might be the only reason I even awoke at 2:32, by which time the alarm had stopped. I don’t know.
What I do know is, I got up, took the iPad out of the room so as not to awake Gail, opened the Olympic app, started the rowing — everything working perfectly — and there were two boats racing away. I didn’t know how far down the 2000 meter course they were. I didn’t even know who they were. And had they really opened such a huge lead over the rest of the field that the camera would focus on them alone?
Here’s the thing. What I didn’t know was that Poland and Ukraine were to compete in a runoff for 7th place. And that’s what I was watching. Maybe 20 seconds after I joined the coverage, the screen had a graphic identifying who was who, and I was totally confused. After all, they weren’t even in the final. Were they?
The race ended, I learned that Poland had just won 7th place, it all made sense at last, and I realized I had lucked out. Despite oversleeping, I was in time to see the real final after all.
Except that the camera switched to the starting line and the boats maneuvering into place weren’t eights, they were quadruple sculls. We were moving on to the next event. I had missed the final altogether!
That’s the story.
I don’t know what I did wrong, or what was wrong with the schedule. But the men’s eight final didn’t start at 2:30 am after all. I went back to bed disappointed.
On awakening a few hours later, I checked the results to find out what I missed. Germany had won the gold with a time of 5:48.75. Second was Canada, in 5:49.98. Just .69 seconds separated the other four shells, with Great Britain getting bronze in 5:51.18, the US fourth in 5:51.48, Netherlands fifth in 5:51.72, and Australia sixth in 5:51.87. I know nothing more. Whether Germany was in control all the way or Canada challenged, whether the US was closing on GB for a medal or rather was in a medal position but lost out at the end — no idea. I’ll catch the race online at some point.
Last night I had to decide what to do about the women’s eight. It took place this morning, 4:30 AM local time. Should I set the alarm again? I didn’t. I was too discouraged. And I missed what no doubt was a good race, won by the favored US crew with Canada second, Netherlands third, Romania fourth, GB fifth, and Australia sixth.
Maybe four years from now I’ll have this figured out. It helps that Rio is only four hours ahead.
Meanwhile, having finished writing this post, I decided to look up the coverage of the men’s race in The Guardian. Tim Adams fills us in, from a British perspective:
In an emotional final, Britain’s men’s eight held on to win a thrilling bronze medal behind the world champions Germany and the defending Olympic champions Canada. With the Eton Dorney crowd still ecstatic from witnessing the first British triumph of the 2012 Games in the women’s pair event half an hour earlier, the men’s boat was roared along the 2km course from the start.
With five hundred metres to go it still looked possible that the men’s crew would add to the triumph of Helen Glover and Heather Stanning; at that stage they were matching the German crew stroke for stroke and were half a length up on Canada. In the final quarter of the race, however, the Germans pulled away, and by the end the British men, having given everything in an explosive start, only edged out the fast-finishing American crew by 0.3sec to hold on to a medal.
Up against a German crew undefeated for four years, and a Canadian boat boasting the fastest time in history, the odds had been stacked against Britain’s men, and to come so close was a triumph of will in itself.
[Tom Jenkins for The Guardian]
Guardian columnist Marina Hyde had a hilarious piece yesterday from the Olympic equestrian venue in Greenwich. Mind you, I understood only about half of it, between obscure references best understood by residents of the UK and obscure references best understood by the horse set. At least I know that wellies are Wellingtons, the famed rubber boot of British country life, and that Hunter has made them for decades. That got me started in the passage below. You’ll find my chosen line of the day in the third paragraph, but it’s all well done. (Hat tip: Geoff Shackelford.)
To Greenwich Park, home of the prime meridian line, where it was officially Country O’Clock for the equestrianism on Monday. To give you a handle on the crowd, no one was wearing the wrong shoes. During Sunday’s rains at the Olympic Park, all manner of error-strewn urban footwear planning was on show, with punters slipping and slopping around in sandals and flip flops.
At Greenwich, despite the sunny skies, there were innumerable pairs of Hunter wellies, for the simple reason that you never know how it’s going to turn out. Empty seats scandal in the morning, shepherd’s warning.
Even more clearly in evidence were the hundreds wearing riding boots – a bit like those spectators who wear golf shoes to championships, giving them the air of people who imagine they might be called on to the greens at any time and asked to replace Tiger Woods if he goes to pieces.
