Déjà Vu … All Over Again

… as the great philosopher, Yogi Berra once said. Walking into the Joe Perkins Natatorium on the campus of SMU last weekend for the Republic of Texas Masters swim meet, I felt like I was walking into a time capsule. Not much had changed there in the 43 years since I swam my very first AAU National Championships in 1967. Jim Montgomery, a teammate from the 1976 Men’s Olympic Swimming Team, and head coach of the Dallas Area Masters Swim Team, had invited me to give a clinic to the swimmers.

There are certain events in our life that remain vivid in our memories. What we were doing when we watched in horror the events of 9/11 unfold before us, where we were when JFK was shot (for those of us old enough to remember) and for me, sitting in the bleachers awestruck over Mark Spitz breaking American records in this very same pool. It was as if it had happened yesterday, and frankly, other than moving the blocks from the shallow end to the deep end, the place looked identical.

So when Bobby Patten, coach of the Dallas Area Masters Swim Team, and I were reminiscing about this storied pool, admiring the rich tradition and heritage and the great swimmers’ photos mounted on the front entry salon walls; like Steve Lundquist, Jerry Heidenreich, Ken Merten, Jim Montgomery and Martina Moravcova, the thought occurred to us that some facilities should just be kept up as they are.

In fact, the facility has been well maintained. The little white tiles in the locker room, the white painted wooden doors, the varnished bleacher seats, even the old fashioned urinals that likely one could never find again were pretty much in original mint condition. Clearly, recruiting top-notch swimmers to a University whose home dual meets are in a 6 lane, shallow-end-going-to-deep-end, old-school pool is not the easiest task in the world. But somehow, this Perkins Natatorium needs to remain as it is.

To commemorate this pool, Bobby came up with a brilliant idea. “Next year”, he said, “Let’s host a retro meet. These would be the rules:

  1. Nylon suits only
  2. No goggles or caps allowed
  3. Both feet forward on the start, hands in front or back (trophy start)
  4. No touching the block with the hands on the start
  5. Dive entry must be either pike position or flat as a pancake
  6. Must touch the wall with the hand on all freestyle and backstroke turns
  7. Cannot let your head go underwater on breaststroke
  8. No underwater streamlining off turns or starts allowed
  9. No underwater dolphin kick on breaststroke turns.”

For some of us ‘old-timers’, swimming by these rules would be easy. For the younger swimmers, it will take some serious practice in order to master these ‘Pearls of Inefficiency’. At the very least, all of us would walk away from a meet like this having had some fun and a new found appreciation for how far we have come in the sport of swimming.

Yours in Swimming,

Gary Sr.

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