Saturday, January 31, 2004
Looking back now, I realize that the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, N.Y., were about a lot more than hockey.
I had just turned 14, but I can still remember huddling around the television set in my parents' living room watching hockey with my family. It wasn't as if I was a huge hockey fan -- the truth is that in January 1980, I couldn't have told you that Mike Eruzione, Mark Johnson or Jim Craig played on the team.
But my dad will watch any sport on television, and if you tuned into the Olympics that year, you were going to see hockey. At first, it may have been curiosity, but by the end, nobody in my family wanted to turn the channel. The American hockey team was the biggest story of the Olympic games and possibly the biggest sports story of our time.
The U.S. Hockey Team's drive to the gold medal came at a time when most of the news the television pumped into our living room was bad.
I had witnessed Islamic students storming the U.S. Embassy in Teheran and watched as Americans were held hostage for what seemed like an eternity.
My family was consumed with how to put gas in the tank and food on the table in an increasingly chaotic economy, and the Cold War with the Soviet Union sent chills up most of our backs. Sports was just a diversion.
But now, almost 24 years later, the strange thing is that it's the hockey that really stands out in my memory. Not so much the games, but the sense of pride we all felt when the Americans beat the Soviet Union in the semifinal game and then went on to take the gold from Finland.
The image of American players wrapped in the red, white and blue brought a feeling of pride that was missing in everyday life in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It was a change from watching the flag being burned by demonstrators in the Middle East.
The truth is that those hockey games were more about pride than hockey or sports. How else can I explain how it felt when Al Michaels asked millions of people in America, "Do you believe in miracles?"
In February, thanks to the folks at Walt Disney Pictures, we will all have a chance to relive those days and the events that surrounded them in a major motion picture. Kurt Russell will star in the role of the late Herb Brooks -- the coach who is credited with bringing the American team together and leading them to the gold in Lake Placid.
It will be nice to see the story retold on the big screen, and I'm sure that Walt Disney will portray the events of those days in February with the same impact of great sports movies like "Rocky" and with the emotional grab of "Rudy."
However, even with today's technology and state of the art theaters it will be hard to match the feeling I got when I watched the American hockey team win the gold medal on a 19-inch color TV set in the living room of my parents' house.
--To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209
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