College aims for toast heard round world

This Just In...

February 22, 1999|By DAN RODRICKS

TODAY IS GEORGE Washington's birthday. Had the life expectancy for men with wooden teeth not been so short during the 18th and 19th centuries, Washington would have been 267 and America could have been enjoying this great man's leadership today.

Alas, he's dead. This year marks the 200th anniversary of his death, and the Maryland college that bears Washington's name wants to celebrate.

(Wait. That came out wrong. Washington College is not celebrating Washington's death. It's celebrating his life, his legacy and that fact that in 1782 he gave his name and 50 gold guineas to establish the first college in the new nation. Washington College is the only such institution to which the first U.S. president gave his name during his lifetime.)

So there was a big swing ball over the weekend, and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin is on the Chestertown campus today. Tonight in Boston, Washington College alumni are having a "covered dish and champagne" supper. At Phillips Harborplace, there's a rockfish-and-crab Washington College special on the menu. There's a big happy hour at the Hotel George in the District of Columbia this evening.

And the college is offering to buy a drink for each of its 8,000 alumni no matter where they are - even the 14 who live in Sri Lanka - so they can toast the founding father.

How do you buy a round that big, in so many different time zones?

Each WC grad is asked to pay for the birthday drink - milkshake or martini, or whatever - then mail a receipt for reimbursement to the alumni office, says Trams Hollingsworth (that's the best name I've come across lately, folks), director of the Office of Alumni Affairs.

"The college hopes that each and every one of its 8,000 graduates will raise a public toast to our patron on his birthday," she says. "The college will treat." Hollingsworth - may I call her Trams? - beckoned WC grads to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happy hour." It's what George would have wanted, you know, had he lived.

NHL watches 'victims'

You've heard the complaint - and I'm guessing it was probably on talk radio - that American society, bound by liberalism and gagged by litigation, has spawned the Culture of the Victim. We live in an era in which no injustice is too small, no damage too minor, no claim too frivolous. At the first drop of hot coffee, the slightest twinge of whiplash, or the mere suspicion of unfairness, victims boldly step forward to whine and protest and sue. You've heard this. There's some truth to it.

More truth to it than ever. (Because there are more lawyers than ever.)

But we tolerate it. There doesn't seem to be much we can do about it in a constitutional democracy.

The National Hockey League, however, doesn't stand for it. They make their own rules in the NHL. They made a good one six seasons ago that I only recently came to appreciate. I noticed it Feb. 14 in a Fox telecast of a game between the Colorado Avalanche and the Philadelphia Flyers.

When one of the players was ordered to the penalty box for tripping his opponent, the opponent was ordered off the ice as well. The referee accused him of unsportsmanlike conduct.

I had never seen this before, and I thought it strange - until the Fox announcer explained what had happened.

Apparently, when he sensed that he might be going down, the tripping "victim" had exaggerated his fall. Instant replay revealed that he had tumbled and rolled and flailed around on the ice, embellishing his spill in an obvious way. This is known generally as "diving." It has been a violation of NHL rules since the 1992-1993 season, according to Frank Brown, the league's vice president for media relations.

"Why was it put on the books?" says Brown. "Because you had guys sneezing two zones away and guys falling down on the ice because of it. Diving became enough of an activity that the league did something about it."

Usually, Brown says, referees call the penalty when a player pretends to be fouled in an effort to draw a penalty against the opposing team. (Punters in the National Football League do it all the time.)

What happened in the recent Colorado-Philadelphia game was unusual - and ironic. The "victim" didn't need to embellish his fall because the referee was right on top of the play, instantly signaled the tripping penalty and ordered the tripper to the box for two minutes. The superfluous dramatics of the "victim" deprived his team of having a two-minute, one-man advantage on the ice and an opportunity to score.

So there it is - victims, legitimate or otherwise, are not allowed to exaggerate their plight in the National Hockey League. I like this. You like this? We could learn from this.

Hook, line and sinker

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