I have seen many upsets during my many years of following sports. Football, basketball, baseball, golf, you name it, have produced many memorable upsets. Even losing the championship game of my intramural flag football league in college had to go down as one of the biggest upsets ever in sports! But my vote for the biggest upset ever in any sporting competition occurred on February 22nd, 1980 when the USA hockey team beat the Soviets 4-3. After the game, one of the sports commentators summed it up the best. “It is like a group of college all stars from Canada beating the Pittsburgh Steelers” Just 13 days prior to that game, the Soviets pounded the USA team 10-3 in an exhibition game. The Soviets also had a winning record against several NHL teams and had some of the best talent in the world. It was a classic case of David vs. Goliath.
Many people are probably too young to remember that game. I am not one of them. Even though I was just a young teenager at the time, memories of that Friday evening are still in my memory bank, sort of like you just never forget certain events in your life.
Interestingly enough, the game was not televised live in the United States. It started at around 5 pm local time and was to be replayed later that evening on ABC. Unlike today, where nearly every big event is televised live, they only had a certain amount of Olympic coverage, maybe 3 hours only on one station per day. I was not really bummed out about not seeing it live. After all, who would think the USA had any chance in the world against the hated Russians, who were not well liked at the time and know as the evil empire of the world. I figured they would do well just to stay within a couple of goals of the Soviets.
Throughout the course of that evening, I began getting score updates through a local station. My first update was that the game was tied 2-2 in the second period. Then it was 3-2 after 2 periods for the bad guys. I just figured the Soviets would blow open the game in the 3rd. Boy was I wrong! The drama began to unfold in the last period. 3-3, then an update which sent shivers up my spine. The USA was up 4-3 with 8 minutes left. Could the unthinkable happen? Finally, a final score was announced which had me and many people around the country jumping for joy. The USA had pulled off the shocker of the century, winning 4-3. I had to watch the replay of the game just to make sure this was actually true! The USA had taken down the mighty Soviets, say it isn’t so!! David takes down Goliath!
The aftermath of that win was unreal, funny how a hockey game can stir up a nation. At the time, things very kind of bleak in this country. We had the ongoing hostage situation with Iran, we were just getting done with the awful Carter administration with their failed policies. The country seemed to be tearing apart. We were in a tense Cold War struggle with the Soviets. They were our enemies. Our ideology of freedom was in stark contrast to their communism. Beating the hated, arrogant Soviets only made this victory that much sweeter.
I have watched replays of that game about 5 times and could watch it for another 100. Seeing the excited in the crowd with all those US flags is something I have never seen in a sporting event. And hearing the famous words of Al Michaels at the end is truly a great moment in American sports history. It still sends shivers up my spine when I see the ending of that game! Not only for sports purposes but for life. Miracles can happen and David can beat Goliath. There will be more upsets in sports in the coming years, but I doubt there will ever be another shocking upset like the miracle on ice.