It was 30 years ago today. The happiest day of my life.
The ragtag U.S. hockey team completed its impossible mission, beating Finland 4-2 to take the gold medal in Lake Placid. The hair on my arms still goes totally, spastically static when I hear the call in my head:
“This impossible dream comes true!”
I cried at the time, an 11-year-old boy in tears like a six-year-old girl, but what can you do? After I wiped my eyes I went outside and fired an oil-soaked tennis ball at the hockey net in my driveway, polka-dotting the garage door when I missed. My dad had to replace that garage door.
Two days earlier, after the Americans’ stunning victory over the Soviet Union, Al Michaels had asked:
“Do you believe in miracles?”
Of course I did, but I needed this last win to really own that faith. Without that championship, the semifinal win would have been an exciting footnote in Olympic history, a footnote with an asterisk: “The team lost in the gold medal game and had to settle for silver,” that kind of thing. Such is not the stuff of which miracles are made.
People forget about the game against Finland. People forget a lot of things.
We are living through an era of deterioration, an Age of Layoffs, we sometimes seem to be surrounded by a culture of trash. Men and women in the know are trying their best to come up with ways to “monetize” the electricity of our electronic times, and though they have only been able to come up with new words like “monetize” thus far, I am confident that this will all get sorted out.
We are capable of more if we just embrace the American ethos of hope, that thing which stitches us all together. We may be Frankenstein’s monster at the moment, torn at the seams, but our nature is to be optimistic, our birthright is to dream and dream big.
On this day of days, this glorious anniversary of the impossible become possible, let us be less Gordon Gecko and more Gatsby:
“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter - tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther … And one fine morning...
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
Captain Mike Eruzione called his whole team onto the medal stand following the playing of our national anthem. In truth, he had us all up there with him, an entire nation in the throes of those times, those dangers, that terrible economy. He lifted us all up so that we were on the dais too, sharing in the impossible glory that strength of heart had won.
It’s enough to make a grown man cry, even 30 years later.