COLUMN: A Malat Musing: Gophers Closer To Success

Created: 11/23/2012 10:14 AM KSTP.com By: Phil Malat

The media frenzy over the resignation of a wide receiver from the University of Minnesota football team has failed to recognize a salient perspective.

The young man’s ironic and very PUBLIC contention that his alleged PUBLIC chastisement in front of the whole team over an injury was equivalent to mistreatment by Gopher head coach Jerry Kill and was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. 

This whole incident brought to mind a powerful scene from the motion picture “Miracle” which chronicles the formation, the struggles and ultimate miraculous success of the 1980 USA hockey team.

Head Coach Herb Brooks: “What the hell is wrong with you? Put your gear on!”
Herb Brooks Again: “I said put your gear on!”
Rob McClanahan: “Doc told me I can't play.”
Herb Brooks: “Yeah, yeah, yeah I know. You got a bad bruise.
You know what put your street clothes on because I got no time for quitters!”
Team Captain Mike Eruzione: “Come on Herb! Nobody is quitting here!”
Herb Brooks: “You (Eruzione) worry about your own game.
                            Plenty there to keep you busy.”
Herb Brooks addressing McClanahan again: “A bruise on the leg is a hell of a long way from the heart, candy ass.”
Rob McClanahan: “What'd you call me?”
Herb Brooks: “You heard me!
Rob McClanahan: “You want me to play huh? Is that what you want?”
Herb Brooks: “I want you to be a hockey player!”

This conversation took place in front of the entire team.

When Brooks selected his remarkable team, his primary consideration and ultimate goal was for a cohesive unit of young men who possessed a unique instinct for the team concept along with a mental and physical toughness he knew would be necessary if they were to meet the demands of hockey at its highest level. Brooks knew instinctively that character mattered far more than talent and knew furthermore that building that character was his real strength as a coach.

The real “Miracle” in Lake Placid, New York in 1980 wasn’t just winning the Gold Medal. It was how they won it. They won with heart, determination and a commitment to excellence that no level of talent could overcome and in doing so, proved all their critics wrong.

The Gopher football team parallels Brook’s team with one major exception. Brooks had all the finest American armature talent available to him. Outstanding talent is not a luxury that will ever be available to the Gopher football team. As a result, the Gopher’s future success is tantamount to building those same levels of character demonstrated by the 1980 Olympic hockey team if they too hope to excel – to duplicate the “Miracle.” In light of recent developments, the Gopher football team should now be that much closer to duplicating that “Miracle.”

Phil Malat is a columnist for KSTP.com.