To say the United States was having a tough time in 1980 is an understatement. Double-digit unemployment, inflation and high interest rates crippled the economy. The Cold War was at its height and Americans were held hostage in Iran, providing a collective sucker punch to the American psyche.
But, then the USA Olympic hockey team took to the ice in Lake Placid. Early victories created momentum…chants of “USA, USA” filled the arena and by the time Team USA beat the Russians, 4-3, a crescendo of pride and patriotism had swept the nation. To this day, I get chills watching the highlights and hearing Al Michaels’ shout “Do you believe in miracles?”
Fast forward to Michigan, circa 2009. Double digit unemployment…plummeting housing values and our auto industry in chaos. It’s been a brutal winter, Michigan’s pride is bruised and the feel-good stories have been few and far between.
But, maybe that’ll change this weekend.
The NCAA basketball Final Four is here and our Michigan State Spartans are center stage. They’re a gritty bunch, led by Tom Izzo, a no-nonsense, roll-up-the-sleeves kind of guy. Nobody works harder than Izzo, and nobody works harder than Izzo’s team. They are a perfect match for the blue-collar toughness that has defined our region for so long.
Last week, Izzo and his guys knocked off Armani-clad Rick Pitino and tournament favorite Louisville. The Cardinals had exploded for 103 points in their previous win, but the Spartans nearly cut them in half in a 64-52 win to lock up a trip home to Ford Field this weekend.
The crescendo of “Go Green, Go White” is building. Sports talk radio is buzzing…I’ve even heard some Wolverine fans call in pulling for the Spartans. Downtown will be jumping on Saturday and I’m sure there will be a sea of green and white clad Spartan fans, rollicking and pulling for their team.
I know it’s just a game, and miracles are a tall order to place on a bunch of kids. They aren’t favored to win and it will take an upset or two to be champions. No matter what happens, it’s been a great tournament run. This team has already rallied this region, and win or lose, we all have something to smile about this weekend.
But, Al Michaels question keeps ringing in my ears… “Do you believe in miracles?”
Go Green! Go White!