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SPORTS: The ‘Miracle’ of teamwork

MULKEYTOWN, Ill. (BP)–Herb Brooks’ team had just turned in a lackluster performance in a pre-Olympic tune-up against the Norwegian national hockey team.

Brooks was unimpressed with his young players, kept them on the ice after the game and proceeded to skate the dickens out of them — pushing them almost to the point of collapse from physical exhaustion.

“This cannot be a team of common men, because common men go nowhere,” Brooks told them. “You have to be uncommon.”

It’s one of the most memorable scenes and one of the most poignant lines in the new movie, “Miracle,” starring Kurt Russell, about the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team. The story is a familiar one, so I don’t have to worry about spoiling the ending.

Brooks took a team of college athletes and did something remarkable — he made champions out of them. Nobody expected the U.S. team to make much noise at the 1980 Winter Olympics, primarily because the Soviet team was one of the most dominating forces ever assembled on the ice. They were intimidating and tough. Brooks’ team had little chance to pull out a win, but they did just that. They then proceeded to knock off Finland to complete the team’s gold medal run.

Miracle tells the story of that team beginning with Brooks’ selection as head coach. Brooks handpicked his team from a group of standout college hockey players and managed to offend some of the high-ranking hockey officials in the process. They wanted to have a say in the team’s selection, but they weren’t looking for the same thing as Brooks. Brooks didn’t want the players who had the most talent. He wanted the players who would work together as a unit and be better as a team than the sum of their parts.

He managed to assemble a group of common players into an uncommon team. As they trained together through Brooks’ grueling regimen, they became a family.

One of the most amazing things about Brooks’ team is how few of the players went on to standout careers in the NHL. This was by no means a dream team like we’re used to seeing in Olympic basketball. These men were good hockey players, but they made a great team. And that’s what Brooks needed to win.

Miracle is a classic movie along the lines of “Hoosiers” and “Remember the Titans” that is well worth your time and money. You don’t even have to be a sports fan to appreciate it.

The story is a welcome reminder about the benefits of sacrifice and hope. Brooks had a dream of beating the Soviets. Nobody thought he could do it, but he believed he could, and he convinced his team of that dream. They worked like maniacs to achieve that goal, and their efforts paid off.

It’s a message to all of us that hard work and sacrifice don’t go unrewarded, and it’s an encouragement for us to aim high in our aspirations. We may not win Olympic gold, but we can still strive to be “uncommon” in some part of our lives.
Tim Ellsworth’s column appears each week on BPSports, on the Web at www.bpsports.net.

    About the Author

  • Tim Ellsworth

    Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.

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