There are moments in sports that define generations. For the generation before mine, there was Bobby Thompson’s “Shot Heard around the World” and “the Greatest Game Ever Played,” the 1958 NFL championship game. Yes there was football before the Super Bowl. For my generation, it is Secretariat’s Belmont, Tiger winning the US Open at Pebble Beach by what seemed like 50 strokes, and the Miracle on Ice!
On February 22, 1980, the entire country was transfixed by a hockey game. Not just a hockey game, but a Cold War battle between the evil Soviet Empire and a bunch of nice young American boys; the classic good vs. evil confrontation. Having defeated the young Americans 10 – 3 only 13 days earlier, everyone expected another rout, what we got was chicken skin, goose bumps, and tears as the US stunned the Soviets 4 – 3 in what became known as the Miracle on Ice.
Believe it or not, the game was played in the afternoon and was not shown on TV live. I was living in California and when my mom called about 30 minutes before the west coast telecast, I did not answer the phone for fear she would tell me the score. When it ended around 10 p.m. Pacific time, you would have thought it was live; people honking their horns, yelling and screaming and nobody complaining about the noise. These nice young American boys had defeated the evil Soviets in one of the biggest upsets in sports history.
There are lots of other heroes from Winter Olympic history. Every young male in the world had a crush on Katarina Witt in the 1980s and she was East German, a true enemy of the US. The entire country sat transfixed in front of the television for American Bill Johnson’s Olympic downhill in 1984 and we all cheered in our homes for the National Anthem when he won the gold medal. Also in 1984, Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, from Great Britain, skated the greatest ice dancing performance in history, a performance that is still considered the greatest ever 34 years later. For those of you too young to remember, Google “Torvill and Dean, Bolero” and watch four minutes of ABSOLUTE PERFECTION.
For the younger generation there is Tara Lipinski (yes she was a gold medalist before she started wearing goofy hats and hanging out with Johnny Weir); Shaun White, a two time gold medalist, who will be competing in the upcoming PyeongChang Olympics; and Lindsey Vonn, who will be competing in her fourth Olympics.
After the Super Bowl this Sunday, many Americans will become fans of figure skating, Alpine skiing, and curling for two weeks. As Americans, we only seem to care about these sports once every four years – we care even more when an American, like Shaun White or Lindsey Vonn, has a legitimate chance to win a gold medal.
The 2018 Winter Olympics begin on February 9 and last through February 25. As a lunatic sports junkie, I will watch every moment I can. I would encourage everyone else to watch as well because you never know what you might see. Is there another Katarina Witt out there? Will anyone ever have all perfect scores like Torvill and Dean? Will Lindsey Vonn add to her medal count? Will Shaun White land the first ever 1800 (five 360s)?
The most important reason to watch however is to witness something magical that is sure to happen and be prepared in 2056 to answer the question, “Where were you on February 22, 2018?”
ENJOY THE OLYMPICS EVERYONE!!
By Dr. Stephen Butler
Stephen L. Butler, Ed.D., is the Dean of Academic Affairs at the United States Sports Academy.