Then again, Greenwich feels like a more-than-usually expert crowd. “Those surface changes made a big difference to the arena at the weekend,” one man was observing to his neighbour as they watched the cross country, which saw horses clearing jumps shaped like tractors, in a park from which you can see the City of London.
Where many 2012 venues give the impression of a mixed crowd of sport-watching novices, dedicated tourists, and diehard fans, much of Monday’s Greenwich bunch seemed like they knew each other instinctively – and possibly socially.
And speaking of the equestrian events, the hurdles for the jumping competition are a wonderful bit of whimsy. Be sure to see the Guardian’s slide show here.
[Andrew Boyers/Action Images]
It’s one of those rare moments in life when I can quit complaining and take control.
Every four years, with Summer Olympics coverage in the US focused on track and field, swimming, and gymastics, I bemoan the absence of rowing. You might not guess, with all the attention given to cycling on Ron’s View, but rowing was once my sport. Come the Olympics, I want to see the races, preferably live, at least the men’s and women’s eight finals. What one gets instead is the odd race broadcast at some obscure time, provided the US medals. Four years ago, with the US women’s eight taking gold, I never did figure out when a replay was shown.
This year, though, everything is available online as it happens. If I care so much, I can see all the rowing I want. And so, put up or shut up time arrives in six and a half hours. The men’s eight final will begin at 2:30 AM Seattle time.
How serious am I? I’ll let you know.
By the way, for some background, here’s an excerpt from Gary D’Amato’s article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The U.S. men’s eight, which had to qualify for the Olympic Games in a last-chance regatta, scored a minor upset by easily winning its heat Saturday and advancing directly to the rowing final.
Can the eight, a crew put together just a few months ago, pull off a much bigger surprise and win a medal on the 2,000-meter course at Eton Dorney on Wednesday?
“Absolutely,” said Chris Clark, who coached U.S. team members Grant and Ross James at the University of Wisconsin. “Whether or not they’ve got enough to win a gold medal, I don’t know.”
Germany, favored to win gold, won its heat with a time of 5 minutes 25.52 seconds, more than 5 seconds faster than the 5:30.72 posted by the U.S. boat.
The heat winners advanced to the final. Great Britain, Canada, the Netherlands and Australia also advanced through the repechage.
Clark said the Americans’ best chance to medal would be to get off to a fast start.
“In the eight, it’s so much about confidence,” Clark said. “You have the advantage because you can see the boat behind you. If the slightest doubt creeps in, a (trailing) boat can fall apart.
In recent years, we have had the annual privilege and pleasure of heading to Nantucket for a few days. I’ve given up trying to make sense of why we so enjoy our time there. Or why, by going every year, we thereby postpone visiting they many other places on our wish list. I suppose it comes under the heading of doing one thing well rather than many poorly, though I wouldn’t say we do such a good job of visiting Nantucket. For one thing, we have only the narrowest of perspectives on real life there. We always make it a point, when we find ourselves chatting with year-round residents, to ask them about the winters, which we have yet to experience. We gather that essential activities are reading, knitting, and drinking.
Come Tuesday, a book will appear that promises to offer additional perspective, James Sullivan’s Island Cup: Two Teams, Twelve Miles of Ocean, and Fifty Years of Football Rivalry. The blurb from the book’s website:
Before “Friday Night Lights” was a bestseller and a Hollywood franchise about high school football in Texas, author Buzz Bissinger had a different setting in mind: a remote island off the coast of Massachusetts. We may think of Nantucket as a resort destination for CEOs and senators, but it really belongs to a legendary coach named Vito Capizzo. After the tourists and jetsetters leave and the cold weather descends, for narly a half-century Capizzo and his Whalers have readied themselves for the main event: a spirited and unforgettable rivalry with the high school team from the neighboring island, Martha’s Vineyard.
For decades, these two teams have shaped their seasons around their fierce head-to-head matchups. They play for pride, a coveted trophy—the Island Cup—and quite often a shot at a state Super Bowl title. Despite their tiny year-round populations, both islands are perennially dangerous on the football field.
This far-reaching book tells the story not only of the unique Whaler-Vineyarder rivalry, but of two places without a country. Dotted with empty houses nine months of the year, Nantucket and the Vineyard have long, strange histories that include an attempt to secede from the United States, two traditionally diverse populations and lasting connections to the vanished whaling industry. Delving into the rich culture and sometimes hard realities of both places, Sullivan paints a picture of a bygone New England, a place that has never stopped fighting for its life—and the rights to the Island Cup.
