I saw a TV caption this morning calling the United States’ 5-3 Olympic Hockey win over Canada “Another Miracle.”
Perhaps I’m protective of the Miracle on Ice in 1980 because it was the most impactful sports moment of my life, but really, nothing compares.
I was a senior at Parkway North in February of 1980, and I was working in the COE program, so I’d go to school for half a day, and then go to work at a job the other half. That job was at the Onyx gas station on Olive (now a Valvoline Oil change place) in Creve Coeur. I’ll never forget sitting in that self-service booth, listening to KMOX, and someone brings the score in to Jack Buck. He said, “is this right?”
Yes, the USA hockey team had stunned…STUNNED…the arch rival Soviets.
I had to get home on that Friday night to watch ABC’s tape-delay coverage. I cried when I saw it, and get choked up when I see it now. Every time.
I guess the best comparison for St. Louis would be the Red Wings. In 1980, in my lifetime, the Soviets had owned us in hockey. Not only that, but in the sports realm, we felt robbed by their basketball win in 1972. Maybe we felt robbed because we were. Like when the Blues play the Red Wings, we hoped our team could win, but didn’t have realistic expectations of winning.
We couldn’t beat them, and had almost accepted that the Soviets were going to be better than us. Our country had low self-esteem, and our sports dominance was in a state of decay.
Why the low self-esteem? The Soviets had invaded Afghanistan, just running over that country, and we weren’t doing anything about it. We had 51 hostages being held in Iran, and if we were doing anything about that, we were failing. The gas station I was working at had been closed because our country didn’t have enough gasoline. It was a bad time.
So that U.S. hockey win over the vaunted USSR lifted up a country. The surrounding issues are chronicled very well in an HBO documentary and the movie Miracle.
So, no, last night’s win…while great…wasn’t a miracle, and doesn’t hold a candle to what happened in 1980.
The only thing these two hockey games have in common is that the primary Olympic television carrier didn’t think enough of them to carry them live.