USA vs. Russia, Olympic Men's Hockey Finals
The Cold War, waged by the United States and Soviet Union from the late 1940s until the early 1990s, was fought not on the battlefield, but on multiple ideological and social fronts -- including TV. And at the height of the tension between the nuclear superpowers, one sporting event took center stage in the winter of 1980.
In the late 1970s, Russia had dominated men's hockey in the Winter Olympics. Many sports analysts predicted that, as the 1980 Games got underway in Lake Placid, N.Y., hockey fans would see a repeat of the Soviet Union's 1976 sweep of the men's hockey tournament. Sure enough, the squad of experienced Olympians cruised their way into the tournament's medal round.
By a twist of fate and tournament brackets, the Soviets entered medal contention in a bronze-round face-off with an American team that many described as underdogs at best. Through a series of comeback wins and close victories, the Americans squeaked their way into the medal round. The next challenge? The Soviet juggernaut.
American viewers tuned in to watch a sport that, for many, was only an afterthought. And when the Americans came from behind in the third period to win 4-3, an entire nation went wild with chants of, "USA! USA!"
The U.S. went on to win the gold, but the scene most Americans remember -- thanks to the magic of TV -- is a group of young athletes celebrating with unabandoned joy as their Soviet rivals left the ice in disbelief.