It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.
It was 37 years ago today that America experienced perhaps its finest sports moment in its history. And we couldn’t see it live.
The country had been reeling since Vietnam, inflation was killing paychecks, and nuclear war with the Soviet Union seemed inevitable.
The United States couldn’t buy a win.
And hockey wasn’t really our sport. The Soviets were the best in the world. But then a coach from St. Paul and some kids from Minnesota and New England (mostly) got hot.
We couldn’t see it live. Cable TV channels hadn’t yet taken root and back in the day, it was death to preempt soap operas. Besides, ABC could sell primetime commercial advertising at a higher price.
ABC tried to get the game rescheduled to a night game so it could broadcast live, but the Soviets opposed the idea because it would air at 1 a.m. in Moscow. The Soviets won, as was the nature of things back then.
Because it was a weekday afternoon game, we all had to go to extraordinary lengths to avoid any information about it, not easy in my case; I worked at an ABC Radio affiliate which was carrying the game.
When the contest was broadcast that evening, it was edited down to save time for coverage of skiing.
The game was voted the top sports moment of the 20th Century, even though it wasn’t the gold-medal game. That would come a day or so later, and that game was carried live because it was a weekend.
A lot of things have changed in 37 years.
Quite a few members of the team — including Defenseman Bob Suter and coach Herb Brooks are dead. The surviving players are old men. Our sense of patriotism comes on actual battlefields. And it’s no longer possible to keep a secret in today’s media landscape.
But most of all, we wonder if we will ever again have a shared and unifying sports experience that really wasn’t about sports at all?