Web Exclusives: From the P-Nut Gallery
a column by Nate Sellwyn firstname.lastname@example.org
Ference '04 muses on crew
By Nate Sellyn
Hey hey sportsfans,
First things first, e-mail
me. If you want to talk Princeton sports, e-mail
me. If your daughter fences and you think I should cover her,
e-mail me. If there's
a Princeton sports scandal brewing and only you know about it, e-mail
me. If you want to talk fantasy basketball, please, e-mail
me. If you just saw Four Feathers and weren't that impressed,
e-mail me although
I thought it was pretty good, and I certainly had low expectations
going in. My point is, unless you e-mail
me, I won't know if I'm doing a good job, and more important
I won't ever be able to put together a mailbag column. So
Anyway, for the next little while, I'm going to
interview Princeton athletes who might not otherwise fall under
the spotlight. People who make a big sacrifice for their team or
have an exceptional story, but aren't ever going to appear as the
Princetonian ëAthlete of the Week.'
First up is John Ference '04, an ORFE major from
Johnstown, Pa.. Ference joined the men's freshman lightweight crew
team as a novice in 2000, and made the first freshman boat. His
boat went undefeated for the entire year, and then won Eastern Sprints
the major rowing championship for East Coast colleges. For
his sophomore year, Ference began in the junior varsity boat, but
after a few races moved up to varsity. The boat would again do very
well, placing second to Yale in the Sprints final. So what kind
of rowing pedigree does Ference have to explain all this success?
None he never touched a boat before coming to Princeton.
NS: So you had never rowed at all before
coming to Princeton?
JF: No. I had seen races a few times before, which is how
I became interested in the sport.
NS: Just watching rowing was enough to
make you want to try? It doesn't really seem to be a glamour sport
I mean, the rowers aren't getting out of the boat and being
mauled by girls or anything.
JF: I really enjoy being outdoors, and I spent a lot of time
around a lake near my home when I was younger. Rowing looked like
a chance to try something new combined with things that I enjoyed.
It also had a mysterious allure to it because I didn't really know
anything about crew when I began.
NS: Is it uncommon for people who just
begin rowing to suddenly become so good? Is your success out of
JF: With the coaching expertise and the facilities here at
school, it is very possible to quickly learn a lot about rowing,
so my success is maybe only a bit above average. I have heard a
few stories of novices going on to success on the national team
after rowing here.
NS: Do you have any aspirations to continue
to that level?
JF: That would be a tremendous jump from the level I am at
right now, and it currently appears far beyond my potential. But
if it looks like something I could achieve in the future, I would
gladly pursue it.
NS: Do you have any rowing rituals? Like,
an egg in your spandex a la Cool Runnings?
JF: Some guys think it's about the socks, wearing the same
socks for every race or not washing them. Or the racing shirt. You
don't wash your racing shirt.
NS: But you?
JF: There's really not much gear in crew, so just I prefer
a brand new pair of socks for racing. You practice and toil in the
same-old same-old, but you've gotta do something nice for the big
NS: I hear ya. When you're taking out your
prettiest sister, may as well have on new underwear.
JF: I don't love my sister that much.
NS: Not many of us do. On to more important
questions now. Whenever you guys win, you literally take the T-shirts
from all your opponents, right?
JF: Yes, when you race, you race for the honor of taking
home your own shirt...and everyone else's.
NS: So how many shirts have you picked
up in two years of rowing?
JF: I think I have a little more than 20 shirts from the
different crews we have raced.
NS: Which one's the best?
JF: For a number of years in lightweight rowing, Yale has
had very fast boats, so I would have to say that the Yale shirts
from freshman year are the best.
NS: Ok, they mean the most. Which ones
look the coolest, though?
JF: By far, the Princeton shirts look the best. They are
sort of eccentrically designed with heavy cotton orange and black
bands on the sleeves and a giant "P" on the back.
NS: #1 at everything. Do the women trade
JF: No, men's crew is the only sport in which they bet shirts
in the races.
NS: My luck. Have you seen The Skulls?
(Second-rate film starring Joshua Jackson as a Yalie rower who gets
recruited into just about the coolest secret society ever, except
they're the bad guys. If something like this exists at Princeton,
e-mail me. I don't care who I have to murder to get in.)
JF: Yes, I saw it my freshman year after doing some racing.
Totally unrealistic. I mean, the guy is talking while he is rowing.
I think I'd pass out if I tried that during a race.
NS: So that's not the pump-up movie for
rowing? I mean, in high school, we used to watch Come Fly With
Me (Michael Jordan's first home video, showcases Mike performing
a variety of inspiring acts) before we played basketball. Watching
The Skulls doesn't get you aching to be like Joshua Jackson?
JF: No, The Skulls doesn't do it. I think the best
movie I've seen so far before a race had to be Tombstone, which
we watched before a race at Cornell. When the heroes come into town
and the bad guys don't have a chance. It's all about riding into
town and cleaning up the competition.
NS: Tombstone is a good movie. Kurt
Russell is a much better Wyatt Earp than Kevin Costner. Plus, Val
Kilmer is really good at not being Batman.
NS: Is it true that if you break an oar
or a leg or something that renders you incapable of rowing, you're
supposed to jump out of the boat to lighten the load?
JF: I hope I never find out for real, but I think I'd go
NS: So that's really what you're meant
JF: You might want to check with some authorities on that
one before you try it. I think you might get hit by a bunch of oars.
NS: That's what I was thinking. I mean,
somebody bailing out in the middle of a race is bound to be a little
more off-putting than an extra 150 pounds. Unless, of course, he
could go attack other boats. That'd make for a great sport.
JF: That's would add a whole new dimension. I bet we'd get
You can reach Nate at nsellyn@Princeton.EDU