Before I started this book I knew next to nothing about the sport of crew. Well, other than those who row the fastest win.
Then as I got into the book I realized that that is not necessarily true. There is a lot of mental planning in winning a race.
This book is about the 1936 University of Washington 9 man team that won the gold at the Berlin Olympics.
But the story really isn’t so much about the winning as how they got there. These were poor young man of the depression. They were not from privileged families.
I have always thought that for books the best authors are like good painters. They use as their pallets the right words and as they’re putting together sections of the “painting”the reader gets a mental image of what the writer wants to convey.
With this book the writer shows you just how brutal the depression was on people and what it had to do with this particular crew.
He takes you from Seattle to Berlin to show how the Nazis turned a previously quiet Olympics into a showpiece glorifying the Nazi state.
He also shows you just how draining the Sport is physically.
For a competitive crew to finish a 2000 meter race is the equivalent in energy of playing two back-to-back basketball games. All in six minutes or so.
I guess what I really got out of this book is how close a team really has to work together.
Of course all teams work together –that’s what makes them win or lose.
But in this sport they have to work like all of the parts of a fine watch. Every bending of the limb, every arch of the back, and every pull of the oar has to be in complete harmonious synchronization with each crew member.
And when this happens it is a thing of beauty.
PBS just produced a program based on this book in their American experience series, and I am told that a movie is in the works.
It is a thoroughly enjoyable read.