The 2020 Power Ten Dinner: “Creatures Great and Small”

28 January 2020

By Tom Weil

Tom Weil went to this year’s Power Ten Dinner on 16 January at the New York Racquet and Tennis Club in New York City. Here is Tom’s report:

Few rowing events off the course or the podium warrant – or receive – much attention, but one that does has attracted many of the U.S. “blazerati” to a mid-winter New York black tie affair for almost four decades. Priced this year at $300, the Power Ten Annual Dinner is neither for the faint of heart nor slight of fisc (nor, if one cared to be able to see one’s fellow attendees, for the stature-challenged – think of an oak stump in a grove of sequoia), but it does attract a significant number of American rowing movers and shakers, and typically promises (threatens?) a rousing and often rowdy good time.

Described on Twitter [!] as “A fraternal organization celebrating and supporting the sport of rowing”, the principal beneficiaries would appear to be the New York Racquet and Tennis Club, where it is held, and those who are the designated honorees, although the latter, who are generally the targets of slings and barbs as well as accolades, may regard it as a dubious honor.

The 2020 chosen were Sean Colgan and Dick Cashin, both the bow pair of the 1980 U.S. Olympic eight and both particularly generous supporters of the sport.

Not generally being a fan of such gatherings, three elements of the evening struck me as especially enjoyable. First, wherever else that $300 went, the Racquet Club did not stint on canapes or libations.  To mingle with the crowd before dinner was a pleasure, but to take in – literally – the diverse and scrumptious array of appetizers, offered by a gracious troupe of servers, who were better dressed than some of the guests, was a true feast. One should not expect to find culinary treasures at any sort of rowing event, but the Power Ten Racquet Club pre-prandial smorgasbord was possibly the best I’ve experienced in my 70-plus years.

Second, as one might hope, the company, fueled by an open bar, was delightful. I suspect that I missed many who were beyond my obstructed sight lines, but a number of old friends were accosted and some new ones made. It was a special surprise and pleasure to find myself seated next to Tom Quinn, a NYAC stalwart who often partnered in the lightweight double with the legendary Larry Klecatsky. Did he remember the only time we competed against one another, at the 1970 NAAO Nationals in Camden?  Indeed. A fierce storm the night before had washed out the Albano buoy system, removing any semblance of lanes from the course, as a result of which Quinn and Klecatsky (a future Olympian), in the midst of a titanic struggle with Duling and Belden (a future world champion and Olympian), ran into the river bank, allowing our New Haven Rowing Club double to win silver (we counted our blessings!).

Finally, the repartee, hosted by Power Ten Secretary Marty Crotty, was always lively, often witty, and occasionally in good taste. Had I been asked to give the grace, I would have proposed the following:

O Lord, we here beseech thee,
we creatures great and small –
please make the tall ones humble,
and make the short ones tall.

But no such request came my way.

Past years’ Power Ten Honorees.

Those who wished for the good times to continue could gather for post-party thrills at a subterranean site named “Doubles”. And for some of us, the festivities ended in time to catch the last train to Connecticut from Grand Central, all aboard by 11:26 pm…

If you believe in bucket lists, a Power Ten dinner would make a good candidate.

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