Monday, December 29, 2008

The Miracle on Ice

I went down to North Carolina over the weekend to visit my Mom and Dad. Along the way, some horrific little organism inside me demanded retribution on my system that forced me to spend the first night of my visit largely in bed, or in the bathroom. For a short while though, I managed to find my way into where my Mother was watching TV, and there she was watching the movie "Miracle on Ice" about our 1980 Olympic Hockey victory in Lake Placid. Although the movie is a dramatization, the acting is great (lots of authentic Boston area hockey players) and Kurt Russell does a wonderful Herb Brooks (coach of the team).

Watching that movie brought back unbelievably real, nearly 29 year old memories. Here's a clip I pulled from Youtube, with an announcing crew that is presumably Canadian. We've all heard the Al Michaels "Do you believe in miracles--YES!" call, but I wanted to hear something different. Spend the ten minutes or so watching this clip and tell me that you don't wind up with big tears in your eyes....just like you did the very first time you saw it.

I was not quite fifteen at the time, and the game happened the night of a party at Jackie McQuade's house. Jackie was a high school classmate who had a ton of great parties, and she sat near me in homeroom for four straight years. A great girl, all in all. This was one of those early high school parties before there was a lot of drinking...but there was a ton of getting to know the other sex, if you know what I mean. If I remember correctly, the game was played at 5PM but tape delayed to be shown in prime on the way to the party, I had heard that we won the game. But no one at the party seemed to know....

Basically, the game took the legs right out from under the party. The whole group of 14 and 15 year olds spent their time in front of Jackie's TV nervously watching the game. When it was over, there was pandemonium in that living room.

I told my Mom the other night while watching the movie that I thought this was the most amazing and meaningful sporting event I'd ever witnessed (followed closely by Franz Klammer's 1976 Downhill at Innsbruck that in which he carried an entire nation on his back). Remember what February 1980 was like? Jimmy Carter was still President. The Soviet Union hadn't quite figured out that it was going to fall in 9 years, and it gave the very outward appearance that it was a real threat to displace Western Democracy. Oh, and they had just invaded Afghanistan. Remember inflation? And Viet Nam had only been in the rear view mirror for five years (though it still dominated politics and culture). The thugs of the Ayatollah had only recently taken hostages at our Embassy, and they held them for the following 444 days. Bottom line--the US was on the ropes. We were in a real rut...the greatest country on Earth was in the midst of an identity crisis...when a bunch of 21 year olds reminded the world what it was the Americans are made of. Brooks drove those kids....he got them into shape....he created a team dedicated to each other. He told them on the night they beat the Soviets (not the Russians. The Soviets) that they'd lose 9 of 10 games they'd play against them. But not that night. That moment was theirs.

I just watched that clip I've linked to again, and I'm all teared up again. Thanks 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team, and thanks Ronald Reagan, for turning the corner on a time in our history where our country's leadership position was in doubt.


SamShapiro said...

Awesome video. Being the older brother with no social life, at the time, I was a huge hockey fan. I was so upset when they lost to the Russians 10-3 a week or so prior to the game. I knew they weren't that bad and would do better, if they got the chance to face them again. This game was not for the gold and after that upset, they still could have finished anywhere from first to fourth. Although I didn't tear up, watching it gave me the same butterflies I got back then.

Do you remeber when the Philadelphia Flyers played the Russian Red Army team and pounded the crap out of them? They refused to come out between the first and second period and only did so when they were informed that they wouldn't be paid.

I'm sure brother number 1 would have to say Gene Hart's last seconds call from the Flyers first Stanley Cup ranks up there too. Not as high but up there.

Goldwater's Ghost said...

Thank YOU for giving us all a little bit of what we need about now - PERSPECTIVE.

I miss Ronnie.

Dan said...

Just like we would have kicked their ass in the Fulda Gap.

Doc Milnamo said...

Brother Number 1 reporting in. Gene's call in the 1974 finals will always be with me. Yes, Gene Hart, quite a guy. Did brothers 2, 3, 4 and 5 and sister number 1 know Gene Hart taught at our high school? He was also a heck of a guy for not turning me in for cutting out of school to have lunch at JDs Chuckwagon - where he was dining!

But, I digress. In 1980 I was a 21-year old doofus trying to make it in the world after making a couple of mistakes. I remember us beating the Soviet Union like it was yesterday. At the time I had no idea of the enormity of this acomplishment - what it really meant. Of course I remember our hostages being held in Iran, interest rates out of site and Jimmy Carter. It really was a bad time!

I'd have to rank the 1980 ice hockey victory over the Soviets as number 1 in the team category with the Flyers 1974 Stanley Cup Championship being number 2. Franz Klammer bombing down the Downhill course in the '76 Olympics was number 1 in the individual category for me. In fact, watching Franz was probably the most awesome spectacle I've ever witnessed.

Beyond Bibb's Store said...

I watched it in the tube room of the K-Zoo house with forty or fifty of my closest friends. It's the only time I can remember the fraterity's perennial poker game being abandoned for anything less than Easters Weekend band parties. The room went from pin drop silence to raucous pandemonium with each swing in the game. At the end, forty some fraternity boys cried like a bunch of Tri-Delts at a wedding shower.

It's telling that my three clearest memories from school were: Breakfasttime history discussions at Paul Gaston's beautiful cypress dining table, the US hockey victory, and the first MTV video (also viewed from the fratty tube room).

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the heads up that this may require a hanky. Outstanding. And thanks for the props to the late Herb Brooks, an outstanding man who hails from my proud hamlet of New Brighton, Minnesota, population 19,507.

Dan said...

Please note the number of Wisconsin hockey players on this team, not the least of whom is Mark Johnson. We learn to skate before we walk.

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