Chance for Glory is the kind of book from which great sports movies are made. It has everything a true sports fan or just a lover of a good story wants, from a compelling plot to interesting characters, a mix of story, lots of action, and a good dose of humor. And it will be released just in time to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first Rose Bowl game played by Washington State College against Brown University in 1916.
Given that author Darin Watkins is an alumnus of what is now Washington State University, his focus, of course, is on the Washington team, and he begins the story by describing us a young school struggling to survive against its larger rival. , the University of Washington. Washington, who wanted to limit what his sister school could teach.
The opening chapter describes a fascinating 1912 soccer game played at West Point, a game that would feature Olympian Jim Thorpe and future United States General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower among its players. One of the coaches in that game was “Pop” Warner, the man who was William Dietz’s coach and recommended him as a Washington State College coach when a good coach was needed.
Washington State had a long history of losing its football games, but Coach Dietz quickly changed that. I will let readers explore his methods for themselves, but I will say that he was very innovative. Most notably, he was a Native American at a time when racism was prevalent. In 1915, when he became coach of the Washington State Cougars, only 25 years had passed since the Wounded Knee massacre. But it wasn’t long before Dietz earned the trust of his players and led them to believe that they could succeed not just as a team, but as a powerful rival to other teams throughout the Pacific Northwest.
The events that follow are like a continuous movie montage of one successive victory after another, and yet Watkins takes the time to describe each game and each major play, and brings these historical people to life, investing feelings and emotions in them. By doing this book it reads like good historical fiction, but it is full of facts. Each of the players becomes an individual to us, and we know them both on and off the football field, including, in some cases, which women they dated. The amount of research Watkins did to put all of these pieces together and gain insight into its characters is staggering, and it documents it all, yet the book reads flawlessly as a novel rather than a story.
As the Cougars rack up victory after victory, they begin to attract national attention and, in no time, are invited to participate in the first Rose Bowl Tournament. Of course, the Rose Bowl is a big deal today, but in 1915, no one was sure it would be successful. Watkins describes the committee’s struggles to get attention and sell tickets, the first parade of the Tournament of Roses, the publicity, and the overall results that transformed the tournament into an American institution.
One fascinating aspect of the Rose Bowl was that the Cougars, since they were going to Pasadena anyway, were invited to participate in a Hollywood movie – Tom Brown Goes to Harvard – part of a popular series of silent movies of the day, which It included a soccer ball. play. Watkins’ presentation of this look at the early films is fascinating and fun.
And then it goes to the Rose Bowl. Watkins informs us of every play, every cheer, every worry, and finally the big win. Through the written word, Watkins provides a highly visual history of an event that would make history.
Few American stories about overcoming adversity are as exciting and enjoyable to read as Chance for Glory. Watkins’ ability to bring history to life places this book alongside other great examples of historical narratives such as Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and its triumphant message is worthy of a movie. from Disney to feel good.
How wonderful that Watkins has scheduled this book to appear on the centennial of the Rose Bowl. The efforts of the Washington State Cougars bring new life and meaning to soccer by reminding us that anyone with something of value and a dream can succeed, whether in sports or anything else.