On This Date: I Watched a “Miracle” Occur From a Hospital Bed
It was 41 years ago today (Feb. 22, 1980) that a group of college kids took down the mighty Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War to deliver what is still believed by many to be the greatest moment in American sporting history and one of, if not the, greatest upset in the history of sport altogether. I distinctly remember it because I was lying in a hospital bed as a 9-year-old suffering from kidney failure.
That winter, I had gotten a scab underneath one of my nostrils and, as a good l'il kid would, I proceeded to pick and scratch at it. It turned out to be a staph infection that I was, basically, inhaling all day long that eventually ended up attacking my kidneys. My kidneys developed tiny, microscopic holes in them and were no longer purifying my bloodstream. The condition is called Acute Poststreptococcal Glomerulonephritis (PSGN). Basically, I started peeing Coca-Cola (well, it LOOKED like it!), had a raging headache and my face had become jaundiced and swollen because of the toxins in my body that my renal system wasn't taking care of. It was pretty scary. Luckily, I slept about 20 hours a day. The one thing I did have to look forward to each day -- other than being hooked to an IV and having my blood drawn three times per day, was the Winter Olympics on TV.
The 1980 Winter Olympics were held on U.S. soil in upstate New York at Lake Placid. The men's hockey team, coached by the late Herb Brooks pulled off a stunning come-from-behind win to defeat the invincible USSR, 4-3. The iconic call by then ABC-TV sportscaster Al Michaels has become part of the American lexicon. As the final five seconds was being chanted down by a berserk home crowd, the word "miraculous" became a question: Do you believe in miracles?
Many, however, forget that beating the Russians simply got the American team into the finals against Finland. In fact, had the US lost, there was a chance that they might not have gotten a medal AT ALL! Two days following their stunning win over the Soviet Union (a team that had beaten them 10-3 just 13 days earlier in an exhibition at Madison Square Garden) the USA team defeated the Finnish squad 4-2 to secure the gold and forever cement their legacy as "The Miracle On Ice".
In 2004, Disney made a full-length feature film called "Miracle" based on the story in which Kurt Russell was nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award for his portrayal of Coach Brooks.
HBO Sports also produced a fabulous documentary (narrated by the fantastic Liev Schreiber) that interviewed many of the players years later on their accomplishment and delved much deeper into the geopolitical climate at the time which made the event a galvanizing moment for Americans from coat to coast. The video has since been pulled from YouTube due to a copyright claim by HBO but it is still available online if you look for it.
The 1980 games also had a local exceeding expectation when Yakima's own Phil Mahre, who grew up skiing at White Pass, won a silver medal for the USA in the slalom event.
I truly believe that the inspirational performances by the hockey team and our hometown boys also shining at the games very much helped me to keep my mind off of being sick and helped to speed my recovery along!
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