The importance of the name on the front of the sweater

How sports can unite anyone

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The world is separated. Whether it be by ethnicity, culture, gender, sexual orientation, or political beliefs, the world is separated in many, sometimes deadly ways.

Nelson Mandela once said,  “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where there was only despair.” 

Sometimes we look to the most unusual places for hope because we’re so desperate for it that we’ll take anything. Time and time again, a nation or a different group of people feel empty, and the last thing they have to hold on to is a sport. Every so often, that sport gives them the hope they need to keep moving forward.

In 1980, the United States of America wasn’t in a great state. People were scared and unsure. It was the middle of the Cold War and the Olympics were about to start in Lake Placid, New York. Former Minnesota University hockey coach Herb Brooks was given the difficult task of coaching the United States hockey team. He is now known for his motivational qualities, and one of his “Brooksisms” (his famous quotes) was; “The name on the front of the jersey is a hell of a lot more important than the one on the back.” Every player on that team from then on played for no one else but each other. The Soviet Union was known as the best hockey team on the planet, winning gold in the last four Olympic games with five in total. They looked like a powerhouse and it seemed like no one was going to take them down. Coach Brooks, however, was not going to go down without a fight.

The young US team tied Sweden and beat Norway in the qualification round, making a name for themselves. In the final round, they pulled off the unthinkable and defeated the Soviet Union 4-3 to then take down Finland 4-2 to win the gold medal. Playing in their own country, a roster of 20 players just out of college had just proved to the United States citizens that their country was powerful and there was hope.

 

A surprising example was the unity of North and South Korea. The two countries have been separated for over 70 years. Things have looked, and still look, pretty hopeless. However, in 2018 at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, the two countries buried the hatchet for the opening ceremonies and marched together. Citizens finally experienced a sense of unity within their own country. They also had a mixed women’s hockey team in what the New York Times called “the most dramatic gesture of reconciliation between them in a decade.”

In a world where different demographics and political views cause constant war, disagreement, and separation, few things can cause people to forget the issues splitting them apart. political propaganda and school stunts can try all they want to unify people, but one thing can undeniably bring people together: sports.