TODAY, representatives from the Dad Vail Regatta will meet with U.S. Rep. Bob Brady and Mayor Nutter to discuss whether the annual, 75-year-old boat race might stage its 2010 races here after all.
Please forgive me while I cackle at the mental image of a chastened Dad Vail crawling back to the city that it's been trashing since the announcement last month that the regatta was moving its collegiate-rowing extravaganza to Rumson, N.J.
I'm sorry, but the Dad Vail has behaved so arrogantly during this fiasco, it's gonna be a long time before betrayed fans see the tradition's organizers in a rosy light.
How has the Dad Vail fallen on its oars?
Help me count the ways.
Meeting with the city to complain about high municipal costs, while the Rumson offer was all but a done deal, was a low-rent move. The mayor of our cash-hemorrhaging town, given scant notice of the urgency of the Dad Vail's finances, had no time to broker a deal that might've kept the sculls on the Schuylkill.
The Dad Vail leadership hasn't treated its own board members much better. The Rumson arrangement was announced without the knowledge of the entire board, which put some members in the unfair position of defending a decision they weren't given chance to vet. That's an offensive way to treat volunteers whose time and goodwill are needed to float your boat.
As for the regatta's very constituents - bright-eyed collegiate rowers - Dad Vail thrust upon these kids not just the loss of a beloved, tradition-laden venue but the prospect of onerous travel expenses and what looks to be a cumbersome setup in little Rumson. If Dad Vail had bothered to consult with the schools' athletic coaches, they might have learned that a move would create heartache and hardship.
As one disgusted and highly involved member of Philadelphia's rowing community told me yesterday, "The Dad Vail has turned into a bunch of grumpy old men who've made the regatta all about them. It's not about what's best for the rowers."
A spokesman for Nutter wouldn't discuss details about today's meeting (wonder if "eating crow" is on Dad Vail's agenda?), other than to say a "wide range of issues will be discussed" with the hope of returning the regatta to Philly as soon as possible.
But Brady told me he's eager to help the regatta find the resources needed to stage its race here in 2010.
With that in mind, you know who oughta get an invite to today's meeting?
Clete Graham. He's commodore of the Schuylkill Navy, the rowing organization that oversees the Stotesbury Cup, Independence Day, Schuylkill Navy, and Philadelphia Youth regattas.
Graham tells me that the Stotesbury Cup, a high-school race that attracts 5,100 competitors, costs $175,000 to produce. That's almost $200,000 less than the Dad Vail indicated, on its 2007 tax return, it cost to produce its regatta for just 3,300 competitors.
What makes the Dad Vail so expensive?
Dad Vail chairman Jack Galloway told me yesterday that he wasn't the best person to answer financial questions about the all-volunteer organization, and Dad Vail President Jim Hannah did not return my call.
When he does, maybe I can coax him into letting Graham share his organization's dollar-stretching techniques.
No matter what happens at today's confab, Rumson Mayor John Ekdahl probably deserves a phone call. Yesterday, he told my colleague St. John Bernard-Smith that he hasn't spoken with anyone from the Dad Vail since Dec. 8 and was under the impression that everything was good to go for the Dad Vail to take place in Rumson next spring. He's been talking with Dad Vail organizers since midsummer, he said, and would be "very disappointed if we were left in the dark about the sudden change in direction."
If today's talks are fruitless, and the Dad Vail indeed heads north for rich Rumson, I wish the best of luck to rowers, who had nothing to do with this mess.
As for Dad Vail's organizers, I'd say this: On your way out of town, don't let any oars whack you on the behind.
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