Monday, June 8, 2015

The Boys in the Boat

There are, in this world, two basic types of people.

Type A sings along when Goofy sings “The World Owes Me A Living.” Lind of like this guy who got two masters degrees from Columbia then defaulted on his student loans because, hey, the system’s corrupt, man. They can be hard-working, clever, industrious in their own right, but confuse themselves when they believe cheating on a cheating system puts them on higher ethical and moral ground.

(While I might sympathize with the plight of many students today who are paying a lot more for school than I did, I also need to point out that both my wife and I earned masters’ degrees from a state college in 2009 and 2012, respectively, without taking out a dime in student loans.) Also, we both worked our way through our undergraduate degrees, and I’m the only one who took out a student loan, for a whopping $1,500.)

Type B is Joe Rantz and many of the members of the University of Washington varsity rowing crew that won the gold medal at the 1936 Olympics. None of them were rich, and they all worked hard to put themselves through school during the Great Depression so they could stay in school. They went on to successful careers, with only one of them not earning a degree.

Yes, you might say. Different times, when there were wartime jobs available after they graduated. Well, if you want a war to boost employment, there are politicians who’ll help you do that. And if you want a Great Depression, there are politicians who’ll help you with that, too.

The Boys in the Boat, obviously, is about those Type B people: Hard workers who were willing to do any work (Rantz himself harvested cedar wood, helped to build the Grand Coulee Dam, and lived like a pauper in the basement of the Y in order to go to school). Mister Ivy League would be hard-pressed to compete with him in my book, and not just on physical prowess. Rantz knew how to work and how to work in an unfair system, and did all this while pursuing his dreams of working with a team that could win regattas and Olympic gold medals.

I nearly stopped reading the book after the first chapter, as author Daniel James Brown seemed to be grabbing at straws to emphasize the time period the book is set in. However, once I grew used to his “I gotta drop a reference to the Great Depression or the 1930s into the book” style, I kept on going.

Brown shines when he describes the crew’s gold medal run. I actually almost missed my bus this morning because it came as I was reading about the race and I did not want to stop even though I knew who won. Thankfully I got on the bus and was able to finish.

No comments: