Dig That Endowed Chair

After months of waiting, I get to report the news that Digger Donahue has officially endowed the squash coaching job at Dartmouth. This is tremendous for the College (first women’s position to be endowed), for collegiate squash (the best guess is that about eight or nine programs have endowed positions) and for Dartmouth squash.

Everyone is thrilled. When we revived the Friends of Dartmouth Squash a year and a half ago, one far-off dream was maybe, someday, perhaps we’d get started on endowing the coaching position. Instead, Digger made it happen right away.

The Digger Donahue 1973 Head Coach of Men’s and Women’s Squash. It sounds pretty good. One thing for sure, no one else in collegiate squash but Hansi Wiens can call himself the official Digger.

Digger Donahue and I are pretty much the same: both history majors at Dartmouth, in Psi U and a captain of the team. But unless each of you go out and buy a thousand copies of each of my books, I won’t be endowing any squash jobs for a while. 


Dig That Chair

The Digger Donahue 1973 Head Coach of Men’s and Women’s Squash. That has a great ring to it. Today Dartmouth has announced that the men’s and women’s squash teams’ head coaching position is now endowed. The seven-figure gift comes from Digger Donahue. It is a tremendous gift. 

Breaking Glass

My contribution to the second Daily Squash Report group novel has just come out today. I am the third author (out of eleven) in this go-around. Unlike last fall with “The Club with Hell” here with “Breaking Glass” it was less a case of tying strands together and keeping the narrative on its somewhat wobbly tracks and more creating some of the tracks in the first place. So I added a couple of characters and tossed in some juice about some sort of international conspiracy emanating from the bowels of the IOC and hit blend.

Other bits went in, too: in memory of George Plimpton, a Sidd Finch-like barefoot squash player; and someone who goes the whole tournament without shaving: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Playoff_beard

After Alan Thatcher’s explosive first chapter, though, it was hard to avoid some sort of sexual reference, so I brought back a salacious touch of the Venice Squash Club from the nineteen-seventies. Those who were there forty years ago have never forgotten it. 

And some magic realism at the end. What serious squash player hasn’t wanted to go back to Harrow in 1865 and see the game at its genesis, to see the original habits, styles and rules, to learn the reason why they called it “squash” and to give it a go in one of the courtyards or alleys?




The J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions just wrapped up an hour ago. Whew. It is the fifteenth in a row that I have covered (there are about a dozen people who can say that, I am guessing, and probably a couple of security people) and it was as good as it always has been. I enjoyed all the reunioning with friends in the midway on the other side of Vanderbilt Hall and the gossip with players and colleagues underneath the bleachers behind the court. (I got beaned a couple of times there as Kieran, Natalie Grinham’s son was swatting a ball, with his aunt Rachael chasing after him while his mother played.)

Typically stunning matches, most of all tonight. 10-10 in the third and Greg Gaultier just couldn’t push it over the line and then a collapse once they had that epic point at 5-2 in the fourth (he won just two more points in the match). 

Best media hits: 




Chugging Tabasco, Neards and Big Biceps

Dylan Ward came through in the clutch a few days ago when Princeton’s men edged Harvard 5-4. Second year in a row he’s won against Harvard when the dual match was at 4-4.

(Princeton’s women also upset Harvard 5-4, with three Tiger wins coming in five games including Hallie Dewey who was down 0-2 and went on to win 11-9 in the fifth and Rachel Leizman who saved a match ball to beat Michelle Gemmell 12-10 in the fifth. Alexandra Sawin was the Tiger’s Dylan Ward, as she won at 4-4 to clinch the match.)

Turns out Ward and his fellow Philadelphian, classmate and teammate Ash Egan are a new version of George Polsky, Harvard’s quip master of the early 1990s. 



William White No.51

After last year’s golden jubilee excitement, the William White this year was supposed to be a let-down. Hardly. Brown, Penn, F&M, Princeton—there were tons of college kids floating around Merion Cricket Club this past weekend and over four hundred people came to the dinner dance on Saturday night. When the band played Call Me Maybe, the dance floor exploded. Out there as usual was Carter Fergusson, age eighty-nine, still renowned as the greatest dancer on the squash circuit. 

On court, plenty of upsets and good matches. Everyone was talking about Doug Lifford’s left cheek. In doubles, people get drilled often with balls, in the legs, or arms. Playing dubs over New Years I got hit not once but twice in the same exact spot in my back. Liffy got it in the smacker when Alan Grant, snapping a sharp reverse off of a serve, hammered a ball that didn’t hit any walls. Ouch. 

Tinker, Tailor

Last night we watched the 2011 film Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, adapted from John Le Carre’s 1974novel. In the film there is a very short scene (scene #126 for those keeping score at home) of a squash match. The players—Oliver Lacon and a government minister—are using wooden racquets and flaying at the ball without moving from their side of the court. Very low level of play. Lacon accidentally hits a reverse corner to win the point. The play was not terribly authentic, but the early-seventies atmosphere was: besides the wooden bats, the guys smoked in the locker room afterwards. 

In the book, there is just one reference to squash. It is when Peter Guillam, while searching for files, remembers finding Jim Prideaux’s treasured old squash racquet jammed behind a safe. It had, as Le Carre wrote, “‘J.P.’ hand-done in poker-work on the handle.” Did people really engrave their racquets that way, in the days before you had your name stamped on little ribbons of plastic?