It’s New Years’ Eve and like many I’ll be watching the college football national semi-finals today. Clemson vs. Ohio State in the second game, Washington vs. defending national champion Alabama in the first game. Washington is coached by former Boise State coach Chris Peterson, who as we all know in Oklahoma, beat OU in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl in what many regard as one of the greatest upsets in college football history.
Washington is a two touchdown underdog today and not given much of a chance by most pundits. Thinking of Peterson and his team made me think of another group of athletes from the University of Washington.
Not long ago, I was given a book by my cousin Jan who works for the Gates Foundation and lives in Seattle. She simply handed me the book at Christmas and said, “You’ll love this, Mike.” She was right. I read the book and fell in love with the story and the main character of the story, Joe Rantz.
The book is Boys in the Boat and written by Daniel James Brown. The story chronicles the University of Washington’s eight man row team of 1936. Set in the deepest point of the Great Depression, it’s a story of nine ordinary young men and their incredible journey to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin just prior to the onset of World War II.
This book is beautifully written and told through the narrative of Joe Rantz, the then last living member of the team telling his story to Daniel James Brown just prior to his death in 2007. It’s a story of the American Dream, of hope, of inspiration, and of never giving up regardless of the odds.
I’m glad I read it. It’s a story I’ll treasure forever even though I knew absolutely nothing about rowing prior to reading the book. Given what America might be facing the next four years it gives me hope. Sports can be that way.