What a night. It was incredibly incredible. The U.S. Squash Hall of Fame Gala 2008 rocked.
It was hard not to compare it to the last time the American squash community had gathered in our monkey suits at a posh Midtown Manhattan ballroom on an October evening. Statistically speaking, the USSRA centennial ball at the University Club in October 2004 was bigger: five hundred and seventy-six people v. three hundred and nineteen; $360,000 raised v. $100,000; fourteen USSRA presidents v. three; eleven Hall of Famers v. four. Worst of all, there were three people with a last name beginning with Z in 2004. This time, just moi.
One number that was close this time was the number of President Cup winners. Last time, there was seven; this time six, including the first winner, in 1966, Charlie Ufford.
But—and this is a huge but—the centennial celebration was a once-a-century party (note that no other national governing body has had their centennial yet) while this year’s gala was meant to be an annual event. You might not ever match up to the 2004 numbers. To do this well, especially with our economy freefalling into a depression and ticket prices actually higher than four years ago, was amazing.
And this one seemed much more forward-looking than the centennial gala. The poster board photos of the new Hall of Famers that greeted you as you walked in were joined by similar shots of our current national champions. The cover of the program depicted our 2008 gold-medal winning teams at the annual Pan-Am Fed Cup (not to be confused, as it often is, with the quadrennial Pan-Am Games). The music was loud; the videos were quick; the gift bag was hip (but sometimes odd—sunscreen for squash players?!).
The scene felt very very young—everyone seemed twenty-something, beautiful and happy. That afternoon I had played tennis with two of the leaders this new generation (Preston Quick and Noah Wimmer) and wondered if they would have a good time at the party, thinking it might be old and stodgy.
Instead, it was I who was antediluvian. I left at a quarter past midnight and headed to the New Jersey Turnpike to drive home to Washington. About an hour later I got a call from Lex Miron at the Whiskey Bar saying that a couple of dozen people had repaired there for a late-night refreshment. That’s young, considering that the gala itself had lasted nearly six hours.