February 22, 2005

"U. S. A.":

25 years later, Miracle still poignant memory (RON RAPOPORT, February 22, 2005, Chicago Sun-Times)

ESPN Classic will show the victory over the Soviets at 7 tonight -- and the gold-medal win over Finland on Thursday -- and anyone watching it will get a glimpse of a different era. The graphics are primitive by current standards, the camera work not as smooth as we are used to and the color not as sharp.

Along with most of those Olympics, the game against the Soviets was shown on tape delay, and when ABC, finally waking up to what was happening, asked officials if the gold-medal game could be played in the evening, it was refused. Change the schedule to accommodate television? Who ever heard of such a thing? As I say, it was a different era.

The network bit the bullet and showed the U.S. victory over Finland live Sunday morning. A number of stations, many of them in the South, did not air it, however. Their religious programming, aimed at those who believe in miracles of a different sort, took precedence.

In the days and weeks after the game, it acquired a socio-political connotation that made it larger than sport. There were American hostages in Iran, Soviet soldiers in Afghanistan and Jimmy Carter had sent a delegation to Lake Placid to press his case for a boycott of the upcoming Summer Olympics in Moscow.

This always has seemed a little glib to me -- it was a sensational hockey game and one of sport's greatest moments; wasn't that enough? -- and certainly the players didn't feel the weight of a country's dreams. "We were kidding the younger guys on the team,'' Buzz Schneider said after a 10-3 exhibition loss to the Soviets at Madison Square Garden not long before the Olympics began. "We told them they'd be in Afghanistan soon.''

That's just silly. The only reason anyone paid attention to a Olympic hockey game was because we hated the Soviets so much and Jimmy Carter and his predecessors had made people doubt the eventual outcome of the Cold War. People went around saying "We beat the Russians!," not "We won a sensational hockey game!"

Wanna know how long ago it was though? I had the only color television (13" at that) in my freshman dorm at Colgate and we had about sixty people in there at one point on Sunday morning.

-AUDIO: The Miracle on Ice- 25 years later (Laura Knoy, 2005-02-22, The Exchange: NHPR)

Twenty-five years ago today, during the height of the cold war, one of the greatest upsets in sports history unfolded, when a fledgling U.S. hockey team defeated the formidable Soviet powerhouse in the 1980 Olympics. Its been called one of the greatest sports events of the 20th century but for an America faced with a new President, a hostage crisis and major economic woes it meant so much more. Laura's guest is Wayne Coffee, Award winning sportswriter for the New York Daily News and author of "The Boys of Winter: The Untold Story of a Coach, a Dream, and the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team".

U.S. Defeats Soviet Squad In Olympic Hockey by 4-3 (Gerald Eskenazi, 2/22/80, The New York Times)
In one of the most startling and dramatic upsets in Olympic history, the underdog United States hockey team, composed in great part of collegians, defeated the defending champion Soviet squad by 4-3 tonight.

The victory brought a congratulatory phone call to the dressing room from President Carter and set off fireworks over this tiny Adirondack village. The triumph also put the Americans in a commanding position to take the gold medal in the XIII Olympic Winter Games, which will end Sunday. [...]

Few victories in American Olympic play have provoked reaction comparable to tonight's decision at the red-seated, smallish Olympic Field House. At the final buzzer, after the fans had chanted seconds away, fathers and mothers and friends of the United Sates players dashed onto the ice, hugging anyone they could find in red, white and blue uniforms.

Meanwhile, in the stands, most of the 10,000 fans - including about 1,500 standees, who paid $24.40 apiece for a ticket - shouted "U.S.A.," over and over, and hundreds outside waved American flags.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 22, 2005 12:23 PM

We beat the Russians--even though we were in the grips of a "national mailaise" and all the experts said it was impossible--and it was one of the best games (in terms of tension and entertainment value) ever played in any sport. I still can't watch the last 20 minutes of Miracle without getting all misty-eyed and chanting along with the crowd. "U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! . . ."

I am pleased to report that my kids get it.

Posted by: Mike Morley at February 22, 2005 12:33 PM

I really enjoyed Miracle on Ice.

Brought tears to my eyes.

Posted by: Sandy P at February 22, 2005 1:19 PM

It is amazing to think that Mr. Peanut brought this nation down so low that we needed a mere hockey game to make us even slightly proud to be Americans.

The fact that he is still alive, causing trouble for America all over the world and has apparently learned nothing from his 4 years in the White House followed by his ignominious defeat makes me doubt the value of peaceful transitions to power. Maybe his head shouldn't have been chopped off but perhaps he could have been sent to run a power station in Kazahkstan or maybe exiled to the top of Mt. Athos.

Posted by: Bart at February 22, 2005 1:28 PM

My favorite sidebar to that story was how WJLA in Washington ended up getting flooded by angry viewers who had gone out of their way not to find out the final score of the game, which ABC aired in prime-time on a five-hour tape delay. During a between periods break, local anchorwoman Rene Pousant came on during a station ID and said "The U.S. hockey team shocks the Soviets at Lake Placid. Details at 11." Fireworks at 9:15, as it turned out.

Posted by: John at February 22, 2005 2:09 PM

Oh God...they've got Cronkite on right now bloviating about it all, how we shouldn't call it a "miracle" because that implies divine intervention and who are we to say God is on our side?

Now he's talking about the "tragedy of Vietnam." Don't even get me started.

Egads...do they have to ruin a classic piece of sports memorabilia with this old fart's commentary?

Posted by: Matt Murphy at February 22, 2005 8:02 PM

They're rerunning in on ESPN now.

Thanks for bringing it to my attention, my husband has never seen a hockey game.

And what a one to see for his 1st time!

Posted by: Sandy P at February 23, 2005 12:29 AM