I wrote this a year ago in the Wahoo Gazette during the final laps of the Late Show with David Letterman.
February 22, 1980. Where were you? This was the date the USA Olympic Hockey team defeated the might USSR. I was in college. This was before cable TV, before the internet, before computers. Yeah, it was the dark ages. A week earlier, USA lost to USSR at Madison Square Garden 10-3. Few held any interest in the game, other than seeing the USSR team, perhaps the greatest in the world. Every sports fan was familiar with the USSR team, no one knew anyone on the U.S. team. It was an afternoon game in Lake Placid, New York. I was a couple hundred miles to the southeast in Cortland. The game was on nobody’s radar. I return from class and plop my books down and manually turn on the black and white TV. “Hey, the Stooges are supposed to be on!” I remember thinking. Instead, it’s Jerry Girard from NYC’s WPIX-11. Stunned, he says, “I’m going to say this twice because you’re not going to believe it the first time. The United States Olympic hockey team just defeated the Soviet Union. The United States Olympic hockey team just defeated the Soviet Union.” I’m stopped cold. I stare at the TV to make sure I heard right the first time and the second. Jerry Girard doesn’t lie. USA did indeed just beat the USSR. I rummage through my tiny apartment to gather some dollars and coins and run out the door. I’m at The Stadium bar on Main Street in less than a minute. I burst in to the bar, startling the barkeep. I stammer, I stutter, I blurt, “Turn on the TV! Turn on the TV!” He asks me what the matter is. I tell him, “Just turn on the TV!” I yell over to some townies on the pool table to get over here. “You gotta see this! Get over here!” Everyone gathers while the TV above the bar warms up. I say to everyone that they’re not going to believe this. I reach over the bar and ask if I can pour myself a draught. The barkeep says he’ll do it. With one eye on the TV and one on the tap, he pours. The TV eventually creeps on, from dark to gray to light. We see celebration in the streets of Lake Placid. Soon it becomes apparent to all in The Stadium what had happened. USA beat the USSR. You can imagine the scene of 5 guys in the empty bar. Beers were poured, beers were drank. And then I ran out curbside, and like an avalanche, students and town folk poured down to Main Street. Horns honked, people hugged. This was 1980. We had hostages in Iran, the economy was in the dumps, interest rates were sky high, gas prices were sky high, and there were no jobs anywhere. The country was in a depressing mess. And then some kids from small towns across the United States defeated the monstrous USSR hockey team of professionals, the greatest in the world. What a day! What a night! What a sunrise!
And that wasn’t for the Gold. USA still had to . . . well, you probably watched the movie “Miracle.” I haven’t. I won’t. I don’t want it to affect the memory I have.
Now we have the professionals playing in the Olympics. Blah. The only miracle we have left is in the World Cup.