Island Cup might have passed me by if not for Tony Horwitz’s Wall Street Journal review yesterday. I suspect the audience for it may be limited, but within that limited audience is us.
Horwitz, a distinguished writer, lives on Martha’s Vineyard with his wife, fellow writer Geraldine Brooks, and their sons. Here’s the opening of his review:
On a raw day last November, I rode a packed ferry from Martha’s Vineyard to Nantucket to see my son play in a high-school football game. The 1,500 passengers poured onto Nantucket’s cobbled streets like a marauding horde, waving purple banners and screaming from painted faces, “Harpoon the Whalers!” That night, we returned across the water to be greeted at the dock by fire-engine sirens and flashing lights as a raucous throng cheered its victorious warriors.
A newcomer to the Vineyard—to locals, a “wash-ashore”—I was stunned by this primal display from my normally taciturn neighbors. I knew my island took its sports seriously and disliked Nantucket. But I had no idea that football games between the two islands were blood feuds out of “Braveheart.”
The history of this New England rite is the subject of James Sullivan’s “Island Cup: Two Teams, Twelve Miles of Ocean, and Fifty Years of Football Rivalry.” Turns out, the frenzy I witnessed in 2011 was tame compared with earlier years. Visiting players used to stay overnight with families on the host island—until 1966, when police had to break up a brawl involving two Vineyard linebackers and Nantucket locals well after the team’s 9 p.m. curfew. Hotels proved no better; home-team fans blew air horns all night to deprive the visitors of sleep. Nantucketers once left a broken pipe seeping water on the sideline so that during the game, the visiting players and coaches stood deep in mud. Vineyarders replied by burning a mock coffin and declaring that the Nantucket coach was inside.
Island inhospitality has extended to other teams, too, with rocks and eggs thrown at visitors’ buses. One coach from a mainland team told his players after games on Nantucket: “Maybe we lost, but we’re lucky—we get to get off this damn island.”
All this may surprise summer tourists, who associate Nantucket with the homes of whaling captains and with sunburned WASPs in salmon pants. The Vineyard is likewise known for its affluent ease, a retreat for the Clintons, Kennedys and Obamas. But as Mr. Sullivan observes, these crowded resorts have a very different character in fall and winter. They’re small communities, mostly middle- and working-class, with large immigrant populations, isolated by fog and water from what islanders call “America.”
Sunburned WASPs in salmon pants? Is Horwitz talking about the famous Nantucket reds from Murray’s Toggery Shop? I’m no WASP, that’s for sure, but I happily wear them. And I never thought they were salmon.
In any case, I’m eager to find out more about what goes on there when we’re not around.
[Baltimore Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr. / May 28, 2012]
Three weeks ago I gave my annual overview of the NCAA men’s lacrosse tournament, providing my usual narrative about traditional lacrosse powers and schools on the rise. Alas, I missed the real story, Loyola. Despite being in the heart of lacrosse country, in Baltimore, it has generally been overshadowed by its next-door-neighbor, Johns Hopkins, and the local state university, Maryland. Perhaps no more.
I tried to give Loyola their due. I noted, for example, that they were one of the season’s surprises, and entered the tournament as the #1 seed, having lost only to Hopkins, in a game the NYT featured that morning with an article headlined, “A Lopsided Lacrosse Rivalry Receives a Jolt.” Historic power Hopkins entered the tournament with the #2 seed. No one would be surprised if they made the final. In contrast, seeding aside, Loyola would surely be a surprise if they made the final.
In my survey of traditional powers, I pointed out that until Duke’s win two years ago, the same seven schools — Syracuse, Cornell, Princeton, Hopkins, Maryland, Virginia, and UNC — dominated, winning all previous championships and frequently occupying the runner-up slot as well. I added that Duke has joined them in the past decade to form an elite eight, making seven semi-finals and three finals in the last eight years, with the one championship. (And they may well have been the best team in the country the year they didn’t make the semi-final, but their season was terminated prematurely.)
Knocking at the door behind Duke has been Notre Dame, losers to Duke in the championship game two years ago and routinely ranked highly. Yet another newcomer is Denver, with long-time Princeton coaching great Bill Tierney having resigned to move to Denver two years ago and bringing them to the semi-finals last year.
That was my rundown three weeks ago, the opening weekend of the tournament, during which the top five seeds — Loyola, Hopkins, Duke, Notre Dame, and Virginia — won home games to advance to the quarterfinals, joined by Denver (beating 8th seed UNC), Maryland (beating 7th seed Lehigh), and Colgate (beating 6th seed UMass).
