Extra Blog Post: Miracle and Taylor Branch

Since I was a kid, my favorite movie was (and still is) Miracle. I was ecstatic to hear that on November 13th, there was a showing of Miracle in a North Quad. The movie Miracle is a documentary-based drama that highlights the United States men’s hockey team and their road to victory at the 1980 Winter Olympics. The coach at the time, Herb Brooks, is the one of the many reasons that the team won the gold metal, but in the eyes of many sports analysts, reporters and fanatics, he was the sole reason. His intense, strategic and balls to the wall coaching style made him a coaching icon far beyond the sport of hockey, but throughout the athletic community. Kurt Russell, the actor who plays Herb Brooks in the movie, does an excellent job portraying the legendary coach’s extraordinary personality, which leaves audiences with inspiration, appreciation for hard work and in my case, the dream to win the gold metal for the United States. Unfortunately, I chose to play a sport that is not cared about nor offered at the Olympic level… lacrosse. But that’s beside the point.

United States win gold medal in 1980

United States win gold medal in 1980

No matter what your athletic background is, I believe it is impossible to not relate to this movie. Some of the challenges that this team was presented with are challenges that can be easily related to real world. For example, the team was comprised of 20 men that came from all over the country. They were thrown together and expected to win a gold medal for the United States in a matter of about two months. Many people can relate to being placed with a group of people with different backgrounds and contrasting methods, while still expected to construct an impressive production. Whether it is group home works in high school, group projects in college, or a sales team for the company you work for in 10 years, the same roadblocks are run into. The interesting part is that the teamwork and dedication to complete these tasks remains the same throughout every scenario and if everybody within the group isn’t on the same page, then the desired goal will not be achieved efficiently. Coach Brooks introduced this same concept to his team after a tie with the Norwegian National team.

A few weeks before the Norwegian game, Coach Brooks asked each member of the team whom they play for. Each and every one of the players responded with the college they attended. During the game against the Norwegians, Coach noticed that a few of his players were distracted by some smokin’ blondes in the stands, and not playing up to their full potential, Coach Brooks held the team throughout the night conditioning them to the point of sheer exhaustion. The conditioning continues for hours until a player named, Mike Eruzione, shouted, “I play for the United States of America.” Once the players realized that they needed to come together as one unit to achieve their main objective, things began to click within their chemistry. I can personally relate to this bond that the 1980 Olympic team had with each other because the bond that my teammates and I have sparked in similar ways to this Hockey team. It is an indescribable bond that is created when you are in a conditioning session, covered in sweat, moments from collapsing due to exhaustion, demanded to get on the line by coaches, and run another set of sprints. The unity that is shared once the conditioning session is over and the team comes together in a huddle to holler, “Go Blue,” is an unforgettable feeling; and definitely one I will never forget.

Taylor Branch believes all collegiate athletes should be paid

Taylor Branch believes all collegiate athletes should be paid

The day after the sowing of Miracle, November 14th, I also had the opportunity to attend Taylor Branch’s presentation about the relationship between student athletes and the NCAA. Taylor Branch is an author, historian, public speaker, campaigner, and advocate for the rights of student athletes across the United States. Two years ago, freshman year, I took a Sociology course that focused on sports within our society. One of the readings we had for that course was one of Taylor Branch’s most famous pieces, “The Shame of College Sports.” The piece was published in an issue of The Atlantic in October of 2011. In this article, he sheds the light on how collegiate athletes are just as overworked and taken advantage of as employees in the workplace. The “unjust” part of the situation, Branch believes, is how the overworked employees get paid for their services and the athletes do not. It was also interesting to hear Branch hypothesize that the NCAA banned the ability to pay their athletes because they want to keep the profits for themselves.

I would definitely agree with Branch that the NCAA should pay their athletes, but only to a certain extent. Where my opinion differs from Taylor Branch’s is that I believe that the athletes who play sports that create revenue for their school should deserve to get paid. In my case, getting paid for being on the lacrosse team doesn’t make much sense seen as how we are not making money for the University. Think of it as a bonus for the athletes. If they perform to the best of their abilities and their program starts making money for their school, they should deserve to get paid x-amount. With this being said, I also think it would be a good idea to merge the incentive to getting paid with meeting a certain GPA to keep them also focused on their studies. This way, the student athletes would stay focused on getting a good education as well as having the incentive of making money for themselves.

Overall, these two days were an outstanding opportunity to learn more about our society and how sports plays a crucial role within it.

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