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Bill Rubin column: Miracles happen

Bill Rubin

We are creeping up on the anniversary involving a triumph of Goliath proportions. On Feb. 22, 1980, the men's U.S. Olympic hockey team defeated the Soviet team in Lake Placid, N.Y. An upset does not begin to describe the outcome. Hard to believe it's been 39 years.

With broad brush strokes, a 1980s picture in the U.S. and globally could be painted this way: inflation was rampant, unemployment was high and climbing, an energy crisis had a stranglehold on businesses and consumers, the dial for the Cold War was turned to "bitter" and the Soviets were in Afghanistan on military business.

A fast-talking economic development guy was residing in central Minnesota in 1980. He claims to have learned of the hockey victory by way of a car radio tuned to A.M. while on Broadway Avenue. Feb.22 was a Friday and a saloon may have been calling. Spontaneity ensued, including shouts from a rolled-down car window and a horn that wouldn't stop honking.

For the younger generation, cell phones, laptops, tablets, Internet, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter did not exist in 1980. Repeat, did not exist. Why is this important? The game was not broadcast live in the U.S. and options to follow it were very limited. It started at 5 p.m. Eastern Time (1 a.m. Moscow time), and later, was brought into homes across America as part of the network's prime time coverage. When the game did air, the hosts explained it had been contested but promised not to leak the outcome. The capacity of the Lake Placid arena is said to be 8,500 seats. Days and weeks after the victory, many thousands more claimed to have been there in person. The fast-talker never made that claim, at least not publicly.

In the locker room before the game, Coach Herb Brooks, a St. Paul, Minnesota East Sider, addressed his team from personal notes, along the lines of, "Great moments are born from great opportunity. You were born to be a player. You were meant to be here. This moment is yours." Those 19- and 20-year-old men (kids) from Roseau, Eveleth, Flint, Charlestown and Madison heeded the coach's prophetic words, winning 4-3.

USA! USA! America needed a winner and got one. USA! USA! At every opportunity, crowds across America waved the stars and stripes and even sang patriotic songs. The fast-talker remembers singing a little bit, too.

Two days later the U.S. team beat Finland to win the gold medal in a match that really was broadcast live and may have competed with other morning activities on the Sabbath. As an aside, a loss to the Finns would have meant gold medals for the Soviets.

Upon reflection, the fast-talker says the U.S. of A. could use a 2019 version of a miracle. The fast-talker says if you look close, there's "us" in "USA." In any shape or size, a uniting miracle would be so retro-1980. Repeating a line from Lake Placid, "Do you believe in miracles? Yes!"

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