Miracle

What a hockey game this afternoon — with 24 seconds left in the game, the U.S. scored the tying goal to take Canada to overtime, then Canadian wunderkind Sidney Crosby, 2010’s answer to Wayne Gretzky, dramatically scored in sudden death to send people pouring into the streets of Vancouver. I’m about as jingoistic as they come, but I couldn’t help feeling happy for America’s Hat.* They played a hell of a game, and they earned the victory.

The Boy had a rougher time of things. He literally had his fingers crossed as overtime started. The ensuing American loss was a small tragedy for him. The Big M spent a good 20 minutes consoling him with a father-son talk about life and “you win some, you lose some” or somesuch. I’m just guessing, as all of this was done out of my earshot. At any rate, the kid came back in wearing a brave smile belied by red-rimmed eyes. Poor little dude.

I decided the antidote he needed was Miracle. You want to see great hockey? How about an improbable group of amateur American kids taking on the professional Soviet powerhouse who had won four straight Olympic golds and then beating them?

I love Disney’s version of the game and the months leading up to it. Kurt Russell plays coach Herb Brooks, with Biff Tannen as his assistant. My favorite part is after the team plays Finland in an exhibition game. They’re distracted, not giving maximum effort, and Coach Brooks punishes them by making them skate wind sprints afterward.

I have personal experience with this type of wind sprint from my high school basketball days. We called them “horses” or “suicides.” You’d start at one end of the court, run to the free throw line, run back to the end, run to half court, run back to the end, run to the other free throw line, run back to the end, run to the opposite end of the court, and then back to the end. You’d have to touch each line with your hand, and you’d have to do the whole sprint in less than 45 seconds or it was a do-over. We’d typically run 10-20 in a row.

God, I hated them. Our coach was focused on conditioning. Somehow, she reasoned, we’d win all of our games if only we were better conditioned than our opponents. Trouble was, I was terrible at actual basketball. I had a tendency to dribble off my foot. But conditioning stayed the focus. “Horses” were only the beginning of the tortures she had in store for us. By the end of the season I could dribble off my foot for 60 minutes straight without getting tired.

Anyway, Coach Brooks makes the hockey players skate the hockey equivalent of “horses”, over and over. He makes them keep going even after the rink manager turns off the lights in an effort to get them to leave. He makes them keep going even after they’re vomiting and collapsing on the ice, even after the assistant coaches are begging him to stop.

All season he’s been asking these kids to say their name, where they’re from, and who they play for, and he gets responses like, “Mark Johnson, Minneapolis, The University of Wisconsin.” The kids are all separated in their minds by college affiliation. And then, as Brooks is about to make them do another sprint, a voice comes out of the darkness.

“Mike Eruzione. *gasp* Winthrop, Massachusetts. *gasp*”

Brooks narrows his eyes. “Who do you play for?”

“The United States of America.”

“You’re dismissed.”

There it was. In that moment they crossed the line from individuals to a team, and not just any team, but Team USA. It is a great moment in film history depicting a great moment in sports history.

The Boy looked over at me. “Mom, why are you crying?”

I tried to explain the significance of the moment, where America was emotionally in 1980, why we needed the coming victory, why it mattered that these guys had bonded as a team, and he just kept looking at me like I was a crazy person.

I gave him a brave smile, belied by my red-rimmed eyes.

“It’s time for bed.”

We’ll watch the rest tomorrow. I can’t wait for Al Michaels’ call. Do you believe in miracles?!

———————————-

*Oh, Canada. I kid because I love ya. Except for your ketchup-flavored potato chips. What are those aboot?

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Categories: The Kids

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