More Than Just a Game: Sports in American Life since 1945

By Kathryn Jay | Go to book overview

6. Competing an the Open Market

Eric Heiden should have been the biggest story of the 1980 Winter Olympic Games. The speed skater from Wisconsin won five individual gold medals—something no athlete had ever accomplished—and set a world record in his final race. A six-footer with shaggy brown hair and twenty-nine-inch thighs, he radiated a casual boyish charm that made his on-ice abilities even more appealing. But while his looks and exploits earned Heiden plenty of coverage, the biggest story of the Lake Placid Games was hockey, specifically the victory of the American hockey team over a dominant Soviet squad in the tournament semifinals. The game was supposed to be a rout; the Soviets had trounced the United States team 10-3 in an exhibition just a week before the Olympics. Instead, Mike Eruzione scored the go-ahead goal midway through the third period and the Americans hung on for a stunning 4-3 win, with announcer Al Michaels yelling "do you believe in miracles? Y-e-s-s-s-s!" A postgame photograph of goalie Jim Craig draped in an enormous American flag had special resonance for a country weary from an economic downturn and worried about fifty-three Americans held

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