22 February 2005

We Believed in Miracles

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the "Miracle on Ice" Olympic hockey game in which an upstart American squad defeated a powerhouse Soviet team amidst escalating Cold War tensions. The game is remembered for many reasons, not the least of which is announcer Al Michaels' in-the-moment and borderline hysterical "Do you believe in miracles?!" call as time ran out on the Soviets in the third period. I wasn't quite ten years old when the game took place, but I remember it as clearly as any event from childhood. Part of the reason it stands out for me is its place as one of three events from the early 1980s, events unrelated except in my own young mind. The Miracle on Ice took place first, followed in April 1981 by the launch of the space shuttle Columbia and in the Spring of 1982 by the Falklands War between Britain and Argentina.

I was born in 1970 in Northern England to American parents; my father, a U.S. Air Force officer, had returned from service in Vietnam and was stationed in the U.K. as an exchange officer with the Royal Air Force. I was born in the military hospital at R.A.F. Catterick (since transferred to the Royal Army and now known as the Catterick Garrison Marne Barracks); my ongoing interest in Britain has always been encouraged, if it needed any encouragement at all, by my mother, a dedicated Anglophile. Raised on military bases and amongst serving military members and their families, I was always surrounded by patriotic people who both spoke of duty to country and exemplified that duty through their daily actions. For many reasons, the Miracle on Ice and the launch of the first space shuttle fed my pride to be an American; the British response to the Falklands crisis similarly fed my pride in my British dual nationality.

There have been many events since which have rekindled my sense of patriotism, but I think those three events occurred at a time when that sense was more pure and less in need of explanation, justification, and circumspection. Perhaps it's a figment of nostalgia for the lost simplicity of childhood, but at times I miss that purity of feeling, for patriotism and other things. Such feelings may still be strong, but they are tempered by experience and never rise to my consciousness without some evaluation and understanding; it's an inescapable part of being a rational adult. Another aspect of that rational adulthood is a sense of loss for some of the good things of childhood, things like, for me, the Miracle on Ice. I still believe in miracles.

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