Monday, July 4, 2016

"Who do you play for?" "I play for the United States of America!"

In the 1980 Winter Olympics, the United States hockey squad scored an upset win over the favored Soviets and went on to win a gold medal.

I've always thought Miracle, the 2004 film about the team and its victory, to be one of the finest sports movies ever made. Kurt Russell's portrayal of coach Herb Brooks, who died shortly before the film was released, is one of his best performances.

In its way, its a very patriotic film, reminding us of the "malaise" - in President Jimmy Carter's words -  that gripped the country in the pre-Reagan era, and how the completely unexpected winning performance by a bunch of rough college kids from New England and Minnesota helped to lift the country's spirits.

It's a great film for the Fourth of July.

It's a beat-the-Ruskies film without violence.

Well, okay, it's hockey, so there are a few fights.

It's a Disney film before Disney went in for sexual innuendos.

It's a hockey film where the worst swears are "Screw em!" (coach Brooks referring to the Russian team) and "candy ass."

It's a buddy film and a coach-who-is-tough-but-good film.

It's a film where the hero wears a 1970's checkered jacket.

And it's incredibly exciting and inspiring.

The turning point is where the players go from identifying with their colleges - "Who do you play for?" "Boston College' "University of Minnesota" - to where the team leader, Mike Eruzione, saves the rest of the team from perishing during a grueling punishment drill by blurting out that he plays for "the United States of America."

Here are a few clips: the "who do you play for?" moment, the final pre-game pep talk - "this is YOUR time!" - the "candy ass" scene, the boardroom interview where Brooks auditions for the coaching job in front of a group of bureaucrats with a loser mentality and finally, an actual clip of the last minute of the 4-3 victory over the Soviets.

"Who do you play for?"

"I play for the United States of America!"

Happy Fourth of July! May you and your families have a joyful and restorative holiday!



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