The Boys in the Boat: Summary and Analysis


Learn About the Men Who Won the Gold Medal for Rowing in the 1936 Berlin Olympics in a Fraction of the Time!

During the fourth year of the Depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president of the United States, and Adolf Hitler was in power over Germany. Conditions in the United States were barely livable for most families, including Joe Rantz and his family. Joe was at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Joe and his classmate, Roger Morris, were headed to the shell house on campus to try out for the Rowing team along with 175 other boys. Joe was particularly nervous about the tryouts. If he made the team, he had the promise of a part-time job on campus and would be able to marry his high school sweet heart, Joyce.

Al Ulbrickson was the rowing team’s head coach. He was always sharply dressed, which, along with his assertive demeanor, demanded respect from all of the boys on the team as well as the press. Joe knew how important this year’s freshman team was; if he could train the boys properly, he would be able to take them to the 1936 Olympics. Although many other West Coast colleges had been to the Olympics before and even brought home medals, no University of Washington coach had ever come close.

Royal Brougham was a particularly tenacious member of the press who tried the hardest to pry a statement out of Al. Royal saw the rowing team as an opportunity to improve his hometown’s image and set out to be one of the biggest advocates for the team.

At the same moment in Germany, Hitler and his staff were walking through a stadium built for the previous 1916 Olympics, which were cancelled because of the war. Hitler was not a fan of the Olympics. The idea of different races participating together in the games was appalling to him. However, when he toured the old stadium, he announced that he would have it expanded to fit 100,000 people, much to the shock of his staff. 


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