HARRIS: Decades later, ‘Miracle on Ice’ maintains transcendence

Members of the gold medal 1980 "Miracle on Ice" U.S. Olympic hockey team are honored prior to an NHL hockey game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Phoenix Coyotes, Friday Feb. 7, 2014, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)Members of the gold medal 1980 “Miracle on Ice” U.S. Olympic hockey team are honored prior to an NHL hockey game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Phoenix Coyotes, Friday Feb. 7, 2014, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
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ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Lists are fun, and there probably isn’t anybody around who follows sports as a fan or a media professional who doesn’t have a list of personal top moments seared into his or her brain.


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Here’s mine, a mix of things seen while working and as a regular ticket-holder or television viewer:

5. Ryan Zimmerman’s game-winning home run on the night Nationals Park opened (ticket holder). The 2008 season was a disaster, though the Nats did position themselves to draft Stephen Strasburg. That first night at the park? Couldn’t have scripted it any better.

4. John Riggins‘ breakthrough 43-yard touchdown run against Miami in the 1983 Super Bowl (television viewer). It put the Redskins ahead to stay in a 27-17 victory. I had one of our new puppies, Molly, on my lap and as I got up to fist-pump Riggins I still had her in my hand. The woman who was my wife for a spell rescued her and she lived 17 years. Riggo’s run lives forever.

3. Francisco Cabrera’s two-run single in the last of the ninth to lift Atlanta past Pittsburgh in the 1992 National League Championship Series (working media). Sid Bream looked like he was in slow motion rounding third with the eventual winning run.

2. Michael Johnson’s 200-meter run at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics (working media). Three explosions — Johnson out of the blocks, what seemed like a million flashbulbs at once and the crowd in cheers when his world-record time of 19.32 seconds was posted. Olympic Stadium, later converted to Turner Field, shook. Really shook.

1. The Miracle on Ice, Team USA’s run to the Olympic men’s hockey gold medal in 1980 (television viewer).

The biggest moment of the Miracle on Ice was the 4-3 victory over Russia that put Team USA into the gold medal game, where it beat Finland 4-2. The Russia game is easily one of the greatest sporting events of all time. And the funny thing is, I knew before I watched the game what had happened. It was not televised live. It was played at 5 p.m. and shown later. A friend who worked at a television station told me what happened while we covered a high school basketball game.

Yet watching the end of the game was intense, even though I already knew the Russians didn’t score after Mike Eruzione scored the winner for the U.S. with 10 minutes to play. I may still have knuckle damage from gripping the chair too tightly.

That game made me, and countless others, a hockey fan. It was a game that defines an entire sport, on every level.

Every day is a good day to remember the Miracle on Ice, but particularly Thursday as Team USA begins its bid to win a medal in Sochi. After a silver medal in 2010 in Vancouver, Team USA is one of a handful of teams given some chance to win a medal. While that would be nice, it definitely wouldn’t be the same as it was back in 1980 because the Olympics weren’t the same.

Back then, the Olympics were strictly for amateurs. “Our kids” beating the mighty Russians, long a power worldwide in amateur hockey, was a momumental upset.

When the current U.S. team conducted its orientation camp at Kettler IcePlex in August, the roster stood at 48 players. Not one was born when the U.S. toppled Russia in 1980. Yet of the dozen or so I spoke with about the game, all knew practically every detail. All had seen a tape, seen the movie that game spawned.

But don’t take my word for it on the impact the Miracle on Ice had. The folks at Witnify, a video production company in Northwest D.C. that bills itself as “the definitive home for first-person accounts,” produced a multi-part video about the Miracle on Ice and its impact that was posted at SBNation.com on Tuesday night.

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