In the midst of local excitement this weekend – from the Seahawks preseason opener, to the Mariners realistic push for the Wild Card, to a Sounders home match and the annual running of the Longacres Mile - we cannot forget to honor one of the greatest teams in our history:
The 1936 Washington Huskies Rowing Team, which 80 years ago today won a Gold Medal in the Berlin Olympics. (I apologize if it still hasn’t been shown on tape delay on NBC...)
In all seriousness, when we study this city’s history, that was the team that put Seattle – and this region – on the map. At the time, UW Rowing arguably represented the sporting identity of this city. It was the ultimate story of defying the odds and overcoming adversity. It’s a blessing that their journey has been immortalized in the best-selling book “The Boys In The Boat,” so everyone here and around the world can learn about their unprecedented triumph.
Thanks in part to Pete Carroll, the word “grit” has recently surged to the top of our sporting vernacular. But 80 years ago, that word found a whole new meaning in the young men who won gold – for this city and our country.
Anytime I see a bad break or a bad call, I immediately think of that Huskies boat in the worst lane in foreign waters. I think of Hitler, a madman presiding over a brainwashed crowd, fully expecting German victory – and an unfair start to the race. I think of Don Hume fighting through illness – and of every man in that boat selflessly rowing against the tide, against all reason, to somehow, someway, win that gold medal.
And even though the last surviving member of the team passed away seven years ago, their legacy lives on in the best way possible – in the championship-caliber program on Montlake and the Husky representation on the world’s stage.
This year, 12 UW alumni rowers are competing in Rio. Two of them were in the boat that won the Olympic Women’s Eight for the United States for the third straight time this weekend – and the 11th straight time in world competition. The men’s eight had four Husky alums. And while they finished fourth, it only bolsters the legend of the Boys of ’36 – how improbable that team was – how remarkable their finish.
So tonight, on the 80th Anniversary of their extraordinary win, we again honor our sporting roots. We give thanks to a team that represents everything our region stands for – courage, persistence, tenacity...and grit.
It’s fun to experience the sporting culture here – but another to fully understand it. And part of that process is learning the story of “The Boys In The Boat.”