Earlier in the week, there was an event commemorating the 40th anniversary of the 1980 U.S. Men's "Miracle on Ice" Olympic Hockey Team. This is considered one of the great moment is U.S. sport history. The men's amateur hockey team had been crushed by the lead-up to the Olympics by the dominant powerhouse Soviet Red Army team of virtual professional. Russia won 10-3. The young American team was given no chance against the mature, long-standing Russian team. So, when U.S. players won, it brought about announcer Al Michaels' famous call at the very end of the game with time running out, "Do you believe in miracles??? YES!!!" And coming as it did when the United States was feeling down on itself from the Iran hostage crisis, it was a time of overwhelming patriot joy.
Which brings us to early this week. At the anniversary event, 14 members of the team showed up, and it was hosted by Trump. What got so much attention was a photo that the team sent out from their "@1980MiracleTeam" Facebook account -- most of the players, not just standing with Trump, which is understandable and their fair choice, but wearing MAGA hats. It as ghastly, and I have chosen not to embed the photo here.
(To be accurate, these particular hats said "Keep America Great," since this is, after all, a re-election year. They were handed to the players as they joined Trump on the podium, and 10 of the 14 chose to wear them."
Making things worse were a couple of comments made by whoever handles the account, blithely dismissive of any meaning about what they'd done.
As you might imagine, the account was flooded with outraged comments. I wrote a couple in reply.
The first official posting by the team spokesman was "The name on the front is more important than the name on the back." (Referencing the name on "the front" being the words "Keep America Great" and the "back" of the jerseys having a player's personal name.)
To that I wrote -- "What so moved Americans in 1980 was the spirit of a team of outmanned amateurs beating a powerful professional team of Russians when the nation was down. That so many of you now support a fascist administration that is supplicant to Russia demeans all your efforts. It is shameful."
The subsequent Miracle Team comment was "To us, this is not about politics or choosing sides. This is about proudly representing the United States of America. Whether your beliefs are Democratic, Republican, Independent, etc. we support that and are proud to represent the USA. It is an honor and privilege!
What I responded was -- "This is shamefully disingenuous. Wearing 'Keep America Great' hats is entirely political & does NOT even remotely "represent the USA." It very specifically supports a fascist candidate, and you have 100% 'chosen a side.' Please know: a majority of Americans voted against this literal fascist.
"P.S. If you truly believed this is 'not about politics or choosing sides,' you would show American unity & attend campaign events for whoever the Democratic nominee is & wear hats that support them, too -- 'whether your beliefs are Democratic or Republican.' That seems unlikely."
I'm sure there were other online statements from the team spokesman, but that's all I could handle. Please know that as reasonable as the team comments might seem in black-and-white words only, remember that they were written against the backdrop of photos of the team all wearing red "Keep America Great" hats standing with Trump.
Afterwards, amid all the significant outrage, team captain Mike Eruzione did an interview with the Washington Post and said, "I just put (the hat) on. I wasn’t thinking. Maybe this shows I’m naive, shows I’m stupid. I don’t know. I don’t follow politics. I know he’s had some issues and said a lot of things people don’t like."
Yes, it shows he's naive. And stupid. Most likely even disingenuous. Because it's near-impossible for me to believe that someone as bright as Eruzione, who's a public speaker and a "special outreach" representative for Boston University, his alma mater, didn't know about "MAGA" hats and that it was an election year and that it was an election event for Trump and that Trump has had more than "some issues" and merely "said" things people don't like, but was impeached. And that all 10 of these grown adults who put on the hats were just as apparently naive and stupid.
The article quoted Matthew A. Sear, a professor at the University of New Brunswick in Canada who has written about the Trump hats. "It's hard to believe there are still people who don't get that it means, 'Keep America White,' and 'Keep America free of Mexican immigrants." But, he added, "...that's how symbols work. It's basically like a uniform, It's a way to signal in shorthand something.that stands for a whole reason of policies or positions."
How disingenuous were Eurizione's words that it was all just naivety? He went on in his interview to say, "If we knew we were going to piss off this many people, we probably would not have put the hats on."
Probably? Even knowing the reaction of outrage, even knowing that putting on the hats made this totally political, an action that stood for "Keep America White," they -- all 10 -- only "probably" wouldn't have worn the hats. That's not naivety. That's making a clear, aware choice.
“That’s the big question here," Eruzion added. "A lot of the stuff I got was, ‘You guys said it’s not political, but when you put the hats on, you made it political.'
"I told my wife, 'People think we are a disgrace.'"
I don't know if it was a disgrace. It's their own political beliefs which they're entitled to. It was their choice to wear the hats or not as a very blatant, well-aware symbol. If that's what they believe in, so be it. I think it's an awful belief, but it's their individual lives, their individual choices. But the thing is, they weren't just there on stage as individuals, expressing their personal beliefs -- they were there, very specifically, as members of the 1980 Men's Olympic Hockey Team, who together as a unit had represented the United States. They knew well what they were doing, they may not have expected the outrage, but they are not a group of ignorant people. And further, this wasn't their first rodeo -- they've all (individually and together for occasions) been representing the U.S. as members of that team for 40 years. They, more than anyone, know what being a member of that team means. And that's what makes this shameful.
When ESPN ran a feature about that historic game later in the evening, the memory of the game and emotion was wonderful. The perspective of what those players did to it was heart-sickening.