Vesper Tigers

M was a twenty-two year old Temple University rower, who grew up in New Jersey. His interest in rowing stemmed from his father’s history with the Vesper Boat Club in Philadelphia, PA. Growing up, he spent time around boathouse row on the Schuylkill River watching his father race against other masters’ teams like Penn Athletic Club. Eventually, he spent three summers in between college on the U23 men’s team at Vesper. He heard this particular joke one summer while racing up at St. Catharine’s for Canadian nationals from a stake-boat holder during an afternoon practice. As a charismatic person, M was instantly considered to be the captain of the 2012 team. During one regatta against other crews from boathouse row, K (one of the Vesper rowers) asked why Vesper Boat Club did not have a mascot like the eagle from Penn Athletic Club. Almost all the other squads had short, traditional chants, but Vesper only had the “All Together” slogan. M decided to ask the other members of our team to gather in one of the boathouse bays post regatta to tell us the legend of the Vesper mascot. Sitting in boat slings and on the floor exhausted, the entire U23 team, both lightweights and heavyweights, awaited M’s story. He framed the legend by referencing the old photos of past victories and the shifting squads.

M: Vesper once had a mascot. Back when my father joined the club, he heard this story about the Vesper tigers. Apparently back then, the club was starting up and of course there was some sort of hazing involved. Each of the team members had to get a tiger somewhere on their body before the start of the season. If they didn’t it would be bad luck for the entire racing season. Eventually one by one the entire boat club had tattooed tigers on their bodies. At one point, there was a young coxswain who appeared to not want to have to get the tattoo and went to the coach. Apparently, the coach was alarmed when he began taking off the rowers shirts and finding the tiger. He was so angry that he eliminated the Vesper mascot all together”

I remember M tell us this story pointing out where different crew members had their tattoos on the pictures on the wall. He even went so far as saying the phrase “All Together” Vesper’s mantra came out of this moment. We all bonded over the tiger and came together in the face of adversity.