I spent the last several weeks writing about almost nothing good. Even though I’m tenured and I have time in rank, I still fear being fired, laid off or “RIF-ed” as they say. I don’t know why. It’s just the horrible nature of living in a state where people seem to hate you for being part of a university system that the governor has blamed for all the bad things that have befallen “regular people” or “taxpayers.”
I’m not alone. The cuts in Louisiana have me grateful that I didn’t take a job there when I had the chance. Governor PBJ is trying to salvage a presidential campaign by filling holes with cuts. In Kansas, Sam Brownback is trying to do the same basic thing, only in his case, it’s to salvage his stupid theory on economics. Even Illinois is starting to tremble at the university level, as one of my former professors just got a “Hi, the legislature is having state budget troubles and thus they are cutting the shit out of education” emails from her administrators.
Ever since I was a kid, I took refuge from these kinds of brutal beatings in the Miracle on Ice. Call it sappy, jingoist or whatever, but for some reason this moment in time always helped me. It resonated with me. It gave me a spark of life when all around me was dark. It is why I ate Ramen for about three weeks so I could afford to buy their autographed trading cards. It was why A and I climbed on a train that dumped us off in Depew, New York, giving us the opportunity to see the Boys of Winter skate one more time. I was why when things were horrible, I found myself girding up and getting up for just one more round.
Of all the organizations that have tried to capture it perfectly, ESPN has done an incredibly admirable job. The most recent 30-for-30 helped humanize the faceless Soviet Machine that served as the Goliath for our David. However, the piece above was one of my favorite for a simple reason: Ken Dryden’s quote about the Soviets and hope.
“You dared to hope and then you hoped so hard and are just so afraid that the Soviets are going to do what they’ve done countless times before and just crush your hope.”
In reading through the seminal volume on the event, “One Goal,” Powers and Kaminsky made a similar argument: The Soviets might let you believe for just a fleeting second that you could do something that no one had the right to expect you to do. Then, when they were sure you started to believe in yourself, they would just kill you, without even really having to try that hard.
This is life at the whims of a power that is all-encompassing and that simply can’t be overcome.
The book then noted Herb Brooks’ underlying message: What if you didn’t buy into the script? What if you took a “Twilight Zone” approach and figured, “Wait a minute, who says this story has to end the way it has ended every other time you’ve read it?”
I know that a grown man should be better than this and find something better to do with his time. I’m over 40 and most of the guys on the team are approaching 60. Bobby Suter became the first casualty to the players’ line up a few months back. I remember being at one event where Suter was clearly a bit disgruntled at the fawning masses and he muttered something to the effect of, “Why can’t people just let it go?”
I don’t know if he ever figured it out, but I know what it is for me.
To let go of these kids is to let go of hope. To put them on a dusty shelf in a dark closet is to say that things will always continue as they are and that the bad guys will win because they have the money and the power to do so. To put them away and let go is to say, “We’re stuck in neutral and we should be grateful we aren’t going backward.”
This Sunday is the 35th anniversary of that game. The team is gathering as we speak to commemorate the event in Lake Placid and honor their fallen teammate by retiring his number 20. It’s as good of a time as any to remind us that hope is a good thing.