New Book: Six Minutes in Berlin


28 October 2016

Göran R Buckhorn writes:

Yesterday, a new rowing book landed on my desk, Six Minutes in Berlin: Broadcasting Spectacle and Rowing Gold at the Nazi Olympics by Michael J. Socolow, who is associate professor of communication and journalism at the University of Maine.

This is the story about nine poor boys from University of Washington in Seattle who managed to beat Eastern Ivy League crews to represent the United States in the eights at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, where, against all odds, the American crew overpowered the favourites for the top medals, Germany and Italy, and took the gold. Does it sound like you have heard this story somewhere else, or even read a book about this event? Ah, you must be thinking of the best-selling book The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown, who published his story about the Washington boys in 2013.

However, it was Socolow who first stumbled over this underdog story back in 1999, when he was completing his research for a doctorate in history at Georgetown University. After pursuing his academic career, in time for the Olympic Games in 2012, he managed to sell an article about the ‘boys’ story’ to an editor at Slate, who published it as the centerpiece of their London Games coverage. Socolow, who earlier had struggled to find a literary agent, a publisher or a magazine editor interested in the story, was suddenly approached by a number of people in the publishing industry who were willing to read his manuscript about the Olympic rowing champions from Seattle. And then the whole thing died….. and Brown’s book came out.

Read Socolow’s interesting story how he got ‘scooped’ here.

Six Minutes in Berlin is, on the other hand, not a one-story book. As an associate professor of communication and journalism, Socolow re-wrote his story and pitched it to an academic press. His second story in the book is about modern broadcast sport journalism, which was born at the Berlin Games.

Six Minutes in Berlin will be published on 14 November by University of Illinois Press. Read more about it here.

HTBS will publish a review of Six Minutes in Berlin later in November.

One comment

  1. This “against all odds” fable about the U.S. 1936 Olympic 8+ “overpowering the favorites” has got to simmer down. This fantasy was concocted by coxswain with a flair for the dramatic and a writer with even more dramatic sensibilities. This sensationalizing made for a fabulous book, in every sense of the word. The U.S. was the heavy favorite in the race. The U.S. had won every Olympic eights race it entered previously, a streak that ultimately extended to 1956. This crew set a world record in the heats over the British, who were considered to be the main threat to the U.S. They were disadvantaged by their stroke, Don Hume, being sick on race day, but he did not fall “unconscious” during the race. Coxswain Moch made that up, as Hume later attested. The U.S. was also compromised by being late to the starting line (unforgivable! in an Olympic final?) and because the coxswain missed the flag fall and starting commands. The U.S. only won by a deck when they likely would have won by open water had they not given up a length at the start and had Hume been at full power, as Mallory concluded in his analysis. Had they lost it would have been one of the biggest upsets in the sport. They won, as anticipated. But what a great story!

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