Blood Over Water posted by: Brad Alan Lewis (June 5, 2009)
B. Lewis with bow; T. Lewis with arrows
We just survived Mothers Day. Fathers Day is only a week or two away. What's sorely missing is "Brothers Day." The battle between brothers, the love between brothers, the loyalty between brothers, this is the stuff of life and, occasionally, the stuff of legend.
Fortunately for me, my brother Tracy - who rowed at OCC and San Diego State - was quite a bit older, so when it came to rowing, we did nothing more than cheer each other on.
In rowing there has been a good supply of brother-partnerships, (Winklevoss twins, Frank and Alf Hansen, the Abbagnales, the Landvoigt twins, the Battling Borchelt brothers). There have been brothers who rowed in the same boat, (Joe and Tom Amlong, gold in 1964 8+). But it's hard to come up with even a solitary example of two brothers who competed against each other - until now.
For David and James Livingston, it did happen, in spades - head-to-head - against each other in the biggest race in Great Britain, the legendary Oxford & Cambridge Boat Race.
Drawing from their training journals, the two men separately wrote their own stories, and then intertwined the sagas into an excellent non-fiction book, Blood Over Water. The over-the-top preparation by both Oxford and Cambridge crews for this solitary race, which will not only define the whole season but will define the rowers' futures to no small extent, makes the Harvard-Yale race look like a couple of pikers on a donut run.
There are a few pretty good training ideas included. There are a couple of fresh Brit slang-terms for a quick leg-over. The best part is the brutal honesty about what it's like to compete against your brother. The reason it rings true, I think, is because this book has not been put through the "with-machine." Most athlete-writers employ a ghost writer: It's Not About the Bike by Lance Armstrong WITH Sally Jenkins. These professional with-writers suck all the energy out of a book. As a reader, I want the story to go down blind alleys, not bland freeways; I want misplaced metaphors; I want the bad jokes left in; I want to read about the drunken brawls, the busted blisters, about the way a friend of James celebrated her twentieth birthday.
The honestly can be downright scary, as written by David: "He turned and ran off, out of the kitchen and down the hall. I took up the chase. James ran left into the living room, which joins the kitchen through another door. Realizing I would never catch him, I threw a seven-inch knife at him. It ricocheted off the wall and bounced onto the floor. We were both left shaken. Did I really want to hurt him this much? I think I aimed for the wall but I couldn't be sure.'
That last line says it all. Every younger brother has thrown the knife. And then been relieved beyond words when it bounced off the floor.