Episode 25 - The University of Washington's Olympic Rowing Team
Michael Socolow, "Six Minutes In Berlin - Broadcast Spectacle and Rowing Gold at the Nazi Olympics"
Right now, you’re hearing audio from 1936. Berlin, Germany. Specifically, the opening ceremonies of the 1936 Summer Olympics. In which, 9 guys from the University of Washington would compete against the best athletes in the world for a chance to win the gold medal in Olympic rowing. You probably have heard this story before, mostly because of the best-selling book The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. It became such a popular book that they’re making a movie about it. But long, long before Brown began writing his book, there was another author, and he had been tracking down this story for years.
That’s Michael Socolow. Even if you read the Boys on the Boat book or have heard this story before Michael Socolow’s book, Six Minutes In Berlin goes obsessively deep into researching this story revealing some aspects of it that have gone overlooked and ignored. Aspects that have changed really everything. From sports to modern celebrity to even how you’re listening to this podcast right now. What started as an unexpected talented group of young college guys in Washington State turned out to become a global changing of the times.
You’re listening to PNWcast. Today on the show, we get to hear exclusive, unreleased, never before heard by the public, first person accounts of the 1936 Olympic games from the men that rowed in them.
We’re talking about the early 1900’s. Radio and television were in it’s infancy. And it was about to rocket ahead about 20 years. Just a few years before the Olympic Games in Berlin, Televisions weren’t even really electronic. The screen, the tv screen, had a small motor with a spinning disc and a neon lamp, which worked together to give a blurry reddish-orange picture about half the size of a business card. We call this period the "Mechanical Television Era” and it lasted until right up to 1936. Radio however, was in it’s prime. FM broadcasting is a fairly new progression and networks like NBC and CBS are just a few years old. But Everyone, everyone listens to the radio. And at this time, if you’re listening to the radio for sports, you’re probably listening to rowing races.
I think it’s worth mentioning, because I didn’t know this, but rowing was a big deal. Today we have football games, basketball, soccer and so on that popularity wise and attendance wise are much larger than rowing is today. But there was a time, back in the early 1900’s, where that was drastically opposite.