The story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team is well known, both because of the 2004 movie Miracle and because if you were alive on February 22, 1980 you remember what happened, where you were and who was with you. It was one of those defining moments, like Pearl Harbor, the space shuttle Challenger disaster and 9/11. This, though, wasn’t a tragedy. And it wasn’t about a hockey game.
Coming into the Olympics the Soviet team had won 27 of its last 28 games. They had beaten the U.S. Olympic hockey team in an exhibition game just 3 days before the Olympics began by the bone crushing score of 10 – 3. They were simply the best.
And then the Olympics began in Lake Placid, NY and a bunch of American kids beat the greatest hockey team the world had ever seen. The pandemonium, euphoria and tears went on and on and even now those who remember find tears in their eyes and a lump in their throats just remembering.
That most unlikely of sporting event outcomes happened at a time that was particularly dark for Americans. Fifty-two of our countrymen were being held hostage in Iran. The Soviets had invaded Afghanistan and we were powerless to do anything about it. And we were doing an automotive conga line into gas stations to purchase 5 gallons when we could get it at all. We were a dispirited people.
And so it is today. We are feeling dispirited, distrusting and we are doubting ourselves. Our mistakes are gnawing at us and self-serving cynics with big egos and even bigger mouths are firing poison darts into our hearts every day. So many of us have simply dropped out in order to stop the pain and are hunkered down, now just going through the motions to sustain ourselves. How in the world will we get this train wreck back on track?
Wayne Coffey in his book The Boys of Winter offers his clarity about what those days in February, 1980 were really about. He writes,
“You watched them play and you were struck by the power of a simple, single thought: Hey, we really can still do it. In a time of malaise, they brought spunk and spirit.”
“It was to believe again in the nation’s capacity for greatness.”
” . . . you came away feeling that greatness wasn’t a realm strictly for the superhuman, remote and unattainable, but rather something much closer, real and reachable, something within every one of us.”
Herb Brooks, the head coach of that team, has died and the team members have gone on with their lives, so they won’t come to rescue us from our funk. But, truly, we don’t need an Olympic hockey game because our ” . . . capacity for greatness . . . is real and reachable, something within every one of us.”
The dream – the miracle – is alive if you say it is. Our greatest hockey game is still ahead of us.
Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same. Thanks. JA
Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
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