Something always seems to be the best this or the worst that and it’s kind of weird. Who thinks that way? What are they trying to accomplish or validate? Hey, no one wants to be told they are wasting their time so maybe this is a way of pumping up our own choices or something.
Either way, sometimes we actually do get things right. Oh sure, we’ll miss the nuance of something and place too much importance on the less worthy, but then to go the other way, we point this out in overrated/underrated debates.
Oh yes, everything gets covered.
Here’s what is properly placed where it belongs:
The Miracle on Ice.
Yes, the consensus held top sports moment of the 20th Century (in the U.S., of course), is neither overrated nor underrated, which is rare. How many other events/players/games can make this claim? How many sporting events actually transcend sports? Thirty years ago today in Lake Placid, we had one of those events that was so perfect no one bothers to question its place in sports history.
Here’s what interesting about the U.S. hockey team’s victory over the mighty Soviet juggernaut from Feb. 22, 1980—it meant something bigger than itself yet did not pump hockey into the American consciousness. American sports fans were no more interested in hockey after the game than they were before. I could be wrong here, but in the 30 years since The Miracle on Ice, hockey might even be less popular in terms of American sports interest. As far as American sports leagues go, the NHL might be fifth or sixth in overall popularity and that depends on whether big-time college sports is considered professional or not.
In other words, the game changed nothing and was simply a context-free game. Sure, people will say it was a manifestation of the Cold War played out as some sort of microcosm and all of that, but wasn’t that what Berlin was?
Here’s what else is cool about that one hockey game that didn’t even win the U.S. a gold medal (that came two days later against Finland): all the guys from the team are still around and are completely bearable. Yeah, Herb Brooks died in a car accident a few years back, but his legacy is still as bright as ever. Plus, invariably we grow tired and/or leery of people overexposed by the media. However, in this case that isn’t so. Every time the Winter Olympics roll around we get to hear from Mike Eruzione, Jim Craig and Mark Johnson, maybe even Dave Silk or Jack O’Callahan will come out, too. Yet for some reason it’s always interesting even though we’ve seen the movies and documentaries, read the books and the magazine articles.
An aside: If I recall correctly (hey, I was in the 3rd grade when it happened), the first time I heard those now ubiquitous "U-S-A!" chants was during the hockey competition of the 1980 Olympics. If anyone has an earlier instance of this occurring, by all means, correct me.
It was just one of those things. Chalk it up to being a cultural phenomenon or the sports equivalent to The Beatles going on the Ed Sullivan Show. When it happened people knew it was something pretty special and decades later that hasn’t changed much.