Red Right 88

Cleveland sports fan and sports writer

Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

quit my job decided to drive west

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Miracle on Ice stands test of time

The United States’ stunning upset of the Russians took place in the afternoon but ABC had earlier decided to broadcast the game in primetime.

By that time, my 7-year-old self was tucked safely asleep.

My memory can trick me into believing I watched the game because I have learned so much about it since.

Starting with the Karl Malden and Steve Guttenberg TV movie in 1981, the excellent HBO documentary about the game and the very enjoyable 2004 “Miracle” starring Kurt Russell. A game I never watched is ingrained into my head.

But for me, the first hockey game I ever watched was the game against Finland that took place on Sunday.

I remember it as the Gold Medal game, but as I learned this week, the finals in 1980 were actually a round robin. It was possible for the U.S. team to lose and not win any medal.

I watched the game at my father’s brother’s house. It may have been the only hockey game the two of them have ever watched together.

There are two things I clearly remember from that Sunday afternoon 30 years ago. The first was the utter disbelief that the team trailed after two periods.

I remember my uncle shaking his head and muttering, “I can’t believe they are going to lose this game.”

More than 500 miles away, the U.S. coach Herb Brooks was feeling the same way. He told his team what has become a classic quote that can’t be reprinted in a family newspaper.

But Herb’s boys responded and rallied to defeat Finland and win the gold medal. Which leads to my second memory, Jim Craig with the American Flag wrapped around him skating around the ice looking for his father.

Just thinking of that moment, the eyes get a little misty.

In fact the Miracle on Ice is one of those few subjects where any guy gets a pass getting emotional about.

Not only was it a stunning moment and an incredible victory but it also happened in a much different world.

It was a simpler time before the Internet, cell phones and mass media. It is impossible to relate how much the world has changed.

Thirty years later and America is involved in two real wars. Terrorism is a real threat. The country is divided by politics and colors. The economy is failing. Things aren’t going exactly peachy but America still has its confidence.

Maybe we shouldn’t be we feel really safe. There is no doubt that we aren’t the underdogs.

But in 1980, America was not feeling its oats. Nuclear war seemed imminent. Fear was in the air. Fear that things were going to get worse and not better.

That the American way of life was in trouble. Maybe it was because I was a child but the world seemed a lot scarier back then.

And when I compare and contrast then and now, maybe I should be more scared now.

But that hockey game did something that I am not sure is possible today. It changed perspective. It brought pride and hope. It united the country.

A true leader led a bunch of fresh-faced college boys. They worked harder than anyone else and relied on their preparation and love for each to dethrone the best hockey team in the world.

Al Michaels coined it as a miracle and in many senses it was but it is also a misnomer.

Brooks planned for it to happen and his team put in the work despite all the odds stacked against them.

The 1980 Hockey team is everything America wishes it could be: innocent, determined and able to accomplish anything.

Simply America at it’s best.

Published: February 24, 2010