‘Twas an email from a nonprofit that stirred memories of a different time in America, when 20 young men unified our nation – something that’s needed now after our tumultuous presidential election.
The email noted that Jim Craig, an American sports hero, is coming to the region to speak at LifePath’s 19th annual Thanksgiving Benefit and Awards Luncheon on Wednesday, Nov. 23, at the Holiday Inn and Conference Center in Breinigsville.
(By the way, LifePath is a great cause, providing homes and services to more than 1,200 people in the Greater Lehigh Valley and southeastern Pennsylvania who have intellectual and development disabilities. To attend and hear the speech by Craig, who also will do photos and autographs, click here.)
The email brought flashbacks to one of the greatest upsets in American sports history. A goalie, Craig led the U.S. ice hockey team to a shocking victory over the thought-to-be invincible Soviet Union in the 1980 Winter Olympics semifinals, and he followed that up by backstopping America in its gold-medal winning triumph over Finland.
To those of us 50 and older, that run to Olympic gold was more than just sports. It was politics and pride and patriotism and a passion for the American way, particularly since the Cold War between the West and East was raging like a Siberian ice storm.
It’s kind of like the frost that exists now between Republicans and Democrats after this historic election. Looking back to the “Miracle on Ice” can remind America that we’re still one union, one people. And that we’ll figure out our differences, still get things done and continue to be an evolving, better nation.
You can’t underestimate the importance of that Olympic victory on the psyche of Americans. It’s why it’s the greatest sports moment for our nation over the past half-century.
In no particular order, here are other personal favorites – not including those involving Penn State and Penn Manor High School (my alma maters):
— Jack Nicklaus wins the Masters at age 46 in 1986. Jack is back for one final time.
— Joe Namath of the Jets and the upstart American Football League stun the mighty Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III in January 1969.
— Michael Phelps wins gold in all eight events he enters in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
— Secretariat wins the Triple Crown in 1973.
— Muhammad Ali lights the torch at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta in 1996.
— Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary touchdown pass gives Boston College a win over Miami in 1984.
— Hank Aaron hits his 715th home run in 1974, surpassing Babe Ruth.
— The Cubs win the 2016 World Series, and the Red Sox win the World Series in 2004.
— Bob Beamon long jumps 29 feet, 2 ½ inches in the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, obliterating the existing world record by nearly two feet.
— The U.S. wins the women’s World Cup on home soil in 1999, inspiring girls across America to take up soccer or other sports.
— Twenty-one-year-old Tiger Woods wins the Masters by 12 shots in 1997.
— California uses five laterals on a kickoff return on the game’s last play to jolt Stanford in 1982, scoring the touchdown by running through the Stanford band.
— Notre Dame ends UCLA’s 88-game basketball winning streak in 1974.
RANDOM SHOTS AND SECOND THOUGHTS
— Donald Trump’s stunning victory is being called an upset based on pre-election polls. But the polls were inaccurate, so is it really an upset? And even if the polls were accurate, the polls were not taken on Nov. 8 – and that’s the only time that it really mattered.
— From the Department of Redundancy Department: Announcer on ESPN says, in describing a Gold Glove winner in baseball: “His history precedes him.”
— Penn State at Indiana could be an interesting game. The Hoosiers have some playmakers on offense and a defense that could play tough against the run. But the Nittany Lions are peaking. Penn State 34, Indiana 17.