Could anything ever again be as sweet as beating the Soviet Union at its own game? Yes, but it would require al Qaeda to form an Olympic team — and actually be good at something.
The amazing victory of the U.S. Olympic hockey team at Lake Placid still reverberates, long after the Soviet bloc crumbled.
To be sure, the Cold War didn't end in 1980 with a hockey game. But when a ragtag squad of U.S. college kids beat the best hockey team on Earth, it gave America something to believe in when the country's spirit was all but shot.
"Can you imagine American athletes playing Middle East terrorists in a sport — any sport? That's what it was like playing the Russians," says Jim Craig, the goalie of the U.S. team, speaking to a group of elementary school children too young to remember the fall of the Berlin Wall.
‘Do You Believe in Miracles? Yes!’
Craig and his teammates returned to Lake Placid on Thursday for a special screening of Miracle, a film, opening nationwide today, that recaptures the excitement of one of the greatest upsets in Olympic history.
Kurt Russell stars as "tough love" hockey coach Herb Brooks, who built the amateur team that went on to beat the same Soviet squad that had routinely humiliated NHL All-Stars.
America was resigned to defeat, and it was not just because of the Soviet tradition for excellence on ice. It was more of a national mood. Iranian revolutionaries overran the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held 52 Americans hostage in a yearlong standoff. Soviet tanks had rolled into Afghanistan.
America's role as a world leader was in question. For the first time ever, the economy suffered high gas shortages, unemployment and skyrocketing inflation, giving birth to the buzzword "stagflation."
Out of nowhere, Brooks, the unorthodox hockey coach, gave America what has always fueled the imagination — a success story, a come-from-behind victory of the little guy.
Three days before the opening ceremony, Brooks' squad took on the Soviets in an exhibition game at Madison Square Garden and the Soviets won 10-3.
In Lake Placid, just a short time later, the Americans squeaked out an amazing 4-3 victory, with the whole world watching.
It seemed impossible, even in the latter part of the game, when a goal by Mike Eruzione put America in the lead. It seemed too good to be true.
"The Russians had won so many games in their careers in the last two minutes, last five minutes, so 10 minutes — it was like a lifetime," Craig said.
The final seconds of that game live on in the soul of sports fans, punctuated by echoing chants of "U-S-A!" and a breathless Al Michaels shouting over the airwaves, "Do you believe in miracles? Yes!"
Seabiscuit on Ice
It's fitting that this movie opens as Seabiscuit vies for an Academy Award. The triumph of the 1980 Olympics squad has often been compared to the undersized horse that captivated the country during the Great Depression.
The American dream was no less inspirational when played out on ice by fresh-faced boys and a coach who told them they could do the impossible, if they worked hard enough.
"I think what was fascinating when I read the script is that he [Brooks] had an idea that he could take the Russian school of hockey and the North American school of hockey and come up with a hybrid new style," Russell told ABCNEWS' Good Morning America.