Russ's Reviews > Bowerman and the Men of Oregon: The Story of Oregon's Legendary Coach and Nike's Co-founder

Bowerman and the Men of Oregon by Kenny Moore
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Feb 04, 10

bookshelves: 2010, biography, historical, inspirational, nonfiction, northwest, sports
Recommended for: Oregonians, track and field fans
Read from January 18 to February 03, 2010, read count: 1

Bill Bowerman was the head coach of the University of Oregon track team for 20-some years, but he was so much more than that. He was an innovator, an inventor, a philanthropist, a war hero. Kenny Moore ran on Bowerman's teams, and he wrote this biography of Bowerman and his world. Few are more qualified for such a task than Moore, being both a writer and a former Bowerman-coached athlete.

Even if you think you know Bill Bowerman, after reading this book you learn that you know very little. I found out all sorts of fascinating facts about the man. He was born a twin, but his brother died young in a tragic accident. His father was the former acting governor of Oregon. He wanted to go to medical school after his U of O days, but never got there because he got into teaching instead.

Bowerman was a complex guy, and this book only begins to tell you about just how complex he was. He was hard as a rock, but had a soft side. He was an authoritative coach, but also a supportive one. He never made his athletes do things just to make them do it. He was always trying to improve their performance. If I could sum up Bowerman's coaching philosophy in one sentence, that sentence would be 'Work smarter, not harder.' Bowerman treated his athletes as individuals and cared more about how much they tried instead of whether they won or lost. Even so, his runners won quite often.

I enjoyed all I learned about Bill Bowerman, but I feel this book is flawed. Kenny Moore begins the book by giving a standard biography of Bowerman, which I found very fascinating. When we get to Bowerman's time as UO head coach, though, the tone of the book shifts into track-nerd mode. We learn a lot about Bowerman's teams, what they did, and what Bowerman did to coach them to victory, but we don't learn so much about what was going on in Bill's life. There are a few sections like that, but not enough. The later sections of the book get back to the biography format, and some sections talk about the story of Nike, which Bowerman helped start. Basically, Moore can't seem to decide which of the three books he wants to write: Bowerman biography, Oregon track history, or the story of Nike. Thus, the book is a bit fragmented. It seems like decades pass while the feats of Bill's athletes are described. I think the problem is that there is enough material here for three different books, and Moore probably felt he had to touch on all three subjects.

Even so, it was fascinating to learn about The Man himself. Moore talks about both the good and the bad, Bill's virtues and his faults. In the end, though, the reader as well as Bill's friends, family and colleagues reach the conclusion that this was a good, honorable man who deserves respect. That's why Bill Bowerman is a legend.
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