“Do you believe in miracles?” shouted sports announcer Al Michaels into his mic in the Olympic Center Arena as the United States won a defining game against the juggernaut team from the USSR. It was Feb. 22, 1980, and Russia had dominated international hockey and won the gold at each of the four previous Olympic Games; they lost this one. Here is the backstory.
In 1979 the US Olympic Committee was contemplating the Winter Games that would be held the next year in Lake Placid, NY. They asked Herb Brooks, a veteran hockey player and coach to field a team and prepare them to beat the best.
Rather than drawing from the pro’s, Brooks recruited 20 college kids from the University of Minnesota, Boston University, and other schools with strong hockey histories. He immersed them in a training regimen that would break all but the strongest. But the team didn’t gel. Each player tended to see himself as playing for the school he represented rather than his new team, Team USA.
Ice hockey is one of the most brutal and demanding of sports. One day after an especially intense inter-squad scrimmage when the players were ready to drop from exhaustion, Brooks lined them up and made them race each other from one end of the arena to the other and back. Over and over again. Flat out; lap after lap. He was relentless; they were barely able to stand. Brooks shouted, “Who do you play for?” The players shouted back, “The United States of America!”
Brooks knew the team had turned a corner. Later he would say, “I wasn’t looking for the best players, I was looking for the right players.”
So on Friday, Feb 22, 1980, the world was stunned when the US team skated to a 4-3 victory over Team USSR. It was the semi-final and two days later the US would beat Finland for the gold, but that game was almost anti-climactic. One of the assistant coaches would recall, “In the end it was the camaraderie of those kids that set all their personal satisfactions aside to achieve their common dream.”
Jesus knew about the power of unity. I invite you to ponder prayerfully His final appeal to His infant church in John 17:20 – 23. You’ve read it before, I know, but I urge you to read it again in the context of our story. Read it in more than one translation. Read it and reflect on a sentence at a time. Ask God to show you what He wants you to hear. Hear it again for the first time. Measure Jesus’ passionate words. List the promises He makes when His church moves in unity. Catch the breath-taking outcome when we put personal feelings aside and unite around a common dream. Do you believe in miracles? Jesus did.
By Don Jacobsen