Friday, September 22, 2023

FFB: THE BOYS IN THE BOAT, David James Brown

THE BOYS IN THE BOAT: NINE AMERICANS AND THEIR EPIC QUEST FOR GOLD AT THE 1936 BERLIN OLYMPICS. A book about rowing? Seems improbable that anyone could make it a page turner but David James Brown succeeded.

The reason he was able to do this was because he was able to pull in so much beside the University of Washington's rowing program in the thirties. The book looks at the problems of poverty in the 1930s, the dust bowl, Nazi German's rise to power, the Olympic movement, the story of rowing itself, the lives of the coach, the boat builder, and some of the athletes. Most especially it gave us the life of Joe Rantz, a rower who had an exceptionally hard childhood. His summer job while in college was hanging from cliffs and using a 75 pound drill to build a damn. Most of the boys came from humble means, which means we cheer for them all the more. Brown was especially adept at exploring the psychology of successful rowing. A very particular sort of sport.
I enjoyed this book immensely and am looking forward to a forthcoming film about it which is directed by George Clooney.



Margot Kinberg said...

Oh, wow, I hadn't heard of this one, Patti. I really like those 'stories behind the stories,' and this sounds compelling!

pattinase (abbott) said...

It was very compelling.

Jeff Meyerson said...

Sounds really good. I read another book about the 1936 Olympics, and how even though Jesse Owens and other black athletes were allowed to compete (and win), Jews like Marty Glickman weren't, thanks to the complicity of scummy Avery Brundage.

Todd Mason said...

Well, Jeff, the Olympic Committee is perhaps the most corrupt major sports organization in the world, which is saying something, and has been throughout its history.

Even as a decided non-jock (I was good at hitting balls with various wooden implements...that can be remunerative if one is good enough in various contexts, but I'd never dress the part), I'd say that is the kind of context that makes for at least Some Tension and High Drama, even if it was about a pie-baking or paper-plane-folding contest. Hadn't heard of it before, thanks for the pointer!

Steve Oerkfitz said...

Must admit that rowing in about the last "sport" i desire to read about.