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Thursday, September 9

It really WAS a miracle, kids

Recently, much is being made about the 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team, since a) they enjoyed their very own DisneyCorp feature film, b) they were cited as insipiration by the gold medal winning softball players and swimmers in Athens, and c) it was named the Top Sporting Event for the past 25 years by ESPN, as part of their little humble anniversary celebration.

If you're under, say, 30, and have no sense of history whatsoever, you might be asking yourself, "Can one event, 24 years ago, deserve all this hype?"

Oh yeah, baby, if anything, there is no way you can possibly over-hype the Miracle on Ice.

In fact, let's look at three distinct groups of people, and pick out the best and worst moments in American history.

The oldest generation of people alive today
Worst: Pearl Harbor
Best: V-J day

Baby Boomers:
Worst: Kennedy Assassination
Best: Man walks on moon

My generation:
Worst: Vietnam; also toss 9/11 on there
Best: Miracle on Ice

Gen X:
Worst: 9/11
Best: Lindsay Lohan turns 18?

I can really only tell the story from the viewpoint of a slightly-lower-middle-class kid living in the heartland at the time. I gotta tell you, things were bleak in my hood in the winter of the turn of the decade.

I didn't live in the most healthy household. My parents had more of their share of insecurities, fears, and neuroses. Everything that was going on seemed to be magnified, amplified in a household where nobody really, honestly had control of things.

The seventies truly sucked, people, at least for us. We're a little behind the curve, understand, so the decade starts with Vietnam (and, kids, if you think the Iraq war is a frivilous waste of life, at least there is SOME sort of tenuous cause behind it. To this day, no other reason other than sheer imperialist greed can be given for our involvement in the Asian jungles) and you got your conservatives pushing for the bomb, and your liberals pushing for peace. We also had the last remnants of the druggie sixties. Our hippies were in full force in '70 thru '73.

OK, then you got Watergate, and Nixon resigning office. That is followed by Ford's pardon of the crook, soon followed by Ford's pulling us out of 'Nam, and the mad rush of the 'red hoard' that filled the vacuum we left behind there. Then, with all the new veterans flooding the workplace, started the rise of horse-choking inflation, which then led to a major economic recession, and there were still enough Children of the Depression around to make a major, loud stink about how another Depression was right around the corner, and everyone was going to lose everything they ever worked for.

And, oh yeah, the Great Red Menace was lurking at our door. I wasn't around for all the atom bomb drills my parents did at school, and we didn't have a bomb shelter in our backyard. For any of you under drinking age, you always have known Russia as a poor place with bad weather, slutty chicks and a surplus of Members-Only jackets. As it turned out, they were more scared of US then we were of them.

But if you've ever dealt with a frightened animal, with its back to the wall is when it appears the most fierce. Between the SALT talks and Star Wars and what seemed to be a gigantic, irrational, hate-filled communist Russian force getting closer and closer every day, there was no reason for my folks to believe that we could stop them if they wanted to nuke us, enslave us, make us write our 'n's backwards and pour vodka on our cornflakes.

On the spritual front, every ne'er-do-well was hiding behind religious masks to justify whatever untoward means necessary. You had Southern TV evangelists soaking their congregations out of millions in the name of salvation. You have west coast proto-slackers hiding behind Eastern mysticism as an excuse to indulge in drugs, deviant sex, cult worship, mass suicide and whatever else they could think of. And, right under our own noses here in the great Catholic Bastion, this was the high time of the Pedophile Priests, hiding behind the pulpit and intimidating children into silence as they robbed them of their innocence and self-worth.

The seventies were also the time of genocidal dictators in Uganda, Cambodia, China, Chile. Untold millions died in purges every bit as crippling and gruesome as anything else mankind ever came up with.

So, basically, as the decade wound down, at our house, the government was corrupt, ineffectual, and not to be trusted. Our enemies were tougher, smarter, and more ruthless than us. We were spiritually bankrupted by Organized Religion, and Big Business threatened to turn the world into a smog-choked asphalt-paved parking lot.

Then, to top off the whole fucking sundae, a seventh-rate pissant tent show named Iran stormed OUR embassy, took OUR citizens hostage, and shit right in our faces. For months, we tried to reason with them, then bargain, then we tried to use force. Nothing worked.

I was 15 on the night of December 31st, 1979. I went to bed that night dreaming of the decade ahead, to driving, college, adulthood and freedom. My parents went to bed that night, honestly wondering if this New Year's would be the last. They honestly thought the world, at least the one they knew, would come to an end.

The decade of the '80s began that Friday in February when we beat the mighty, undefeated Russians on the hockey rink with our nameless, faceless college amateurs. We were finally able to avenge the 1972 basketball outrage. But, most of all, we finally did something right. Good actually WAS able to prevail.

Now, in retrospect, an Olympic hockey game, in the whole scheme of things, doesn't SEEM to be any more influential than a flea on a dog's ass. But, to me, and obviously to many, many others of my generation, it started a decade; a period of redemption and prosperity; and some may even be driven to say that it SAVED our nation.

I understand if you are, say, a family farmer. or a minority. Or Farrah Fawcett. If you are one of the above, this last statement will mean nothing to you. But when I went to bed on December 31, 1989, I was one HELL of a lot better off than I was ten years prior.

And the first domino that fell was the Miracle on Ice.