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Reviewed by:
  • Forgotten Miracle: The Story of the 1960 Gold Medal Team by J.T. Haines, Tommy Haines, Andrew Sherburne, and: Do You Believe in Miracles: The Story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Team by Brian Hyland, Kirby Bradley, et al.
  • Stephen Hardy
Forgotten Miracle: The Story of the 1960 Gold Medal Team (2009). Produced by J.T. Haines, Tommy Haines, Andrew Sherburne. Golden Puck Pictures and Northland Films in association with USA Hockey. 65 mins.
Do You Believe in Miracles: The Story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Team (2001). Produced by Brian Hyland, Kirby Bradley, Rick Bernstein, Ross Greenburg, Shola Lynch. HBO Home Video. 60 mins.

I can well remember February 22, 1980. My first year of university teaching was filled with anxiety, but my fear that day focused on the long bus ride home across Lake Washington. Fear that some loudmouth would divulge the score of the U.S.A.-U.S.S.R. Olympic hockey game—the one that ESPN in 2000 rated the “greatest game of the century”; the game ranked #1 in importance by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF); the game now known as the “Miracle on Ice”; the game that was not broadcast live. Time slots for the medal round competition in Lake Placid had been set long before the Americans made their medal run. The Soviets (who had veto power) refused to move the 5:00 p.m. EST faceoff because they wanted their home audience to see a live broadcast no later than midnight, Moscow time. ABC-TV elected to show Americans a tape-delay at 8:30 p.m. EST. Good for me, if I could make it home in ignorance.1

Twenty years earlier, CBS-TV had broadcast a U.S.A.-U.S.S.R. Olympic showdown live from Squaw Valley, California. My brothers and I had watched that game, which was every bit as thrilling and every bit as significant to the hockey world. As would happen two decades later, the U.S.A. beat the U.S.S.R. on its way to the gold medal. But that victory—although ranked #16 in importance by the IIHF—is virtually forgotten by the general public. Two great upsets. Two similar miracles. Why the very different legacies? A good place to start an answer lies in comparing two documentaries: Forgotten Miracle on 1960 and Do You Believe in Miracles on 1980.2

Of course, any documentary can only offer clues. As Robert Rosenstone has emphasized in his work on film and history, the stories we tell about the past are all “constructed,” whatever the medium. Doug Booth has expanded this notion to include orientations of “reconstruction” and “deconstruction.” Consciously or unconsciously, all storytellers make [End Page 145] choices about content and delivery. All media—written, oral, visual—somehow distort the lived experience of any one person or group of persons. All expressions of the past require some forms of condensation, compression, metaphor, to name just some of the warping maneuvers.3 In sport history, these decisions often occur as writers for print or screen limn particular elements of their story, including:

  • • The broader context of an event or a team—e.g., social, economic and competi tive conditions;

  • • The development of the player/team/event and the particular performance—e.g., the role of coaches and entrepreneurs;

  • • The social and cultural significance of performance—e.g., resonance across gender, race, ethnicity.

Both Forgotten Miracle and Do You Believe include images, clips, and interviews that situate the teams in the context of the Cold War, international hockey, and the Soviet national program. For 1960, there are several minutes of grainy video—tanks, Red Square, atom bombs, American schoolchildren ducking under their desks, the space race. Harry Sinden, captain of Canada’s 1960 national team (later coach and president of the Boston Bruins) comments on the Cold War, as does historian John Soares of Notre Dame. Much has been written about how the post-war world was aligning along two great blocs of American and Soviet interests, with terror and tempers flaring after various incidents such as Britain’s ill-fated 1956 Suez invasion, the Soviets’ assault on...


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