Do You Believe in Miracles? has nothing to do with religion and little to do with hockey though it is about the U.S. amateur hockey team’s first place finish in the 1980 Olympics. The title comes from the exclamation by sportscaster Al Michaels as he called the closing seconds of the climactic US vs. USSR match. The overwhelmingly positive reactions from the non-sports people I have watched this documentary with, or lent it to, are what inspired this post.
Carter was the President in 1980 and the nation wasn’t feeling good about itself. Our defeat in the Vietnam War, which ended in ‘75, was still fresh. The Iranians had taken our embassy staff as hostages, our mission to rescue them had ended in a fiery wreck in the desert, and the USSR had invaded Afghanistan. Carter himself spoke on national TV about how bad we were feeling. Then along came a bunch of college kids who took on a Soviet team that was amateur in name only and so dominating that it had beaten everyone, including the NHL’s professional all-stars.
The pacing, the interviews, the footage, the music, and of course the story itself are Cold War drama at its best: no hype, no reenactments, no jingoism; just bare naked politics played out on ice.