Last month, I received an e-mail with the subject “Red Sox Nation Comes to the University of Rochester.” After reading through the promotion, one statement immediately struck me – “Fun event to honor last quarter-century’s greatest sports event.” While I understand and respect the magnitude of winning their first World Series in 86 years, for two more weeks, the “Miracle on Ice” of Feb. 22, 1980 will remain the greatest sports event of the past 25 years.

In four consecutive Olympic Games – 1964, 1968, 1972 and 1976 – the Soviets won gold medals in hockey. The team that entered the Lake Placid Games in 1980 was widely considered the greatest team to ever take the ice. A year earlier, the same group of Soviet players beat an NHL All-Star team that included more than 10 future Hall of Famers. In the three months leading up to the start of the Games, they were 42-0.

“Team U.S.A.,” with an average age of just 21, was not selected until July 1979 – giving the inexperienced team only seven months to gel. The expectations for the young team were low, particularly after the poor performance of the 1976 team.

Finland and Sweden had great teams, Czechoslovakia was the second best team in the world and the Soviets were completely invincible. If everything went perfectly, maybe “Team U.S.A.” could win the bronze. But with the Games being played on their home soil, the pressure was mounting.

Pressure is nothing new in Boston, especially when it comes to baseball. For decades, the Red Sox and Yankees have battled in a rivalry of their own, but the outcome was fairly consistent over the years.

Sure, occasionally the Red Sox would beat out the Yankees for the pennant, but inevitably they would find a way to lose in the World Series. After the 2003 season, the Red Sox retooled, determined to finally break “The Curse.”

In 2004, the Red Sox put themselves in position to win their first World Series since 1918. But their victory wasn’t exactly the United States taking down the Soviet Union.

After all, the Red Sox payroll was well over $100 million, ranking them second in their division, their league and all of baseball. Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez formed the best pitching duo in baseball. Position by position, they matched up against every team they faced in the playoffs.

Despite their astronomical payroll, the Yankees were far from perfect. The Cardinals’ regular season performance made them a formidable series opponent, but Boston was, by that point, expected to win.

Since “The Curse” was apparently a giant farce used to upset the psyches of Bostonians and boost the egos of New Yorkers for decades, all the Red Sox really had going against them was a history of perennial defeat.

On their side, however, was the fact that they were statistically long overdue for a victory.

While it’s probably still too soon to predict how the Red Sox victory will affect the future of the team and the sport, the influence of the “Miracle on Ice” was profound.

Prior to 1980, there were very few American-born hockey players in the NHL and none who were considered impact players. Since then, there have been several who reached the Hall of Fame and helped their teams win Stanley Cups.

Unlike the U.S. victory, the Red Sox winning the World Series did not have much of a political impact. Boston has not overtaken New York as the financial capital of the world, there are no plans in the works to build a structure taller than the Empire State Building and John Kerry couldn’t even ride the Boston bandwagon to a victory over a candidate that 49 percent of the country can’t stand.

At the time of the victory in 1980, the United States had what President Carter called a “crisis of confidence.” Americans needed something to cheer for, and beating the real evil empire in Lake Placid became a symbol for defeating them in the Cold War.

Swidler can be reached at

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