30+ quotes from The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

Quotes from The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

Daniel James Brown ·  416 pages

Rating: (156.2K votes)


“It’s not a question of whether you will hurt, or of how much you will hurt; it’s a question of what you will do, and how well you will do it, while pain has her wanton way with you.”
― Daniel James Brown, quote from The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics


“It takes energy to get angry. It eats you up inside. I can't waste my energy like that and expect to get ahead. When they left, it took everything I had in me just to survive. Now I have to stay focused. I've just gotta take care of it myself' Joe Rantz”
― Daniel James Brown, quote from The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics


“It is hard to make that boat go as fast as you want to. The enemy, of course, is resistance of the water, as you have to displace the amount of water equal to the weight of men and equipment, but that very water is what supports you and that very enemy is your friend. So is life: the very problems you must overcome also support you and make you stronger in overcoming them. —George Yeoman Pocock”
― Daniel James Brown, quote from The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics


“All were merged into one smoothly working machine; they were, in fact, a poem of motion, a symphony of swinging blades.”
― Daniel James Brown, quote from The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics


“It was when he tried to talk about 'the boat' that his words began to falter and tears welled up in his eyes...Finally, watching Joe struggle for composure over and over, I realized that 'the boat' was something more than just the shell or its crew. To Joe, it encompassed but transcended both - it was something mysterious and almost beyond definition. It was a shared experience - a singular thing that had unfolded in a golden sliver of time long gone, when nine good-hearted young men strove together, pulled together as one, gave everything they had for one another, bound together forever by pride and respect and love. Joe was crying, at least in part, for the loss of that vanished moment but much more, I think, for the sheer beauty of it.”
― Daniel James Brown, quote from The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics


“The wood...taught us about survival, about overcoming difficulty, about prevailing over adversity, but it also taught us something about the underlying reason for surviving in the first place. Something about infinite beauty, about undying grace, about things larger and greater than ourselves. About the reasons we were all here.”
― Daniel James Brown, quote from The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics


“It doesn’t matter how many times you get knocked down,” he told his daughter, Marilynn. “What matters is how many times you get up.”
― Daniel James Brown, quote from The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics


“What mattered more than how hard a man rowed was how well everything he did in the boat harmonized with what the other fellows were doing. And a man couldn’t harmonize with his crewmates unless he opened his heart to them. He had to care about his crew.”
― Daniel James Brown, quote from The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics


“The ability to yield, to bend, to give way, to accommodate, he said, was sometimes a source of strength in men as well as in wood, so long as it was helmed by inner resolve and by principle.”
― Daniel James Brown, quote from The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics


“Harmony, balance, and rhythm. They’re the three things that stay with you your whole life. Without them civilization is out of whack. And that’s why an oarsman, when he goes out in life, he can fight it, he can handle life. That’s what he gets from rowing.”
― Daniel James Brown, quote from The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics


“Standing there, watching them, it occurred to me that when Hitler watched Joe and the boys fight their way back from the rear of the field to sweep ahead of Italy and Germany seventy-five years ago, he saw, but did not recognize, heralds of his doom. He could not have known that one day hundreds of thousands of boys just like them, boys who shared their essential natures—decent and unassuming, not privileged or favored by anything in particular, just loyal, committed, and perseverant—would return to Germany dressed in olive drab, hunting him down.”
― Daniel James Brown, quote from The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics


“Perhaps the seeds of redemption lay not just in perseverance, hard work, and rugged individualism. Perhaps they lay in something more fundamental—the simple notion of everyone pitching in and pulling together.”
― Daniel James Brown, quote from The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics


“They were now representatives of something much larger than themselves - a way of life, a shared set of values. Liberty was perhaps the most fundamental of those values. But the things that held them together - trust in each other, mutual respsect, humility, fair play, watching out for one another - those were also part of what America meant to all of them.”
― Daniel James Brown, quote from The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics


“Rowing is perhaps the toughest of sports. Once the race starts, there are no time-outs, no substitutions. It calls upon the limits of human endurance. The coach must therefore impart the secrets of the special kind of endurance that comes from mind, heart, and body. —George Yeoman Pocock”
― Daniel James Brown, quote from The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics


“Immediately after the race, even as he sat gasping for air in the Husky Clipper while it drifted down the Langer See beyond the finish line, an expansive sense of calm had enveloped him. In the last desperate few hundred meters of the race, in the searing pain and bewildering noise of that final furious sprint, there had come a singular moment when Joe realized with startling clarity that there was nothing more he could do to win the race, beyond what he was already doing. Except for one thing. He could finally abandon all doubt, trust absolutely without reservation that he and the boy in front of him and the boys behind him would all do precisely what they needed to do at precisely the instant they needed to do it. He had known in that instant that there could be no hesitation, no shred of indecision. He had had no choice but to throw himself into each stroke as if he were throwing himself off of a cliff into a void, with unquestioned faith that the others would be there to save him”
― Daniel James Brown, quote from The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics


