The Viking Magazine : Peter the Sports Reader
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The Viking Magazine

Peter the Sports Reader

Peter Snodgrass, Staff Writer

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Yes, it is I, Peter the Reader. After a three-year-long hiatus, I have risen from the ashes of being an avid reader and weekly segment host. For those of you who do not know me, I began my book reviewing career at Jordan Middle School on Jordan Television (JTV), Jordan’s equivalent to InFocus. In my journey, I have visited the peak of Mount Olympus as well as the depths of the Hades’ Lair, and now I have turned to sports reading. Thus, the new name, Peter the Sports Reader, has begun and I plan to release a book review every issue.

This chapter, I will be reviewing a new nonfiction book, The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown. This outstanding novel depicts the journey of the University of Washington’s rowing team’s victory in the 1936 Olympics. The team of nine young men was a distinctive and squirrely group, yet rose above their differences to win gold.

The focus of the story is Joe Rantz, a Washingtonian who was abandoned by his father as a boy. Brown’s description of Rantz’s inspirational story shows the character of the book as a whole. He recalls how Rantz fought off poverty, made his way onto the rowing team (which was dominated by privileged kids), and achieved a gold medal through perseverance.

While Rantz was a focal point of the novel, Brown goes into immense depth of the lives of all the rowers and coaches to complete the story. These intricate details provide a strong backbone in the story, allowing the reader to create their own informed perspective of the novel.

One of my personal favorite stories in The Boys in the Boat is when the novel overlaps with the story of Louis Zamperini. Zamperini, who is the protagonist in the acclaimed novel and movie Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, was described as the only Olympic athletewho ate more than the rowers.

The significance of this team’s journey goes beyond it winning the 1936 Olympics.  The fact the team was able to make it to the Olympics was extraordinary. It defied the odds by beating California, who was its rival, and by beating the privileged East coast schools such as Cornell, Yale and Harvard. Once the team won its bid to the Olympics, the United States was unable to fund its journey to Berlin. Eventually they overcame this financial crisis, went to Berlin and won the gold medal.  Not only did they win the most prestigious rowing award, but they defeated the hosting country Germany in a time of great duress between the two countries.  With a true Hollywood ending, the book will give shivers to all patriotic Americans.

Brown builds upon each detail to create interest in the book.  While it may not be the new episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Brown maintains a contrast of immense detail with a juicy plot to constantly keep the reader engaged.  He takes the normally uninteresting topic of rowing and transforms it as if one was learning about the “Most Interesting Man in the World”.  For a regular reader this book will probably take anywhere from one week to one month, depending on how interested you are in the book.  The Boys in the Boat earns my stamp of approval.

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Palo Alto High School's sports news site
Peter the Sports Reader