Monday, February 22, 2010

The Miracle on Ice, 30 Years Later

Today is the 30th anniversary of the greatest sports experience in my life: the US hockey team’s improbable medal-round victory over the Soviet team at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York, 4-3. The Americans, made up of amateur and collegiate players and led by the late Herb Brooks went on to win the Gold medal against Finland.

I was 7 at the time and would turn 8 the following May. It was a Friday night and the game was broadcast on tape delay at 8 pm because the Soviets had refuses to consent to moving the game from 5 pm to 8 pm for American television, which would have meant a 4 am start in Moscow for Russian viewers. I guess a 1 am local Moscow time was okay by them.

I didn’t know the results before I watched. I wasn’t anxious to see the score before hand, and frankly, I probably didn’t even know it was on tape delay. I was (and still am) a huge baseball fan so that was my sport of choice. Hockey was down on my list, but the idea of the upstart US team against the big, bad Soviets was exciting for me. I watched the game with my mother, who wasn’t a hockey fan either. Yet as we watched the game unfold we jumped, cheered, cringed, and hollered as if we had been life long fans. The game, as we all know, was absolutely thrilling and when the final buzzer sounded my mother and I hugged and shed tears of joy.

My mother suffers from dementia now, so she doesn’t remember that experience. Yet I will always treasure it. We had watched our beloved Yankees win the World Series in back-to-back years in 1977 and 1978, but nothing felt better than this. I was much younger then and the emotional high was probably more to me feeding off my parents and siblings’ elation rather than my own. The Miracle on Ice was different. This was personal and shared joy at something completely unexpected.

That Friday night in February 30 years ago will always be special to me. I believe it’s special to my mother as well, although it’s hidden in her mind. It is a priceless memory, the likes of which I will never experience again.

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