You’ve heard of them, Jordan’s Bulls, Montana’s 49ers, Gretzky’s Oilers, Bird’s Celtics, Magic’s Lakers, the teams that any player hates to play because they know the odds are against them because that other team of stars is going to play all out until the buzzer sounds. At Riverfest in Niles Michigan, in the Dragon Boat Races, the town of Niles is that team. Reaping both the benefits of home [river] advantage and a team comprised of grizzly veterans and new rising talent, the deck was stacked against any competition. Niles is known for both experienced play and a solid farm system, bringing refined talent to the adult level from the highly competitive youth races. The Niles High School Band would hold up that dominance in the youth league, but in the adult race, change was in the air.
Better World Books came to Riverfest to sell books and engage in a great festival, they came to put a creatively designed float in the water, but most of all they came to win. Like a rookie in battle who is too ignorant to know to fear a war champion, Better World Books was the lowly infantry man to Niles’ Achilles; but unlike the lofty Greek, Niles had no perceivable weakness. Better World Books would have to simply be the better team.
Murmurs spread around the festival all day of a young upstart team, made up of heart and absolutely no talent whatsoever, a bookish crowd with warehouse tans that would take on the Olympic level competition of the iron-fisted Niles crowd. Could the tiny Better World Books boat stand against the wrath of the Dragon Boat embodiment of Posiedon himself?
The race started close, jitters clearly affecting Better World Books as the Viking like warriors of Niles stroked even and true. But slowly something changed. Cows lay down when it is going to rain–they just feel it in the air and react–so when all of the kids stopped playing and went to watch the river, the prescience of the youth was palpable; victory would be a cruel mistress today.
Only a few meters left, rowing beyond their own abilities, infused with the spirit of Michael Phelps, the scrappy squad of ARC stud, Jorge Fragoso, Howard Roark-esque architect Jaime Knabet, superstar receiver, Javier Castro and hard hitting Maintenance standout David Sherwood were joined by the husband and wife Majerek in an epic throwdown. Also, Better World Books saw promise in a few Niles folks who were left off the famed squad. It was those few crew members, the rejects, who had become the proverbial cornerstones of the squad. With this group they would stand strong, crushing through the ripples of the river and the mighty approach of the heroes of Niles, Michigan.
Better World Books: Ballerific
Life moves on, and as Herodotus said, “You can never step in the same river twice.” Jordan has retired and Montana is in the booth, and Niles, Michigan is left scratching their heads as to how a small upstart company came in and simultaneously sold books while taking the checkered flag at their own flagship event. Will they ever recover or are the nouveau riche of the Dragon Boat circuit set to become the next giants of the Mitten State scene? Only time will tell, but the pantheon of great teams will truly never be the same.