‘Do you believe in miracles?’

I was crammed on top of the two kids on either side of me in line. We had very little room between us and kept taking turns stepping on each other’s toes. Fortunately all three of us were on the smallish size, otherwise one of us would’ve surely taken a pointed elbow to the eye or mouth. I remember too that one of the kids was chewing gum, because I could smell the Chiclets Gum he had in his pocket.

Our teacher had brought our class out on the cold February Friday evening to sing for the residents of a local nursing home. As we had at past events, we would sing a few church hymns and folk songs like “America the Beautiful.” We were positioned in two lines in a semicircle in front of the residents who were seated in their rockers and lounge chairs. The residents seemed happy to see us. They waved and had big smiles. We, on-the-other-hand, were nervous and shy and couldn’t wait to get back to the car to listen to the U.S. Men’s Hockey Team take on the Soviet Union.

We didn’t know much about my hockey. None of my friends nor I grew up playing or watching professional ice hockey, but we had been following the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid on TV and knew that this was a big game. The minute we finished up singing Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the wind,” we didn’t need to be told twice to get our jackets. I had come with several other students with my teacher and jumped into his car and settled down right away to hear the game on the radio. (Of course, we watched the game on ABC later that night when the network ran a tape-delayed version of the game.)

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The mighty shall fall

Blowin’ in the wind asks “how many years can a mountain exist before it is washed to sea?” If my friends and I didn’t believe it beforehand, we learned that night that mountains like the Soviet Union, which was supposed to be invincible, could most certainly be washed to the sea.

The game would go on to become a key marker in American history. In one of the most dramatic upsets in Olympic history, the underdog U.S. hockey team, made up of little-known amateur players, defeated the four-time defending gold-medal winning team from the Soviet Union, 4-3. Two days later, the U.S. men would defeat Finland 4-2 to clinch the gold medal.

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Do you believe in miracles?

We knew little about U.S. –Soviet politics. We just knew that we were the little guy, the underdog, who wasn’t supposed to win. In fact, a week leading up to the Olympics, the U.S. Men’s team had been beaten soundly by the Soviets 10-3. But that didn’t matter to us. I remember the tension in the car the whole trip home and how we would tense up on each shot on net, waiting for the radio announcer to let us know the outcome.

I don’t think I actually relaxed until I had made it home and was able to watch it on TV and hear Al Michaels’ now famous call: “you’ve got 10 seconds, the countdown going on right now! Morrow, up to Silk. Five seconds left in the game. Do you believe in miracles? YES!”

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Time marches on

The brain is a wonderful thing. I forget what I ate for breakfast this week, but I can tell you exactly where I was 38 years ago on a cold February day when the U.S. Men’s Hockey team ruled supreme. With the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games in full swing, the U.S. opened the tournament on Wednesday losing in over-time to Slovenia, and once again takes on Russia on Saturday.

Much has changed over the years and I probably won’t be watching Saturday, but I occasionally think back to 1980 and remember a different time when mountains were washed away to the sea.

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