I am a hockey mom –– my third son played hockey all through his school-age years –– so I was thrilled to stumble on the movie “Miracle” this past weekend, which tells the true story of Herb Brooks (played to perfection by Kurt Russell), the coach who led the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team to victory over the seemingly unbeatable Russian team.
There is a pivotal scene in which the hockey players disappointed Brooks in a game; they played selfishly, he feels, showboating their own skills and ending up with a loss. As the other team files off to their locker room, Brooks has his players stay on the ice, then makes them skate from goal line to goal line, shouting, “Again!”
The exhausted players — eventually gasping for air and one even vomiting — skate back and forth under their coach’s unrelenting directive and an assistant coach’s at times-uncertain whistle. No one, not even the coaches, is sure where this is going, except Brooks.
“You better think about something else, each and every one of you,” says an angry Brooks to his team as they skate. “When you pull on that jersey, you represent yourselves and your teammates –– and the name on the front [of the jersey, which says ‘USA’] is a hell of a lot more important than the one on the back. Get that through your heads!”
Brooks somberly watches his players as they skate, exerting their last ounce of energy to comply with his angry shouts of “Again!” (See the video, below!)
Finally, one player speaks up. “Mike Eruzione, Winthrop, Massachusetts,” he gasps from the goal line, in a row with his teammates.
Brooks looks at him, eyes piercing: “Who do you play for?”
“I play for the United States of America,” the player gasps. He has finally gotten it, through this excruciating exercise. It’s not about him: It’s about the team, about country.
My first thought, as I watched this scene, was this: Today, Brooks would never be allowed to lead a team in this way. Someone, somewhere, would no doubt file a grievance that would lead to a lawsuit, perhaps, or someone would tweet about it, or shame Brooks in some way, calling him a monster, asserting he was going to kill one of the kids by making them skate like that.
And it was extreme; he pushed his players to the brink of physical exhaustion. But today, we have young people who have “cry closets” during exams, who pet puppies and llamas on campus for stress, and who worry about microaggressions instead of their college classwork.