Thursday, February 25, 2010
It’s hockey time at the Winter Olympics, and for anybody older than 40 that brings back vivid memories of the 1980 Lake Placid games and Team USA’s incredible victory over the Soviet empire.
There are some obvious comparisons to 2010. In 1980 the country was mired in the worst economic crisis since, well, today. We were also coping with a belligerent Iran. Gas prices were on everybody’s mind, and there was a great deal of public dissatisfaction with the nation’s political leadership. “Malaise” was the word of the day.
But there’s another parallel I’d like to draw out; one that serves as a metaphor for today’s business environment.
If you saw “Miracle,” the thrilling movie chronicling Team USA’s formation, ascent and ultimate triumph, you’ll remember one particularly compelling scene. After the young team mailed in a lame performance during its first European tour, coach Herb Brooks made the players stay behind for an extra practice session. He forced them to skate a seemingly endless series of sprints, shouting “Again!” after each one even as the young men choked and puked from fatigue. They had no idea when it was going to end, which only added to their misery. It was difficult to watch, and one can only imagine what it was like to experience. But it was a defining moment and played a pivotal role in their crystallization as a championship-caliber team.
It’s easy to remember the miraculous victory Team USA pulled out when it counted. It’s also easy to forget that these young players had no idea what they could (or would) accomplish when it hurt the most. All they could do was pick themselves up and skate as best they could, fighting through the pain and trusting that somehow it was all for their good.
The economy is still fragile, and capitalism is under attack. Yet we can all take heart from America’s energetic, entrepreneurial and perhaps somewhat naive 1980 hockey team. They were able to face down a seemingly invincible foe and find a way to prevail only because when things were most difficult for them, they stayed on their skates, stepped up to the line, and sprinted forward. Again and again and again.