Thursday, October 12, 2006

"Bowerman & The Men of Oregon"

I just finished reading the book "Bowerman and the Men Of Oregon." by Kenny Moore one of his former runners. describes the book as follows:
"During his tenure as track coach at the University of Oregon from 1949 through 1972, Bill Bowerman won 4 national team titles, trained dozens of milers to break the 4-minute barrier, and his athletes set 13 world and 22 American records. Single-handedly he helped turn the college town of Eugene, Oregon, into the running capital of the world. In Bowerman: The Wings of Nike, Kenny Moore, a world-class marathon runner and one of Bowermans Oregon men, tells the story of his mentor and hero, drawing on years of taped interviews and the full cooperation of the Bowerman family and Nike, the company that Bowerman helped to found through his invention of the waffle-soled running shoe. Whether providing a fresh look at the tragic siege at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, where Bowerman coached the track and field team; offering a close-up view of the coachs relationship with runner Steve Prefontaine (subject of the movie Without Limits, co-written and co-produced by Moore); or exploring Bowermans role as a Nike innovator, this illuminating portrait is compelling reading throughout and ample evidence of why Bowermans widow, noting how well the author understood her husband, said: If anyone should write Bills life story, its Kenny Moore."

In reading the book I particularly enjoyed reading about Bowerman growing up in Eastern Oregon ( his father was an Oregon Governor) and in my town of Medford Oregon where he went to high school. After high school he went to the University of Oregon and was on the track and football teams. He met his wife at Medford High school and in college she was torn between Bowerman and a football player as UCLA and told both men she would marry the winner of the Oregon UCLA game. I am not making this up. Bowerman's Oregon Ducks lost to UCLA but she married Bowerman anyway. The UCLA player became a movie producer and Bowerman after college went back to Medford as a football coach until World War II broke out. He became an officer with the 10th Mountain Division and saw action in Italy where he arranged for an entire German unit to surrender. After the war he returned to Medford as a football coach until he was hired by the University of Oregon as a football and track coach and as they say the rest is history. If you like track this book is a must read. There are so many things I liked about the book. The description of Medford in the 1930's, The Birth of Nike, His relationship with Steve Prefontaine. My family and I were present for one event described in the book when the movie "Without Limits" was being filmed in Eugene at Hayward Field.( The track stadium) The movie was Directed by Robert Town about the Oregon runner Steve Pefontaine with Donald Sutherland playing Bowerman. The passage from the book is as follows: "
"Bill did pay a call to the set. One Sunday after church. When the 2000 Eugene extras in the stands got a glimpse of Bill they stood in ovation. Bowerman walked along the whole backstretch, waving, glowing in the full and transparent knowledge that he deserved it. He was the only star on the set. Sutherland, affirming this genuflected. Bill then sat down and was mightily impressed to see Crudup (actor playing Steve Prefontaine)... reenacting Pre's finish against Frank Shorter in the 1974 Restoration Meet three mile."

I was in my glory that day. As a movie extras there was a joining of my love for the University of Oregon; my love of movies and how they are made; I was with my family; I grew up in Coos Bay and my parents and Steve Prefontaine's parents were good friends. All those things came together in that family trip to Eugene.Next time you see the movie on DVD look for the four Wickres wearing yellow "Go Pre" tee shirts.

(To see the page for the book click on the title above for a link)