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The Amateurs: The Story of Four Young Men and Their Quest for an Olympic Gold Medal Paperback – May 7, 1996
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the Inside Flap
"A PENETRATING, FASCINATING AND REMARKABLY SUSPENSEFUL NARRATIVE."
In The Amateurs, David Halberstam once again displays the unique brand of reportage, both penetrating and supple, that distinguished his bestselling The Best and the Brightest and October 1964. This time he has taken for his subject the dramatic and special world of amateur rowing. While other athletes are earning fortunes in salaries and-or endorsements, the oarsmen gain fame only with each other and strive without any hope of financial reward.
What drives these men to endure a physical pain known to no other sport? Who are they? Where do they come from? How do they regard themselves and their competitors? What have they sacrificed, and what inner demons have they appeased? In answering these questions, David Halberstam takes as his focus the 1984 single sculls trials in Princeton. The man who wins will gain the right to represent the United States in the 84 Olympiad; the losers will then have to struggle further to gain a place in the two- or four-man boats. And even if they succeed, they will have to live with the bitter knowledge that they were not the best, only close to it.
Informative and compelling, The Amateurs combines the vividness of superb sportswriting with the narrative skills of a Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent.
The New York Times
"[A] MASTERFUL JOB . . . Maintains the suspense to the very last stroke . . . Halberstam makes us care about the four men, their disappointments and thebrutal testing of their friendships."
Top Customer Reviews
As a college oarsman (single sculls, then coxswain, bow and stroke of an eight), as a persnickety reader since childhood and as a writer of 20+ books, I approached the work of non-rower Halberstam with skepticism, reluctance to be touched by him. Was I wrong!
Rowing is one of the most unusual and difficult sports, and it seems remote to outsider, almost mechanized. Insiders know the real world under that surface: the loneliness of training, the necessity for precise skills and relentless focus, the gut-wrenching pre-race [jitters] and fear that vanishes at each start, the sense of being asked to perform brutal acts on one's own body, the appalling effort (especially for stroke) of trying to stage an attack or recover from being in arrears, the ectasy and elation of winning, the soul-searing agony of losing with its message of inadequacy, of being bested by a superior human or group of humans, the need to get back and try harder, to push the body further and further into pain.
Halberstam captured it all, and went deeper, into the minds and hearts of some of the greatest oars the U.S. has produced, to bring back a masterpiece of reporting. He managed to show the idiosyncratic nature of dedicated single-scull oarsmen, and the way these loners look at their lives and chosen sport.
As a rower, I was consumed by this book. As a critical reader, I was entirely satisfied. As a writer, I was envious of Halberstam's skills. My only regret is that rowing is not perceived as the great participant and spectator sport that it is, and that too few of us have the chance to enjoy it in either sense.
His descriptions of the feeling of rowing, of ``swing,'' and of the bizarre politics of single sculling are right on the money. They are recognizable to long-time rowers and comprehensible to those who have never rowed before. His character depictions are at times almost frighteningly dead-on.
To put it succinctly, Halberstam gets everything right in this book. If you are a rower or any other sort of athlete, or if you want to read a masterfully told story of competition, read this book.
Incidentally, the movie Rowing Through was based on The Amateurs. It's quite divergent from the book, but not too bad if you can ignore a good bit of gratuitous sex and some hardly-Olympic-caliber rowing in the scenes on the water.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Interesting behind the scenes reporting on some of the main personalities who competed to represent the US in the sculling events in the 84 Olympics. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Al B.
David Halberstam was a great writer. This book is very good. Just a little bit hard to follow at times.Published 4 months ago by Mike
Well detailed, but if one isn't a dyed in the wool fan of the sport, the book becomes slow. Basically it's problem is structure. It needs a clearer and more interesting thesis. Read morePublished 6 months ago by RF