No, the title of this blog post is not a reference to the song or to a Christmas miracle. It’s a reference to one of the best sports announcer (and just sports in genneral) moments in history: the 1980 USA vs USSR Olympic hockey game. A few weeks ago, I went to see the 2004 film Miracle
at North Quad with some friends as one of the LSA themed semester events. I’m sort of in love with this movie, and I’ve actually skated on the rinks where the 1980 team practiced (in Minneapolis, MN) and played (in Lake Placid, NY) during the Olympic Games. My immense love for the story of the 1980 U.S. Men’s Olympic Hockey Team has definitely prompted my friends to ask me why I feel so strongly about it. It would be easy to brush it off and say that I’m an athlete, so I love underdog stories (but let’s be honest, doesn’t everyone love underdog stories?), but that’s not the full answer. The LSA theme semester asks why we care so much about sports, and I think the answer to that question also answers my friends’ question.
When questioning why we care about sports, I looked to my good friend Google. Of course, tons of articles popped up about people who were huge fans of sports teams and wanted to talk about how sports changed their lives. Okay, cool. The best article that actually answered my question was this one, written by Ed Balint in 2010 about LeBron James. I’m not a basketball fan, so the content specific to James didn’t really do much for me, but Balint offers two great reasons people care about sports: we need the distraction, and it’s a very basic social need.
The distraction aspect is clearly visible by looking at the movie Miracle: In 1980, the U.S. was in the midst of the Cold War, and most people in the U.S. really hated the USSR. The game against them was a great way for people in the U.S. to feel victory over the USSR without actually engaging in war. It was also a great distraction from the political tension between the two countries. Who cares about communism when there’s hockey to play?
The social need of sports comes from the fact that people need to feel connected and a part of something. In 1980, the country was able to come together to root for a victory; it didn’t matter how much people didn’t like someone, they both wanted their country to win. It gave people something well-known to talk about, making it easy for people to connect.
When my class read this article about the Ed O’Bannon trial, we discussed the relationship between sports and politics. One of the noteworthy aspects is the media coverage both receive, which is indicative of how much people care about both. While, yes, people care about politics because elections and laws affect their lives, they also follow politics for some of the same reasons they follow sports. Thinking about Obama’s next moves is a great intellectual distraction from studying for orgo, and it’s incredible easy to get into a great discussion (read: argument) about politics with a group of people.
In fact, it’s easy to say one of the reasons I care about the movie Miracle so much is because it contains both sports and politics. When I’m not focusing on how amazing it must have felt to be one of the players and to realize that they had actually beat the USSR, I think about the political tensions between the U.S. and the USSR. The Cold War was just beginning, so it felt like an amazing U.S. victory in more than just hockey. So, perhaps the true “miracle” wasn’t the U.S. beating the Soviets, but the ability the game had to bring America together.
And to answer the title of this post: YES!