September 16, 2014
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Olympics can still spark sports magic

The Olympic hockey live stream plays on the laptop to my left, and I feel like I’m back in elementary school, sneaking a radio into class to listen to March Madness.

One difference is that I don’t really have to be sneaky. I work in a newspaper sports department, after all.

But the big difference is that I’m watching hockey.

And I am not a hockey guy.

I like the sport. I appreciate it. I know it well enough to cover it – although I may or may not have called a period a quarter in my first hockey story – but I’m not a huge fan.

That Olympic spirit is really something, though.

Every four years, I find myself glued to the U.S. men’s hockey team’s every move, and I’m sure many of you – hockey fans or not – find yourselves with the same sudden obsession. It’s hard not to get swept up in it.

And that’s pretty cool.

There isn’t much in the sports world that can get a whole country cheering. For all its issues and all its really weird sports, the Olympics can still do that.

You watch skiing and cheer for an athlete whose name you first heard 10 seconds before. You watch curling and lament the fact that those Swedes are so good. You watch bobsled and, well, you root for the Jamaicans because Cool Runnings was a great flick, but hey, the U.S. is pretty good, too.

Hockey takes the cake in the patriotic cheering section.

It’s the best team sport at the Winter Olympics, and it’s intriguing that the U.S.A. isn’t all-powerful. This is not the dream team beating its basketball opponents by 50. This is a team of the world’s best hockey players going against other teams of the world’s best hockey players. And everybody is going really hard.

There’s history, too, most notably the 1980 Miracle on Ice, when Herb Brooks’s upstart U.S. team knocked off the powerful Soviets on its way to a gold medal. With the help of the 2004 film Miracle, it still resonates as one of America’s greatest sports moments.

Even now, when the players are millionaires and upsets like that aren’t possible, you can still feel the undercurrent. If the U.S. makes the gold medal game this year, I will absolutely be listening to Brooks’s pre-game speech beforehand.

It’s just special.

As I write this, the U.S. is beating the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals, and America is watching. Twitter’s trends for the United States are dominated by hockey talk that doesn’t move the meter any other time of year. Even NBC play-by-play man Doc Emrick was trending for a while there.

I normally hate bandwagon jumping, but I’m all in for this one. In a few days, hockey will return to its usual place in my sports consciousness. I’ll enjoy it while it lasts.

At this rate, I might need to start sneaking a radio to the office to catch up on biathlon.

William Geoghegan is the sports editor at the Warwick Beacon. He can be reached at 732-3100 and williamg@rhodybeat.com.


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