The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

February 21, 2014

Nothing can match the 1980 miracle

By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Whatever happens in the Olympic hockey tournament, please don’t make a reference to 1980.

There’s no similarity between the two, especially since the Americans lost to Canada in the semifinals Friday.

Those in the know (which I’m not) say Olympic hockey is the best hockey and there’s no argument there since it’s bringing together the world’s best players, which wasn’t necessarily the case in 1980 when NHL players were ineligible.

It was more than just the hockey in 1980, “the miracle on ice,’’ when the United States shocked the world by winning the gold medal.

It was capitalism vs. communism in the truest form.

The Soviet Union was truly the “evil empire’’ to the United States.

The cold war was on after President Jimmy Carter ordered an American boycott of the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow because of the Soviets’ invasion of Afghanistan.

The American spirit was down. The American embassy in Iran was being held hostage. Inflation was soaring. An energy crisis engulfed the nation.

The American team, made up mostly of college-age players, gave the nation a boost of patriotism that was desperately needed at the time.

The hockey team united us whether we were hockey fans or not.

It truly was “us’’ beating the Soviet Union.

The team received telegrams telling them “to beat the Commies.’’

It was capitalism vs. communism. The best rivalry in sports was the U.S. vs. the USSR before the fall of communism.

The Soviet Union team technically weren’t professionals — officially they were soldiers in the Red Army, an almost a thankless job. They had long separations from their families. American players said the one thing they noticed about the Russians were they never smiled.

The U.S. had the advantage of being on home ice at Lake Placid, N.Y. Never was there more pride in shouting “USA, USA, USA.’’

The Russians truly were the best team in the world. They had been together for years and had dominated the NHL All-Stars. They beat the Americans 10-2 in an exhibition the Sunday before the games began.

Broadcaster Jim McKay pointed out the Americans beating that Russian team was like a Canadian college football team beating the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers.

I miss the amateurs not being in the Olympics because you don’t have a story like this anymore.

The Soviet Union has been broken up. The Russians aren’t the commies anymore. Heck, there are Russians playing in the NHL — something that was unheard of in 1980.

There’s no doubt today’s American Olympic team is playing hard and has a love for their country.

But I don’t know if they playing for their country like the 1980 team was. That team had been together for more than seven months, developing a strong chemistry — a remarkable feat because there were some regional rivalries within the team.One can remember the scene in the movie “Miracle’’ where the U.S. player when asked what team he played for, emotionally said “The United States of America.’’

That’s what the Olympics is about — promoting nationalism and pride.

The Olympic gold medal is something to be proud of, but the pros’ dream is to win the Stanley Cup first.

Politics does fuel the Olympics —Jesse Owens showing up Nazi Germany in 1936 for one. John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s black glove salute in 1968 brought attention to racism in the United States.

Would pros be playing basketball in the Games if the U.S. hadn’t lost to the Russians in 1972 (when we were robbed) and 1988 (when their pros were better than our amateurs)?

Shout out USA, USA when watching Americans at the Olympics — but watch the movie “Miracle’’ to see what the Olympic spirit should be all about.

Campbell is News & Eagle sports writer.