When Being an American Meant Being an American

Watching replays of the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” is like an exercise in time travel; viewers are teleported back to an America that actually resembled the glorious place the Founding Fathers had in mind when they wrote the United States Constitution. The 1980s was a time when America had a national identity, and when being an American meant embracing this identity.

“Beat those commie bastards.”

These were the inspirational words of Herb Brooks, coach of the United States 1980 gold medal men’s ice hockey team, as he prepared his troop of young athletes to go into battle against the Soviet Union.

Beat those commie bastards.

Can you imagine an American coach saying such a thing at the 2012 London Olympics? Can you imagine USA men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski — Coach K. — kneeling down in a huddle at mid-court during a pivotal game against China and telling Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, and the rest of his players, Beat those commie bastards?

Not very likely. If Coach K. uttered such a phrase (which would be out of character), you can bet it would draw quizzical looks from his players. What’s a commie bastard? The phrase might even offend some of his assistant coaches, who’ve grown up in a politically correct environment rooted in cultural pluralism (socialism).

America is a very different place from what it was in 1980, when a group of no-name college players captivated the hearts and minds of the nation and beat the USSR in one of the most important sporting events of the 20th century. Back in the early 1980s, it was okay to feel good about your country. It was okay to cheer and wave the flag and publicly speak out against the evil of communism. The Cold War and the threat of impending nuclear annihilation had a way of bringing Americans together — Republicans and Democrats, Southerners and Northerners, New Englanders and Californians. (In 1984, Ronald Reagan won an amazing 49 states.)


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