Miracles and Firsts

We’ve all heard the story a million times, and if you are watching TV during the Olympics you are bound to see a few Visa or Coca Cola commercials telling the story again. The story of when the United States beat the Soviet Union in the 1980 winter Olympics at Lake Placid. Its by far one of the most inspirational sports stories in American history, and the story is retold in the 2004 movie “Miracle” which was shown at one of this semester’s themed events in November (side note: I had no idea who John Bacon was but everyone should look him up he’s honestly so cool). While watching the movie, I couldn’t help but think about how it related to when we learned about A. Bartlett Giamatti’s idea about spectators and sports.

Giamatti, in his piece “Take Time For Paradise,” talks about how athletes serve as surrogates to the spectators during the game, and that these spectators are taken out of their surroundings and brought to, if only for a few moments, paradise. This idea is very connected to the 1980 hockey game. While the United States watched this game, either from within the stadium or on their couches at home, we all united and collectively lived vicariously through the players. Americans collectively felt every goal that was scored, and it meant so much more to the spectators than just a hockey game, this was our way of defeating our cold war opponent, and bringing down a team that hadn’t been beat in years. When the game ends in the movie and the Americans beat the Soviet Union, and when you watch the real clips, the whole entire crowd erupts, because everyone watching, for just a few moments, was taken to paradise. These athletes did so much more than just win a hockey game, they united a nation with a win that was not only sentimental but symbolic as well; the US finally beat the Soviets.

USA! USA!

USA! USA!

The other event I attended was another movie showing, “A League of Their Own,” a comedy about the founding of a women’s baseball league during World War II to maintain interest in baseball while men were away at war, which I later learned actually happened. While watching the movie, and then researching the actual players and teams afterward, I was saddened to see the large emphasis on traditional gender roles and stereotypes for the women. It reminded me of when we learned about women in sports during lecture. Mika mentioned how there are certain stereotypes that apply to women such as being emotional, loving the color pink, wearing dresses, and that women are nurturing and should take care of the home. It just so happened that every one of these stereotypes appeared in the movie.

Dresses... I mean really?

Dresses… I mean really?

The women of the league in real life, and in the movie, all wore cute pink dresses as their baseball uniforms. Not very practical if you ask me. Additionally, in the movie they were often portrayed as very emotional, with their moods changing and of course, a few moments of crying. To top it all off, the main character Dottie, ended up leaving the league after the final game to take care of her family at home. Of course she did. Now I do understand that this league was in the 1940’s but its still sad to think about the gender typing these women actually had to go through (pink dresses to play baseball?!), and I was a bit annoyed to see more stereotypes being perpetuated in the movie.

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3 comments

  1. epdale10 · December 8, 2014

    The Miracle of Ice was truly something magical, and as a Minnesotan, it especially hits home. I thought you did a ver nice job at illustrating the ideas Giamatti made in his writings, especially though the use of the example of Miracle. I think the role of a team can go beyond just the performance on the field or on the ice. For example, the New Orleans Saints did something incredible by winning the super bowl the year after hurricane Katrina. They emotionally lifted their city up in their darkest hour. The Miracle on Ice was special because it was against the USSR, but the Saints achievements had no enemy besides the situation they were put in. Teams and sports have such a special relationship with society as a whole, and is something truly unparalleled.

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  2. brendangaughan · December 8, 2014

    Arianna, first off, I would like to commend you for the interesting observations you made about the docudrama, Miracle. On a side note, I am glad to see that you chose to include the little shout-out to John Bacon too! I remember talking to you at the movie showing in North Quad for a brief moment about John. At the time, I couldn’t recall why Mr. Bacon’s name sounded so familiar to me, but then I remembered shortly after. When I was an incoming freshman at the University of Michigan, Coach John Paul, the head coach of the Michigan Men’s Lacrosse Team, recommended a book that my recruit class and I should read before our arrival. This book was titled, Bo’s Lasting Lessons, and it was an autobiography of the legendary Michigan Football coach, Bo Schembechler. The co-author of this book was sure enough, John Bacon. The book took me a total of 4 days to read (might I mention that I’m in the running for the worlds slowest reader) and the lessons that Coach Schembechler talks about will surely last with me for many years. Something about Coach Schem’s intense, balls to the wall, and the tactical coaching style reminds me of Coach Herb Brooks in the movie Miracle. It is odd how similar the lessons from both Bo’s Lasting Lessons and Miracle correlate with each other. Although the book might not be as action packed and suspenseful as the movie, I still recommend it to anyone who likes a good read. One more point I would like to add is that this book is also a crucial part what it means to be a “Michigan Man.” Anyone who is interested in the controversial interview that our interim Athletic Director, Jim Hackett, had and his personal plans about the future of the term “Michigan Man,” should also read this book. It does a very thorough job explaining the background and the history of the term that might persuade you to support the terms continual.

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  3. joshblum2014 · December 8, 2014

    I enjoyed your comparison of those two movies because I have seen them both many times. The fans watching the “Miracle on Ice” personally felt like they defeated their sworn enemy in the USSR. In A League of their Own, the women struggle, but ultimately become popular and entertain those who love the sport of baseball, while many Americans were off fighting in World War II. These two movies are patriotic and I think that, when watching the movies, experience the surrogacy of what Giamatti discusses.

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