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Can this be forty years ago? It’s hard to explain to younger people what an earth-shaking, tear-jerking win the 1980 gold medal in hockey was for us. This was no simple rivalry. This was David vs. Goliath. This was Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader. This was Hobbits vs. Mordor. And the good guys won.
To provide some necessary background for the younger readers: Western countries such as the United States and Canada were constrained by the Olympic rules, which had long mandated that athletes must be amateurs. Our teams were composed of college players who had not yet begun their professional careers. The Soviets, as usual, simply cheated. They took their very top adult players, world-class, full-time athletes with years of international experience, and gave them phony job-assignments with the military or government so that they could be called amateurs. It was like putting the all-stars of the NFL against a college squad. It was a joke. Of course, they always won the gold medal, and they always would win the gold medal; it was a fact of life that would never change, kind of like the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall. Nothing to be done, we were just supposed to suck it up. Then this team of scrappy college kids did the unthinkable. They brought down Goliath. And less than ten years later, the citizens of both sides of Berlin brought down that “fact-of-life” wall with simple tools and bare, bloody hands and tear-stained faces. It reminds me of one of my favorite lines from Lord of the Rings: “Where tears are the very wine of blessedness.” This hockey game, this “miracle on ice” was the prelude to that miracle in Berlin.