USA's Lebron James dunks over Tunisia's Mohamed Hadidane during the first half of a preliminary men's basketball game at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Tuesday, July 31, 2012 6:15 PM
It is still the greatest moment in Olympics history, maybe sports as well.
A young group of American boys, with barely enough money between them to order a pizza, defeated the greatest hockey team in the world.
They did it as Russian tanks invaded Afghanistan, as American citizens were held hostage in Iran and as the United States was staggering through economic hard times.
Yet this small group of young Americans, playing on their own ice and in front of the world, not only stood up to a giant, but knocked it down more than a few pegs.
It was just a hockey game, not even for the gold medal, yet it was much more than that. This was about pride, about our way of life beating theirs.
When it was over, the moment helped spark an American resurgence and became a porthole into the wild ’80s.
Disco may have been dead but America was once again alive.
That is what the Olympics were supposed to be about.
This moment can never again happen for America. Instead, we have become the giants, the power that everybody wants to knock off.
The change was simple. As a country we decided it was better to be Goliath not David.
So we started sending out professionals, changing the Olympic Games forever.
Now, as the world gathers in London for its once-every-four-years sports gala, there are fewer and fewer surprises, and fewer and fewer new heroes made.
In the past the Games created stars, gave us new marketing giants and created entire industries.
Gymnastics, for instance, has grown over the years into an enormous battle of elite gyms where the fight is not to develop the next gold medal winner but instead to market that individual into a recruiter to capture even more young talent.
All that with a heavy price tag to the parents of such hopefuls.
Gymnastics is not alone.
Look at our men’s and women’s basketball teams. Both are the best in the world, loaded with professional talent and stars that likely will get little challenge this year.
And even if our men were to get beat, they would likely lose not to a group of unknowns who would relish forever in the moment but instead by another group of NBA stars who just happen to have grown up on foreign land.
It may still be called an upset, but it won’t be the same as the 1980 miracle on ice.
The new Games have become a battle between the best of the best. Gone are the days that it was the coming together of the world’s youth in the name of sports.
Now it is the coming together for the world’s rich in the name of getting richer.
The dreams of chasing gold have been replaced by the dream of chasing green, as in cash.
That may prove to make the competition greater than ever before, but it also makes the pride in victory we have as a nation that much less.
The new Olympics are just another way of showing our lost innocence.
At least we still have that one moment in early 1980 when we could still believe in miracles.
Jim Gazzolo is American Press managing sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org