Bowerman and the Men of Oregon Book Summary - Bowerman and the Men of Oregon Book explained in key points
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Bowerman and the Men of Oregon summary

Kenny Moore

The Story of Oregon's Legendary Coach and Nike's Cofounder

4.4 (15 ratings)
17 mins
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    Bowerman and the Men of Oregon
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    The parable of the mule skinner

    When the University of Oregon’s track and field team turned up for the annual welcome dinner at the home of the esteemed and dreaded Bill Bowerman, freshmen in the squad always expected some grand speech that would serve as a guiding principle.

    Always, they were treated to Bowerman’s guiding parable:

    There’s a stubborn mule that wouldn’t eat or drink. The owner seeks help from a mule skinner. When the skinner arrives, he gets a two-by-four wooden beam and floors the mule with a vicious hit between the ears. Then he strikes again between the eyes. To the owner’s protest, the skinner lays down his guiding philosophy. The crucial first step to good behavior is to get the mule’s attention.

    Bill Bowerman would know. Growing up in Fossil, Oregon, he’d been a wild truant who hated authority, slept outside, and fought like he wanted to die. That rebellious streak worsened after his parents, former Oregon Governor Jay Bowerman and teacher Lizzie Hoover divorced. The young Bill also carried the trauma of watching his twin brother lose his life after a freak elevator accident.

    Deciding their mother couldn’t handle Bill, his brother Dan arranged for the 14-year-old Bill to meet Ercel Hedrick, Medford school superintendent and certified mule skinner.

    Hedrick hit Bill with every expletive he knew, telling the boy what a disgrace he’d been to his mother. Bill Bowerman left that office a changed boy, channeling his penned-up energy into a discipline that would elevate his grades and whatever sports he played.

    Now a coach and bona fide mule skinner, Bill Bowerman let every group of athletes understand they would obey his orders or suffer the consequences.

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    What is Bowerman and the Men of Oregon about?

    Bowerman and the Men of Oregon (2006) is a riveting tale about track and field coach Bill Bowerman’s relentless drive to produce the best athletes from his base in his native Oregon. Through innovation and sheer force of character, he inspired a community to fall in love with running, and in the process co-founded Nike.

    Who should read Bowerman and the Men of Oregon?

    • Track and field fans
    • Followers of the American Olympic movement
    • Nike aficionados and people curious about the history of apparel brands in sport

    About the Author

    Kenny Moore was a first-hand witness to Bill Bowerman’s contrarian tactics. Moore ran the marathon at the 1968 and 1972 Olympics before spending 25 years as a journalist for Sports Illustrated. He co-wrote the screenplay for Without Limits, a movie about prodigious American runner Steve Prefontaine.

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