Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Name on the Front of the Sweater....

I run.  The aptitude with which I perform my preferred recreational pursuit is a matter of divergent opinion I suppose.  The attitude with which I do it is not.   

My work schedule being what it is most of my during the week runs take place on the treadmill that we have upstairs in the spare room we euphemistically refer to as "the office".  With the exception of Margaret's annual wrapping of Christmas presents within its four walls I am at a loss attempting to recall the last time any  actual work took place in that room.  I know that in the close to thirteen years that we have lived where we live presently I have used it for work purposes so infrequently that I cannot recall when the last such occasion might have arisen.  Presuming one did at all. 

I loathe the treadmill.  I suppose - given the over-sized nature of my head that if I were to affix a block of cheese to a string and affix that string to a hat so it hung down in front of my face while I ran on it (effectively evoking the memory of Habitrail enthusiasts everywhere), it could be one pretty goddamned big block of cheese.   But eating cheese makes me thirsty.  I doubt that even my jumbo-sized skull cap is big enough to support the water jug I would also have to affix to it just to ensure that I stayed properly hydrated.  

Given how much I dislike running on the treadmill I make it a point to get out and run every Saturday and every Sunday - irrespective of the weather - simply so that I can enjoy being out in the fresh air.  I decided to grab breakfast Sunday morning before I headed out for what I anticipated would be a seven-plus mile run.  As I was sitting in the den eating my cereal, I flipped the television on in an effort to distract myself from the fact that I was actually eating Grape-Nuts.  I put the remote control down when I landed on whichever movie channel was airing "Miracle".  

If you were alive in 1980 in these United States you are likely well-acquainted with the story of our Olympic hockey team, which was coached by Herb Brooks.  Among the items that made Brooks such an interesting story was this one:  the United States captured the gold medal in ice hockey in the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, California, which prior to the 1980 games in Lake Placid had been the last Winter Olympics held in the United States.  Brooks had been a member of the team.  Well, he had been right up until a week or two before the Olympics.  He was the last member of the team cut from the Olympic roster.  His teammates went on to win a gold medal.  While they celebrated on the ice, he watched from his living room.  

America in the late 1970's was in a collective funk.  Tricky Dick resigned in 1974 and we the people ended up with a Constitutional anomaly.  The two highest positions in the Executive Branch were occupied by men, neither of whom had received a single vote for the office they occupied:  President Gerald Ford and Vice-President Nelson Rockefeller.  We elected Jimmy Carter in 1976, a Democrat from Georgia, to lead us back from the brink and he merely pushed us further into the abyss.  The Iranians seized our embassy and took our citizens hostage, the Soviets flipped us the finger and invaded Afghanistan (and who said history is nothing more than the same mistakes being repeated over and over?) and we sunk into what our fearful leader referred to as "an economic malaise".   

It was against this backdrop that Brooks assembled a team of college kids - whose brains he beat in during a  training camp/indoctrination period that lasted more than seven months - to lay waste to the great Soviet hockey team.  The Soviet team was not only the baddest team on the block, the gap between them and whoever was the second best team was so large as to be impossible to be bridged.  

Three nights before the Lake Placid Games opened, the Soviet team annihilated the American team at Madison Square Garden, putting ten pucks in the net behind Jim Craig.  What had seemed to the world at large previously to have been a fool's errand was exposed as nothing less than an impossible mission.  Smart money dictated that should the United States team play the Soviets in the Olympic tournament what awaited our kids was another beating.

Funny thing about life; eh?  If you go about your business, doing all you can in your day-to-day and not succumbing to the prophets - including those in your own head - and their forecasts of doom and gloom, then you never know what might happen.  On a February evening thirty-three plus years ago, a bunch of American college-age ice hockey players proved that truth.  

The movie was probably one-third of the way over when I picked it up Sunday morning.  In spite of that fact - and in spite of the fact that I knew how the story ended - I sat on the couch in my den and I watched it through to its final frame.  When Al Michaels uttered what very well may be the most famous question any sportscaster has ever uttered, I felt the hair on my neck stand up.  And I became aware of the buildup of  a salty liquid in my eyes.  Two sensations that I recall experiencing on that February Friday night thirty-three years ago when we sat gathered in the living room on Wertsville Road watching the game on television.  

I suppose you have lived long enough when you begin to bore yourself and others with stories about "the good old days".  Seeing that film reminded me not only of what those kids did on the ice that night but what it meant for all of us.  We had spent what had seemed like a historically long amount of time on our knees getting spat upon by foes of all shapes, colors and sizes.  We appeared to have lost our collective focus - our  collective backbone.  And then, in sixty minutes on a piece of ice in a little town in upstate New York, a group of kids picked us all up.  

Three and one-half decades later, it appears again as if our collective focus has become a bit fuzzy and as if our collective backbone has developed more than a touch of arthritis.  Those we have elected to lead us are too often consumed by agendas of a personal nature to act in the public interest.  And if you think it is exclusively a Republican problem or exclusively a Democratic problem, then you simply are not paying attention.   It is a problem that belongs to all of us.  Fortunately, it is a problem for which the solution lies wholly within our collective grasp as well....

You're looking for players whose name on the front of the sweater
 is more important than the one on the back.  
I look for these players to play hard, to play smart and


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