Two weeks ago, form mostly held. In close games, Loyola beat Denver and Notre Dame beat Virginia to set up a semi-final meeting. In not-so-close games, Duke beat Colgate, but Maryland upset Hopkins to move into the other semi-final.
It is past time to point out that Loyola has its own distinguished lacrosse history. Though never having won a championship, it has had a pretty good run. Under coach Dave Cottle, it made the NCAA tournament every year from 1988 to 2001, losing to Syracuse in the 1990 final. (Syracuse would later be found to have violated eligibility rules and forced to vacate that title.) Cottle left Loyola for Maryland after the 2001 season, with Loyola then missing the tournament the next five years. But now they are back, under coach Charley Toomey, their goalie in that 1990 championship game.
Back and then some.
A week ago today, in a superb defensive battle, Loyola beat Notre Dame 7-5 to make the championship game, while Maryland stunned Duke 16-10. Two days later, in a defensive masterpiece, after falling behind 3-2 early in the second quarter, they didn’t allow Maryland to score for the final 40 minutes and 40 seconds, winning 9-3. Not only were they champions, but they left no doubt that they were the best team in the country.
It feels right, having them join the roster of lacrosse champions. One of these years, Notre Dame will be there. Maybe Denver. For now, order is maintained, the new champion being an old power from an old lacrosse center. It was fitting conclusion to as exciting a tournament as I can remember.
The front page feature article in today’s Wall Street Journal raises a provocative question: should the world record in paper airplane flight distance be held by the individual who can design, build, and throw a paper airplane the farthest, or should designer-thrower duos be eligible as well? This is not an abstract question. At the end of February, designer John Collins teamed with former Cal quarterback Joe Ayoob to build and sail a plane 226 feet and 10 inches, breaking the record of 207 feet, 4 inches set in 2003 by then-fifteen-year-old Stephen Krieger.
This would be a good time for me to note that I know Stephen. He is a recent graduate from the math department at the university. I never had him in a class, but a few summers ago he was one of the teaching assistant/counselors in the summer program I help run for talented high school students. At the opening orientation, as part of the counselor introductions, a surprising fact was revealed about each one. Stephen’s fact: he was the Guinness World Record holder for paper airplane flight.
Who knew there even was such a category? Though I suppose it’s natural enough. More to the point, given the hundreds of millions (billions?) of paper airplane throwers in the world, I couldn’t believe that the record holder was a colleague.
Stephen, ever the good sport, was on hand for the record-breaking throw. From the WSJ article:
Stephen Kreiger had lived through many attempts to overtake his world record for flight. But he watched with resignation in February as a challenger prepared to unseat him using an unorthodox strategy.
Mr. Kreiger had held since 2003 the Guinness World Record for throwing a paper airplane the farthest. He had won it at age 15, after a summer’s preparing by toning his throwing arm.
But here was 51-year-old John Collins at the end of the empty Air Force hangar in Sacramento, Calif., preparing for the flight of a newly folded plane he had designed, having not worked out at all.
And his plane was in the hands of a ringer: a large 27-year-old man with a buff arm.
The stand-in, Joe Ayoob, wound up and rifled the plane in a long, towering arch that came as little surprise: Mr. Ayoob, as a University of California-Berkeley quarterback, logged more than 1,700 passing yards in 2005.
“Competitive paper airplane flying had always been, in my mind, what can one person do with one piece of paper,” says Mr. Kreiger, a 23-year-old engineer. Using a ringer, he says, is problematic: “I don’t really think that’s the spirit of the competition.”
Guinness World Records NA Inc. thought otherwise. Mr. Ayoob’s throw, immortalized on YouTube, sailed 226 feet and 10 inches, breaking Mr. Kreiger’s record of 207 feet, 4 inches. Guinness in March named him and Mr. Collins the record holders.
A Guinness spokeswoman says there was no internal debate about giving Mr. Collins credit. But some paper-plane purists are still aflutter.
Paper-plane enthusiasts have traditionally seen theirs as an individual sport. The question now: Is Mr. Collins’s ringer a bad precedent, or has he ushered in a new era in which designers can focus on better paper folds instead of muscle tone?
It is serious business for paper-plane people, who compete with intensity in a discipline otherwise mostly seen as a hobby for kids or classroom slackers.