“It was the greatest sports moment of the twentieth century” – Al Michaels
Hopefully most of you know what I am getting at by now, but this post is on the Miracle on Ice: The 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team beating the Soviets and winning the gold medal, which took place exactly 31 years ago. This is by far my favorite moment in sports history, although I wasn’t even alive for it. I’ve seen my football and baseball teams win championships. I’ve seen my college teams win the conference crown and knock off #1 teams, but nothing compares to the Miracle on Ice.
I really don’t want this to be me just rambling on about why this even is the greatest in American sports history, but some background is necessary. I can quote the HBO documentary on it that I’m watching now, so I’ll hit some highlights.
- The Russians (Soviets, CCCP, Soviet Union, etc.) had won gold at the last 4 olympic gold medals, outscoring their opponents 175-44, and this was considered their best team in years. They went on to win the next 2 gold medals until the Soviet Union split.
- The Americans had one player who had been in the Olympics before and six months of practice together. The Soviets have been together and competing in the games for years.
- The Russians had perhaps the best goalie in hockey history, and numerous other legends.
- A couple of days before the Olympics, the Soviets embarrassed the NHL All-Stars 6-0 in Madison Square Garden.
- “They played hockey the way we play basketball.” – Jim Lampley.
- The Russians beat the American Olympic team 10-3 in an exhibition game 3 days before the games started in which “the score made it seem closer than it was” – Al Michaels.
- The Russians weren’t just favored. They were 100% absolutely supposed to win. There was only one team who was even thought to have a slight chance at keeping with the Soviets, and the Americans were picked to finish sixth.
Aside with the numeric stats, the environment around the world had perhaps the biggest significance on the game. The Cold War was heating up, and the USA even boycotted the Summer Olympics in Moscow later that year for political reasons. Everyone was preparing for a war with the Russians. Imagine playing Germany in soccer in 1936. Gas prices and unemployment soared. The Russians invaded Afghanistan and we couldn’t get them out. Americans needed a reason to wave a flag and feel proud about themselves. Who knew it was going to be a bunch of college kids to give the USA that lift?
The lift for the team came from the head coach, Herb Brooks. He created himself as the enemy for the team, helping create a close bond between kids from so many different backgrounds. He was one of the toughest coaches in history, but he would always stand up for his players. I could go on and on about all the interesting and effective techniques Brooks uses, but the bottom line is he made the team believe they could win when nobody else did. The speech from the Disney movie isn’t word for word, but it’s very very close.
If this doesn’t give you chills, you’re either a Russian or you have no soul. Or both.
You honestly couldn’t have written it any better. I’m a huge fan of nonfiction stories and this is as intriguing as any gets. Ever. This one game changed not only the US forever, but the world. Name one other sporting event that has done that.