“Sure, I can make a boat,” he said, and then added, quoting the poet Joyce Kilmer, “‘But only God can make a tree.”
― Daniel James Brown, quote from The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics


“He suggested that Joe think of a well-rowed race as a symphony, and himself as just one player in the orchestra. If one fellow in an orchestra was playing out of tune, or playing at a different tempo, the whole piece would naturally be ruined. That’s the way it was with rowing. What mattered more than how hard a man rowed was how well everything he did in the boat harmonized with what the other fellows were doing.”
― Daniel James Brown, quote from The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics


“Physiologists, in fact, have calculated that rowing a two-thousand-meter race—the Olympic standard—takes the same physiological toll as playing two basketball games back-to-back. And it exacts that toll in about six minutes.”
― Daniel James Brown, quote from The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics


“The trick would be to find which few of them had the potential for raw power, the nearly superhuman stamina, the indomitable willpower, and the intellectual capacity necessary to master the details of technique. And which of them, coupled improbably with all those other qualities, had the most important one: the ability to disregard his own ambitions, to throw his ego over the gunwales, to leave it swirling in the wake of his shell, and to pull, not just for himself, not just for glory, but for the other boys in the boat.”
― Daniel James Brown, quote from The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics


“It’s a great art, is rowing. It’s the finest art there is. It’s a symphony of motion. And when you’re rowing well, why it’s nearing perfection. And when you near perfection, you’re touching the Divine. It touches the you of yous. Which is your soul.”
― Daniel James Brown, quote from The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics


“Harmony, balance, and rhythm. They’re the three things that stay with you your whole life. Without them civilization is out of whack. And that’s why an oarsman, when he goes out in life, he can fight it, he can handle life. That’s what he gets from rowing. —George Yeoman Pocock”
― Daniel James Brown, quote from The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics


“The challenges they had faced together had taught them humility—the need to subsume their individual egos for the sake of the boat as a whole—and humility was the common gateway through which they were able now to come together and begin to do what they had not been able to do before. •”
― Daniel James Brown, quote from The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics


“You will eat no fried meats,” he began abruptly. “You will eat no pastries, but you will eat plenty of vegetables. You will eat good, substantial, wholesome food—the kind of food your mother makes. You will go to bed at ten o’clock and arise punctually at seven o’clock. You will not smoke or drink or chew. And you will follow this regimen all year round, for as long as you row for me. A man cannot abuse his body for six months and then expect to row the other six months. He must be a total abstainer all year.”
― Daniel James Brown, quote from The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics


“for him the craft of building a boat was like religion. It wasn’t enough to master the technical details of it. You had to give yourself up to it spiritually; you had to surrender yourself absolutely to it. When you were done and walked away from the boat, you had to feel that you had left a piece of yourself behind in it forever, a bit of your heart.”
― Daniel James Brown, quote from The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics


“To defeat an adversary who was your equal, maybe even your superior, it wasn’t necessarily enough just to give your all from start to finish. You had to master your opponent mentally. When the critical moment in a close race was upon you, you had to know something he did not—that down in your core you still had something in reserve, something you had not yet shown, something that once revealed would make him doubt himself, make him falter just when it counted the most. Like so much in life, crew was partly about confidence, partly about knowing your own heart.”
― Daniel James Brown, quote from The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics


“The brutal afternoon workouts left him exhausted and sore but feeling cleansed, as if someone had scrubbed out his soul with a stiff wire brush.”
― Daniel James Brown, quote from The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics


“Now it came as a searing revelation that his father had not felt safe enough to live by that same simple proposition, that he had kept his heritage hidden painfully away, a secret to be ashamed of, even in America, even from his own beloved son.”
― Daniel James Brown, quote from The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics


“If you simply kept your eyes open, it seemed, you just might find something valuable in the most unlikely of places. The trick was to recognize a good thing when you saw it, no matter how odd or worthless it might at first appear, no matter who else might just walk away and leave it behind.”
― Daniel James Brown, quote from The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics


“The only time you don’t find a four-leaf clover,” he liked to say, “is when you stop looking for one.”
― Daniel James Brown, quote from The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics


“I just don’t understand why you don’t get angry.” Joe continued to stare ahead through the windshield. “It takes energy to get angry. It eats you up inside. I can’t waste my energy like that and expect to get ahead. When they left, it took everything I had in me just to survive. Now I have to stay focused. I’ve just gotta take care of it myself.”
― Daniel James Brown, quote from The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics


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About the author

Daniel James Brown
Born place: The United States
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