two books about young men’s quest for olympic rowing gold

amateurs boys1“the amateurs” (david halberstam 1985) & “the boys in the boat” (daniel james brown 2013) depict the difficult path taken by young men from two different generations to winning a place in the olympics, the song remained the same <deep love of a sport that promises only pain (not fame or fortune), requires lots of self-motivation & tests friendships>

rowing is the ultimate amateur sport / there are no star athletes or celebrities | no financial gain or product endorsements | no fan merchandise | no season tickets | hardly any media coverage  even if it’s the olympics | a participant sport / “the amateurs” is the story of four young men’s journey to win a place in single sculling in the 1984 summer olympics held in lake casitas california / sculling which is rowing with two oars & done as single, double or quad is the natural progression from crew after college \ to win the gold as a single sculler in the olympics means being THE best rower in the world <not 1 of 8 or 1 of 4 or 1 of 2 but the single best> / in sculling, rowing becomes an individual sport with athletes crafting their own training, practicing on their own schedule, jockeying for position \ the story of “the boys in the boat” is about crew <that’s sweep rowing, you’re either port or starboard oar | 8 rowers & a coxswain> and because of the time that it unfolded, is much more dramatic / it was the chance to represent the united states in the 1936 berlin olympics which gave the games under hitler’s germany a subtext of a battle between good vs. evil \ here the dynamics of the group was as important as the individual rower’s character & skills and winning the olympic gold in 1936 was a metaphor of good triumphing over evil

what i found most interesting about the books was that these rowers not only belonged to different generations but they also had very different socio-economic backgrounds / the generational difference did not manifest the way the athletes pursued their goals but their social & economic circumstance did \ the amateurs came from privileged eastern families | they held professional jobs or later on pursued careers in finance & medicine | they drove volvos & saabs to practice | they had supportive families \ the boys on the other hand were sons of hard scrabble working class western families | they supported themselves with construction jobs in the summer | they pretty much fended for themselves | they transformed quickly from boys to men / what was common among these young men was their love of the sport | how rowing filled some deep need or gap in their  lives | and how they were so intensely determined to achieve their goals

to this day, rowing continues to be an amateur sport and because this is so, i think it imparts the best virtues of & the purest reasons for competitive sports / however, the consequence of being a purely amateur sport <no professional careers, no big money, no industry> is that it becomes a financial burden for schools & universities \ sadly, when budgets tighten, rowing programs are among the first to get axed just like temple university’s recent decision to cut its men’s & women’s crews / it is a shame, rowing is a beautiful sport that deeply inspires those who find & stay with it \ i am glad that pittsburgh has gained a strong rowing tradition

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