Monday, February 22, 2010

What You (may have) Saw Last Night Was No Miracle

Why is there a need to make something better then it actually is? By comparing a nice upset to a truly unbelievable upset doesn’t it diminish the original accomplishment? If you haven’t guess by now I’m referring to the U.S victory over Canada in hockey on Sunday night.

It was undoubtedly an upset that few saw coming. Most of the pre-Olympic prognosticators were assured that it would be a Russia vs. Canada battle for the gold medal while the U.S. would be lucky to finish in fourth or fifth place.

Hopefully by now I’m sure you’ve seen the results, even if you didn’t see the game. According to the numbers about 8.2 million people were able to find the game on MSNBC which was almost a record night for the news network. If you’re complaining about not being able to see the game you’re about two weeks behind the rest of the country.

The Olympic television schedule has been in place since before the torch was lit so it shouldn’t have surprised anyone who was paying attention. Now you can argue that NBC should have broadcast it on the parent network instead of ice dancing, but that’s an argument for a different time.

Let’s focus on this so called Miracle On Ice II. First off, stop calling it that. Every single player on the U.S. squad last night is in the National Hockey League. These are not unknown, untested college kids. They may be young, but they are all seasoned (and rich!) professionals.

The team that skated for the United States in 1980 had no business beating the Russians. If they play that game 10 times there is an excellent chance that the Soviets win 9 times. There’s an even better chance that they blow the Americans out of the arena (remember the pre-tournament 10-3 drubbing just a few weeks before the tournament?)

Not only is the current American team not as much of an underdog as it’s miraculous counterpart, the Canadians aren’t the dominant team that the Soviets were. In the four Olympics prior to 1980 the Soviets were 27-1-1 and had outscored their opponents 175-44. Contrast that to a Canadian team that struggled to beat a weak Swiss team. They are not even the defending Gold Medal team, that honor belongs to Sweden.

Perhaps we should refer to it as the “Reasonably Unexpected Upset on Ice”. Time seems to have diminished the luster of the 1980 team’s victory. With the emergence of true professionals playing for their respective countries (as opposed to the Soviets pseudo-amateurs of the 70’s and 80’s) no team is as much of an underdog as the US was. The only comparison I could think of that would be equivalent in today’s sports world would be if Saint Leo’s men’s soccer team beat the Brazilian national team

There is one way the win for the Americans is similar to the Miracle on Ice team victory. There is a lot of hoopla around a game that hasn’t produced the desired end result – a gold medal. Herb Brooks, coach of that upstart 1980 team, was quoted as saying, “If you don’t win this game you’ll take it to your f*&king grave,” in regards to the post-Russian victory game against Norway.

In much the same vain, if the U.S. flames out in the medal round this win will in the end mean almost nothing. The rest of the way will not be a cake walk. Russia, Sweden, Finland and a possible rematch with the Canadians all loom in the not too distant future.

It will be interesting to see if this team will go from upstart underdog to disappointing failure if they lose in the quarterfinals or medal rounds. The American public is fickle at best and downright cruel at its worst. A gold medal win for the U.S. could be a major boon to the NHL, especially for teams that are fighting for a playoff spot.

So let’s just bask in the win for now. There’s no need to compare it to the past, nor is there a need to set this team up for a future failure.


dogfacedgremlin said...

Where does all this pent up bitterness come from? That's what I want to know.

madding said...

Admittedly, though I am not someone who follows hockey, that had to be one of the best matches I've ever seen. That being said, it's ridiculous to compare it to 1980 and I have to agree with everything that you said.

Justin G. said...

DFG - Any bitterness is directed to the so-called experts on tv, radio, mainstream media who ignore hockey 360 days a year and then immediately have to compare a win in a qualifying round to what is one of the greatest sporting events of all time.

That being said, I was totally jazzed to see the US win. The neighbors weren't too happy with me when I yelled out after each US goal.....

Anonymous said...

If only Patrick Roy was able to make each save with a beautifully loud kick save, it would have been different!!!