MIRACLE ON ICE- U.S.A. 4 U.S.S.R.3- “DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES?”

miraclemain

I have been a sports fan for over fifty years now. The greatest event of my fandom took place on this date in 1980. I can’t believe it was thirty-seven years ago. It was the height of the Cold War with the U.S.S.R. It was also a low point in American history [also known as the Carter Presidency.} The Iranian Hostage situation was going on and there seemed no end in sight for that. Inflation and unemployment, the energy crisis. America needed a lift.  Going into the 1980 Winter Olympic Games at Lake Placid, no one was expecting the USA Hockey team to provide that lift. If Hollywood had written this plot it would have been thrown out- this couldn’t happen.

The Russian hockey team was machine. The greatest team in the world. They were seasoned professionals. Team USA were just a bunch of college kids, average age 21. Their coach was one of the greatest college coaches ever- Herb Brooks.

On February 9th, just before the Olympics the Russians played the USA in an exhibition game at Madison Square Garden. The final score 10-3 for the Soviets. It wasn’t even that close. No one figured there would be a rematch in the Olympics- since the USA was unlikely to make it far enough to make it out of group play- to the medal round. The wildest dream the most optimistic fan could have had would be a bronze medal- and you had to really be drinking the Kool-Aid  to think they could go that far.

In group play- the first game was against favored Sweden. This was something that was key- a loss here and the chances of moving on to the medal round would be slim. Down 2-1 Bill Baker scored with .27 second to go and Team USA earned a 2-2 tie. The next game was against the team considered the second best team in the tournament-Czechoslovakia.  The US routed them 7-3. I remember this was the moment when we started to dream. After beating Norway and Romania it came down to beating West Germany and then we advance to the medal round. Down 2-0 in the first period- the U.S rallied to win 4-2.

Friday February 22nd, 1980 was one of the longest days of my life. It was thirty-seven years ago but I remember every detail of that day. It was the U.S. vs the mighty U.S.S.R. the Red Army. For some reason I remember feeling going into that game, sure we are the underdogs but the way we are playing–maybe.. just maybe.

This would never happen today but back then the Olympics were on during the week only in prime time. The game was scheduled for the late afternoon and would be shown that night on tape delay in prime time. When the great Jim McKay came on at 8pm the game was over but in an age without the internet it was easy to avoid finding out the results before hand.

The Soviets got an early 1-0 lead but there was no quit in the American team. It was a great game. I’d love to see the game in its entirety again.[I’d love for a DVD to be put out of all the USA’s games in the tournament.} With the score 3-3 -the greatest moment in American sports history- Mike Eruzione scored- 4-3 USA. Goalie Jim Craig played out of his mind the rest of the way and as the seconds ticked down to 0:00 on ABC Al Michaels cried out “Do You Believe In Miracles?” Indeed- the greatest upset in 20th Century sports history. Jim McKay would say when the coverage was shifted back to him that what you just saw would be like “A Canadian college football team beating the Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers.”

Herb Brooks did an unbelievable job in making these bunch of unknowns believe they could win. The greatest job he may have done was- after doing the impossible and beating the Soviets on Friday night, he had to bring them back down because the Gold Medal game was Sunday afternoon against Finland. A loss to Finland and it was possible that there would be no medal at all. A win and it’s gold. The USA was down 2-1 going into the third and final period. Herb Brooks had some ‘choice words” for them in between periods. To be honest watching at home I had no doubt they were going to come back in the final 20 minutes and win it. Team USA scored 3 goals and won 4-2- and had the Gold Medal. After the tie in the first game against Sweden they won the rest- six games. Do you believe in miracles?

A few years back Quinn Maddux and I both agreed that we would never see a sports event like this again. We could think of no possible sports event that could come close. Well it wasn’t an EVENT- but a season. Last years Premier League- Leicester City a 5000-1 shot at winning the championship and they won. {This year they seem headed for relegation which makes what happen last season even more remarkable} Over a season of 38 matches we agree that was more unlikely than a one game win. Leicester City had to do it over a period of ten months. But for a single game or day- USA 4 U.S.S.R. 3.

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