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Tears for a ‘Miraculous’ time

I invested in a pair of sunglasses yesterday. I never wear the things no matter how sunny the hottest day in July may be, or how I may need them as I squint along the cut of the hill on Interstate 64 east after the sun has smiled on us all for a few minutes on a clear day. I don’t like to wear sunglasses. These days I just find myself putting on a pair trying to hide in case I am in public and a television is within eyeshot. There’s a television commercial for the new movie about the 1980 United States Olympic Hockey team called ‘Miracle,’ and it is getting to me. The Miracle on ice. If you’re over 30, you remember it. If you’re over 35, you remember it well.
My dear wife, lovely Carrie, will tell you that I am a sensitive man. I cry at weddings. I cry at funerals. I cry at movies. I shed quite a few tears when Brett Favre of the Packers threw his last interception in the playoffs against the Eagles.
My dilemma these days is that I find myself welling up with tears each and every time I see the commercial about this upcoming ‘Miracle’ movie, which hits theatres on Feb. 6. The very idea makes me cry. I am one giant goose bump each time I see a replay of the last few seconds of that game played against the Soviet Union on Feb. 22, 1980. ‘Do you believe in miracles? YES!’ was the exclamation from Al Michaels of ABC Sports. As God is my witness, the goose bumps are on me now as I type those words for the first time in my life. It all resonates. You just heard it, too.
That moment in time was the greatest American sports has ever known. Nothing compares to it. Oddly enough, as much as I love sports, I don’t like hockey. Icing is something that belongs on a cake. That’s what makes this so special in the minds of so many. We caught a glimpse of a game we didn’t understand and celebrated it for one major unifying reason we did understand. We beat the Russians. The Rooskies. The Reds. The Communists. USA. USA. USA…
The coach of that USA team was Herb Brooks. Herb died in a car accident this past year. A private man, Brooks was approached by a college student in the winter of 1992. The student was in a sports history class, and when term paper assignments were handed out, he got the 1980 Olympics. The student spent most of his energy and focus on the hockey team. At the time, Herb Brooks was coaching the Utica Devils, a minor league hockey team. He told the student he could read it all for himself. That it had all been said and done before. He suggested contacting the players because they played the game. The student went away from the conversation refreshed that Brooks came off the way he did. It seemed as if he thought his part in the play did not deserve the attention. That’s what I’ll always remember about Herb Brooks. And as the tears are flowing as I watch the ‘Miracle’ on the big screen, I’ll stop and say thanks, Coach Brooks, I got an A on my paper.
In addition to my being very sensitive, my dear Carrie would also tell you I spend too much time looking back. I love the past. Not that it does much good. I just yearn for a simpler time. I see a simpler time when I look back at 1980. 1 see phones with cords on them. I see Mike Douglas and John Davidson and Gary Collins on talk show TV. I don’t see Maury or Sally Jessy or Jerry Springer. I see concert tickets that cost 10 bucks. I don”t see the Internet. I see album cover art. I see Bear Bryant. I see US vs. THEM, and I really get wistful.
On that rare occasion when my old cronies and I get together, we often talk about things we miss. Sports. Old girlfriends. Teachers. Cars. I usually bring up the Cold War. Face it. Things were much easier when it was US against THEM. US against the USSR. Two super powers. All these pipsqueaks running around creating havoc around the globe now never had a chance during the cold war. There just wasn’t room.
When Super Bowl XV was played on Jan. 25, 1981, we were five days removed from having our hostages set free from the American embassy in Tehran. The hostages were held there more than 400 days. The Louisiana Superdome, where the Super Bowl was played that year, was adorned with a yellow ribbon that was 80 feet long and 30 feet wide. Those yellow ribbons were everywhere. This year’s NCAA BCS Championship football game between LSU and Oklahoma was played in the same Superdome.
In this era of terror, the Superdome was accessible to fans only after they passed through a chain-link fence 40 yards from the stadium door. The four large parking garages around the dome were closed off. Concrete barriers were lined around the dome. Hundreds of police officers, federal agents and National Guard troops were on site and armed with assault rifles. There was no yellow ribbon for the American troops fighting and dying today.
That hockey game of 24 years ago was so important to us. It was US against THEM. We won a game that was a microcosm of the big picture. A cold war battle appropriately fought on ice. That hockey miracle is coming to the silver screen. Pass the crying towel, please. Or maybe I’ll just wait until it comes out on video. That way I won’t disturb anyone in the theater with my sobbing.
Danny Johnson, a singer-songwriter, lives in Frenchtown and is director of student services at Medora High School.