As anyone around me knows quickly in the winter, I enjoy winter sports. So you are correct if you think I’ll be watching the Winter Olympics from South Korea with great interest.
But I won’t be upset that I can’t watch them “live as they happen.” Recorded — tape delay, as I grew up hearing it — is just fine with me.
Even if you don’t follow winter sports much, you probably have a wonderful Winter Olympics memory that involved a delayed hockey game. Return with me now to those glorious days of February 1980:
The Winter Olympics were in a town I’d heard of vaguely, Lake Placid, N.Y. I was a delighted teenage hockey fan: the Chicago Blackhawks were struggling, but I’d get a Blackhawks game one night, a Team U.S.A. game the next night, a Blackhawks game the third, and so on.
Then Team U.S.A. started having such success that I can still name their players: Jim Craig, Mike Eruzione, Rob McClanahan, Jack O’Callahan. They even made the Olympic playoffs… and had to face the Soviet Union.
This was a bunch of U.S. college athletes vs. the Soviet Red Army. For some reason — security? other events? — the U.S.A.-U.S.S.R. game was played on Feb. 22, 1980 — on Friday afternoon. It was aired on tape on ABC-TV that night.
I watched, spellbound. I knew that the U.S.A. team (the first to be greeted with the cry of “U-S-A!” by fans in the stands) had to win to be able to continue. I hadn’t seen the Blackhawks play in the Stanley Cup finals in nine years, a large chunk of my life at the time, and their first victory there was (gulp) 30 years away.
So I was transfixed by the big game. I knew the stakes. I knew how amazing it was when “the Russians” (we said that then anyway) pulled their world-class goalie after the first period and put in their backup.
And even though things looked bleak at the second intermission of the game, I figured out that something was up.
Jim McKay, the host of the second intermission on ABC-TV, was saying that the U.S. needed to beat the Soviets in order to advance to the gold-medal game on Sunday. I thought he looked like he was trying not to laugh. (I’ve seen a tape since then, several times, and it’s one reason I keep my old video recorder going.)
Then, like a news anchor, he said that they would now show us scenes live from the streets of Lake Placid.
The camera showed a big banner reading “GO FOR THE GOLD!”
I’d just read the Sherlock Holmes stories for the first time three years before, so I had the tools to figure it out. The Americans can’t play for the gold medal unless they beat the Soviet team — the Soviet Army.
The live pictures from the streets are encouraging them to win the game.
Then the third period of the game must turn out all right, however improbable. They must win, somehow.
So long before Al Michaels’ famous call, “Do you believe in miracles? YES!” as time expired, I knew a miracle was in the offing somehow. However improbable, it was the truth.
So they want to show me the Winter Olympics on delay?
Margaret Serious has a page on Facebook.