Hollywood’s Greatest "Miracle"
Do you believe in miracles?
The 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey victory over the Soviet Union was a sports and
Two decades later, it has inspired an entertainment miracle.
The miracle is that, in 2004, Hollywood actually released a great movie that
is uplifting, pro-American, and devoid of sex and violence. That movie,
"Miracle," debuts today [Friday, February 6, 2004] and is destined to
be a hit. "Miracle" tells the story of coach Herb Brooks’ and his
1980 team’s incredible David-versus-Goliath victory.
In January 1981, when U.S. hostages were released from Iran, they viewed a
highlight tape of major events they missed during their 444 days of captivity.
Several freed hostages said the highlight of highlights was Brooks’ team’s
semifinal victory over our Communist nemesis. The victory ultimately led to a
Gold Medal for the U.S. (over Finland).
Amidst shouts of "USA, USA," announcer Al Michaels’ rhetorical
question and answer, "Do you believe in Miracles? Yes!" is the most
memorable sports broadcast quips. Young boys dressed as the U.S. Hockey Team for
several Halloweens to follow.
The miracle was not just that Americans beat the Soviets. It was that amateur
working-class American kids beat paid, seasoned Russian professionals. Despite
all of the odds against them in a depressing time of Jimmy Carter malaise,
hostages in Iran, double-digit inflation, a virtually "kick-me" sign
on America around the world, and lines at the gas pump, the American spirit
triumphed. The team of freedom triumphed over the team of tyranny. The unlikely
victory was the first spark in what became America’s comeback -- the Reagan
"Miracle" masterfully tells the story in the context of those
events. While President Carter is decrying America’s bleak future, the U.S.
Hockey team is out of earshot, playing touch football in the Minnesota snow with
the patriotic spirit that portends of their victory.
But there may never be another "Miracle on Ice."
Yesterday’s Communist threat has largely been replaced by today’s radical
Islam –arguably a much more potent enemy. There’s no Bin Laden-sponsored
Taliban Hockey Team to beat. The Taliban was banned from the Games in 1999
because of their treatment of women. Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, and Islamic
Jihad don’t field ice hockey teams for us to beat. Palestinians, who visited
the Olympics as terrorists in 1972, now have an official Olympic delegation.
Al Michaels’ praise of America’s "miracle" amidst chants of
"USA" has been replaced by left-wing sportswriters admonishing such
patriotic displays. At the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, USA Today’s
Christine Brennan dedicated a whole column to denouncing American flag-waving
and shouts of "USA" and any other show of American pride. (Yet, on
PBS, she praised Australians cheering their own at the 2000 Sydney Summer Games.
Another sportswriter denounced the Salt Lake Games as the most
"nationalistic" since the Hitler’s 1936 Berlin Games. American
patriotism now equals Nazism?
Salt Lake Organizing Committee President and now-Massachusetts Republican
Governor Mitt Romney also admonished Americans. "Around the world it was
like, ‘Boy, those Americans, always beating their chests,’" he told The
Guardian. "This is not our time to talk about how great America is. It’s
not designed to be a patriotic American display."
Funny, he didn’t say that, when hitting up Congress for America’s
taxpayers to heavily subsidize the already heavily-sponsored Games featuring
multi-millionaire professional athletes.
That’s another difference emphasized in Disney’s "Miracle"
Kurt Russell, playing coach Brooks, tells the audience that the Games and the
athletes he coached were different, then.
Gone from today’s Olympics are the working-class, amateur U.S. Hockey Team
players who made the 1980 victory over professional, Soviet-subsidized players
twice as sweet. Brooks coached guys like Mike Eruzione, the team captain who
scored the winning goal against the Soviets, but never played in the
professional National Hockey League (NHL). Guys like goalie Jim Craig, whose
laid-off father desperately needed him to forgo the Olympics for the money an
NHL career would provide. They beat the Soviets when months earlier an NHL
All-Star team could not.
Eruzione and his teammates reunited to light the Olympic Cauldron in Salt
Lake in 2002. But it was empty symbolism.
In 2002, those amateurs--who had spunk, sparkle, and an underdog hunger to
win for the U.S.—had long been replaced by "Dream Teams" of spoiled
multi-millionaire, pro athletes. Instead, players were led by team captain and
Detroit Red Wing Chris Chelios-- who threatened NHL Commissioner Gary
Bettman’s life during the 1994-95 NHL lockout, and led the rest of the U.S.
Hockey team in trashing dorm rooms and destroying furniture as team captain of
the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. Thousands were spent haggling with
these hockey "pros" regarding Olympic drug testing policy. Brett Hull
whined about the trip to "far away" Salt Lake Games. On the
dorm-trashing team with Chelios, Hull complained about the distance to Nagano,
"Miracle" shows the grueling conditioning Brooks put the team
through. It’s doubtful today’s soft pros could withstand a lick of it.
The 1980 team was tough and gritty. They had no product endorsements or
part-time jobs by Home Depot and Staples. They were no billions in tax
subsidies. 1980 Olympians slept in converted prisons on prison cots, and
organizers nearly declared bankruptcy on a $168 million budget. There were no
$28 million opening ceremonies or $2 million temporary Olympic cauldrons and
But there was heavy American pride.
For that, audiences at last week’s sneak preview of "Miracle"
applauded and wept. That Hollywood finally depicts that in a positive way is a
huge "miracle" in 2004.
Debbie Schlussel used to represent coddled NHL players.