The Soviets came out with inferior, almost laughable equipment. They had strange names, strange warmup drills, strange strategies. The Canadians had an injured Bobby Orr, perhaps, but their roster came from the top of the NHL salary charts. Phil Esposito. Jean Ratelle. Bobby Clarke. Who could stop these guys? Who had a chance? The obvious phrase, "Best team of all time," was uttered. Who could stop the best team of all time?
Seven minutes into the game the Canadians had a 2-0 lead. Who could stop these guys? There was great and giddy celebration, accompanied by profound relief. The Soviets then scored four straight goals and rolled on to a 7-3 win. They were a revelation with their passing and teamwork, unbelievably different. All of Canada reeled in shock. It is a fact that the Canadians eventually prevailed 4-3, with one tie, in the eight-game series, on a goal by Paul Henderson in the final game in Moscow that is now regarded as being as monumental in the game of hockey as any home run hit by Bobby Thomson in any Polo Grounds. But on that one night myths crumbled as if they had been built by government contractors.
"What do you remember most about that night?" I asked Tretiak.
"It is funny," he said. "I remember most the music. In my country, at the games, we never played music. In the Forum, they played music all the time. When Canada scored those first two goals, there was a lot of music. Music everywhere. Then we scored and scored, again and again, and, pretty soon, there was no music."
I want to be there when the music stops for American basketball. I want to talk with the basketball Tretiak. I want to laugh a little bit as windbag predictions by glib authorities are flattened. Is this unpatriotic? I think not. Americans root for the underdogs most of the time and root against the bullies. The U.S. basketball team, built with such pretentious glee and such outrageous expectations, has become the ultimate bully. Is it so sad to see a bunch of guys walk slowly from a gymnasium after losing a basketball game, accompanied by their manservants and accountants, off to their mansions and strings of polished automobiles? I think not.
It probably won't happen in Barcelona in 1992, but if it does, it will be the sports story to end all sports stories. Sure, I want to be there.