Skip to comments.Why Sochi is Not Lake Placid
Posted on 02/18/2014 4:42:41 PM PST by NKP_Vet
Try as they might, some commentators during the U.S.-Russian hockey game could not muster much credible moral argument for making a comparison between Sochi of 2014 and Lake Placid of 1980.
Of course, we all wanted the US team to win this time, just like in 1980. But as part of a larger world morality play, it pales to near nothingness in comparison. President Obama immediately moved to seize a political advantage, sending out a tweet claiming to never stop believing in miracles. The presidents grasp of history is self-evidently weak and self-serving.
Back then, the joy of the American win was palpable. Strangers hugged in the streets, high-fived in the bars, screamed on the sidewalks. Toasts were made all over the 50 states. Everybody in America felt it and felt a part of it.
The galaxy-stunning win by the young American upstarts back in 1980 over the older, more experienced, and more intimidating Russian hockey team was the most compelling upset in the history of the wide world of sports--an American Miracle on Ice viewed as a crack in the ice of the Cold War, and in our favor for the first time in years.
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The 1980 victory was a one of a kind event. I remember how much it p*ssed off a leftwing chicano professor I had at the timer, which was the icing on the cake.
I was born in 1990 and have only seen bits and pieces of this game on TV.
My brother was on an airplane en route from Baltimore to Kansas City MO when the pilot announced that the U.S. beat the Soviets in 1980. He said everyone went crazy, people were going up and down the aisle hugging and crying. Flight attendants gave out free drinks.
I was 13. Can’t say I remember a lot of detail but I remember the elation and the “vibe.” Won’t be repeated in my lifetime, I’m sure.
A bunch of guys who’s average age was 21 beating a Russian team who arguably could have stayed intact and played in the NHL. There is no comparison. A number of people picked the U.S. to win the Gold this year.
That was a wonderful game but most people don’t remember it wasn’t the gold medal game.
This piece is mostly about nostalgia for a time when America was a better country. That was what was most special about that game. It was about an America where people were proud to be American.
That said, I do like that professionals are in the tournament now. Amateur athletics is just a propaganda term for class snobbery. The modern Olympics were founded in an era when the upper classes looked down on those who had to make a living. That made amateur athletics a (literally) noble pursuit.
The USA did win our first Gold for Ice dancing this time. Apparently it was all Canada USA this time.
I witnessed the game in Germany at an ice rink following a German club game. They had a projection TV and it was live. The place was packed and went wild when we won. When I returned home I rode alone in an elevator with Coach Brooks. Had a chance to tell him the story and how much of a thrill I was for me and the German friends. He was a real gentleman too. Will never forget both events.
1. Yes, it was a huge upset at the time, but the Soviets had it coming to them and should have seen it from a mile away. They went into that tournament with a sense of entitlement that's probably not surprising, considering they won four consecutive Olympic gold medals and were heavily favored to win a fifth.
2. The "Miracle on Ice" was one of the greatest coaching masterpieces of all time. That tournament unfolded almost exactly as he thought it would, and the U.S. won because he had built a team specifically to match up against the Soviets.
3. Team captain Mike Eruzione said years later that -- in retrospect -- the U.S. gold medal wasn't quite as big an upset as everyone originally thought. He made that statement after looking back years later, and realizing that many of the U.S. players went on to play long, solid careers in the National Hockey League. Before 1980, U.S.-born players in the NHL weren't all that common, so it was no surprise that nobody knew much about those players.
4. U.S. goalie Jim Craig said later that he didn't think the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" was even the greatest accomplishment of the 1980 Winter Olympics, let alone the greatest moment in the history of U.S. sports. He said the "Miracle on Ice" really overshadowed Eric Heiden's amazing feat of winning gold medals in all five men's speed skating events -- something that will never happen again.
5. Perhaps the best thing about the 1980 Winter Olympics is that Lake Placid has hardly changed at all in the 34 years since then. I've seen interviews with some of the players in which they say that to this day they can walk out into the middle of Main Street in the village of Lake Placid in the dead of night in the winter, and they still get chills and flashbacks from the night they beat the Soviets in 1980.
The best part about that movie was that they made extraordinary efforts to re-create the events of 1980 as closely as possible. Most of the hockey players who played the roles in that movie were cast in their roles because they looked like the players, and had similar accents. And they did a great job of going back to the films of the 1980 games and re-creating exact plays, positioning of players, etc.
Interestingly, the U.S. went into that tournament as the seventh-ranked team in the world and they were considered a long shot to win a medal, but Herb Brooks had privately told his friends in the hockey world that he thought the team was good enough to win at least a bronze medal.
Except the part about pros in the Olympics. But... that’s another topic. ;-)
Bill O’Reilly just had some college professor on that was debating him about Putin. The professor said he thought Putin was an authoritarian, but not a dictator. O’Reilly kept saying Putin was a murderer, who sides with other tyrants like Assaud. O’Reilly said anyone that speaks out against Putin is thrown in jail and he violates the civil rights of others, like the “gays”. I almost threw up my beer. All of Faux News is now touting the homosexual agenda. They are turning into the big brother of MSNBC.
We had just gotten through the 1970s, which was a period of decline for America. Even more so than today, it was a period of depression and malaise. For we didn't have the high tech gadgets of today to at least keep us occupied and entertained. It was a drab existence for many, slogging off to work and coming home to a dinner of soggy meatloaf with a black and white TV showing 3 channels of utter dreck. No Internet, no media on demand, no trendy casual eating restaurants to go to. Nothing like that at all. Lowenbrau was as fancy as you got for beer (with a slight argument for Heineken). People would have parties at their house and have jello with lettuce in it and a "cocktail" would be jug wine mixed with Kool-Aid. A Peter Frampton album would be playing on the "hi-fi".
OK, so I set the scene. So enter 1980, right around the time that Ronald Reagan was starting to win some primaries and disco was finally declared to be dead. So you have the Olympics and our hockey team features these young kids who still mostly live with their parents, some of them still not out of high school. Remember that professional players were not yet allowed. Yet our team was going up against the Soviet Union version of NHL All-Stars. Grown men who had been playing hockey 10 hours a day, 10 months out of the year since they were toddlers.
The young kids find a way to beat these hardened veterans and all hell breaks loose in America. Like I said, you had to have been there to see what the big deal was.
Anyway, I was 18 years old (about the same age of the players) and lived close to Winthrop, MA at the time and I went over to see Mike Eruzione's homecoming parade. It was like The Beatles came to town. The streets were lined 20 deep with screaming fans for miles. And this scene was repeated across America for the other 20 or so players.
No wonder most of these players never played an NHL game. After that victory, there was nothing left to achieve that could have topped beating the Russians.
And I should mention that beating the Russians did NOT win the U.S. the gold medal. They still had to play Finland to get the gold. But amazingly, nobody remembers that! Yes, they beat Finland and won the gold but it was the victory over the Soviet Union that mattered most of all.
To me, that was the official kick-off of our modern age. The personal computer revolution was getting into full swing. Ronald Reagan was about to begin his 8 years in the White House and the U.S. economy was about to take off to new undreamed of heights.
I would love to go back to February of 1980 and live the past 34 years all over again!
I know Lake Placid well. I was stationed near there in the Air Force twice and went to the village a lot. It’s still the same little town it was in 1980. Looks just like a little alpine village, especially with Whiteface Mountain dominating the skyline.