Be of good cheer, ye fans

November 6, 2006

Phil is only 17 days old, but he’s already opened up new horizons for me. Just yesterday, for example, I was running a cross-country race and heard the cheer “GO, DADDY!” for the first time. Even though the encouragement did not come from my son, I rather enjoyed it.

As someone who has run approximately 300 races in my life, I’ve been called lots of things over the years. My college nickname was “Doogie” because of my supposed resemblence to the TV character Doogie Howser, M.D. To this day, Williams alums will shout out their support for “Doogie,” “Doog,” or “Doogster” when seeing me in action. More recently, Uli Steidl has (on the rare occasions when he’s spectating rather than cleaning my clock) called me “Professor,” as in, “Let’s go, Professor — you’re catching up to that guy!” I think it sounds cool even though I don’t quite deserve this moniker. My official title at the University of Washington is Visiting Lecturer; fortunately, Uli has the good sense not to yell, “Let’s go, Visiting Lecturer!”

Of course, some folks simply call me by my real name. Even there, though, there are multiple options. I respond better to “Crowther” than to “Greg,” since “Crowther” can be hollered with an intensity that “Greg” usually lacks. “Gregory” is fine for humor value during the first mile but is pretty useless thereafter.

Having benefited from others’ exhortations, I try to return the favor when possible. I probably put more thought into my cheers than a person should, and sometimes that backfires, as when I bark out complex instructions that are only half-finished by the time my acquaintance zooms past me.* At other times, though, I just know I’ve helped someone find that extra gear. Before the Love ‘Em Or Leave ‘Em 5K this past February, my Seattle Running Company teammate Henry Wigglesworth lamented his disappointing showing at a recent stair-climbing race. When he reached the final straightaway, I knew exactly what to say: “Come on, Henry, redemption is nigh!” And it was, sort of.


*Apparently I’ve been emitting ponderous cheers for quite some time. In a 1981 column titled, “Be of good cheer, ye fans,” my dad described my attempts to inspire the local American Legion baseball team:

My son at first tended to drawn-out cheers. If a Rutland batter were up, he’d say, “You made a good catch last inning; now let’s see you get a base hit!” I kept expecting the batter to step out of the box, come over to the stands and say, “Run that by me again?”


  1. Back by popular request… "Go Crowther, GO!"

  2. I detect a subtle preference for "Crowther" (or else "Daddy") rather than your other monikers. But no one gets to choose their own nickname. I seem to recall that in college the more senior members of the x-country team asked all the freshmen to tell some little story about themselves, so as to be better able to assign nicknames to the frosh. I informed everyone (truthfully) that I'd gone to the same high school as Steve Spence (world marathon bronze medallist at the time), and therefore thought "Spence" might be a good nickname. My transparent attempt to get myself assigned an unearned nickname suggesting great speed failed. I don't think I ended up with any x-country nickname at all, unless I've blotted some horrible nickname from my memory. My nickname "Jem" (never widely used, but it's all I have) has origins unrelated to running: it's the nickname of a character named Jeremy in "To Kill a Mockingbird", and was chosen by a friend in high school who thought that no one should be nickname-less.

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