Robert Jesenik-The Boys in the Boat

Author of Book: David James Brown
Date Read: April 8, 2024

Book Report

Title: The Boys in the Boat
“Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for
Gold at the 1936 Olympics”

Author: David James Brown

Date: April 8,2024

One of my dearest friends whom I’ve known since 3rd grade sent me this book, and I’m very grateful he did. Great timing as we’re just heading into the 2024 Summer Olympics, and it will bring me a whole new focus on rowing, especially the 8 man and woman rowing boats.

This book is a true story about growing up in the 1920′ and 30’s during the brutal Depression, and the many obstacles and hurdles so many faced to have food on the table or money to live. Oh, and they had to deal with the end of WW I and the emergence of WW II. Most of 9 main characters distinguished themselves with survival skills with manual physical labor, logging, farming, construction and so forth out of necessity as they grew up. One can’t read this book, and not be grateful we didn’t have to live in those times.

The focus of this book is on how several young men grew up, eventually made it to the University of Washington clawing and scraping for tuition money, and by happenstance tried out for the freshman rowing team. Almost a divine coincidence how they met and came together. Young and strong from so much manual labor, providing an abundance of character and grit as a result, that it made up for their lack of rowing skills initially.

Thus begins a beautiful story of perseverance, hard work, training in awful Seattle weather to become better and better in time. The story includes wonderful examples of these young men competing with 4th year senior U of W crew team,UC Berkley competitors with all their resources compared to UW. And eventually even the supposed East Coast king pins of rowing, the Ivy League Schools with their wealth and etiquette and facilities in abundance. Talk about David and goliath, this is one of those amazing stories!

By this groups Junior and Senior year, after lot’s of success and tribulations that always come with training and competing, they were finally winning National NCAA Championships against the Ivy Schools, and were slowly becoming recognized nationally as well as becoming America’s team. This reached an apex in 1936 when they qualified for the US Olympic team, traveled to Europe for the first time for all of them, as well as first time experiencing a cruise ship. All in the heart of Nazi territory and threats of war amongst the European nations. What an amazing story of a bunch of NW farmers, loggers, and laborers, earning success out of sheer will and determination, all the while not having near the money or resources so many of their competitors had. Let alone the rowing history and heritage as well.

Their gold medal, combined with some of the Nazi shenanigans were experiences they took with them the rest of their lives. After the Olympics and graduating, some went on to fight in WW II, others worked, many getting married and having families eventually. As confirmation how impressive this group was, they continued their bond throughout the remainder of their lives with annual meetups, picnics with the family and even a few boys nights in between.

Just a remarkable story of humanity at its finest in my view, and a terrific example of ” America”s Greatest Generation”. Seems today we could use more of their example of doing life in an authentic, hardworking, values based manner!

When one finishes reading this book,including myself, you just can’t help but be reminded that:

* hard work, persistence and perseverance (aka “grit”) are keys for success in anythng worthile in life

* As hard as we might think we have it, those that came before us had it much harder

* Family plays such an important role in one’s life, whether causing hardship or joy. There is no substitute for experiencing the circle and bond of family life- parents raising contributing citizens to the world, sharing meals and family time together, to children remembering the teachings and memories of their childhood and parents lives, and eventually supporting their parents in the later years

* As difficult as your circumstances seem, others have it worse, and someday too this shall pass.

These are all the lessons we need to be reminded of- whether in daily life, while incarcerated, or otherwise! BJ