The sixth edition of An Applied Approach to Microeconomics and An Applied Approach to Macroeconomics will be available in January 2020. This edition covers all of the major economic events of the past few years, including the trade war with China, immigration economics, the aftermath of the 2007-2009 recession as well as a look into the economic policies of the 2020 candidates for President of the United States. All new Concept Checks, Suggested Classroom Debates also appear.
Each book also has a section on Adam Smith and the 'Miracle on Ice'. In February of 2007 I conducted an interview with Jack O' Callahan. Mr. O' Callahan was a prominent member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team. This team was responsible for what many call the greatest moment in the history of American sports.
I wanted to know to what extent self-interest played a role in this stunning victory. What follows is the interview with Jack O' Callahan.
To what extent did self-interest play a role in your willingness to make the sacrifices Coach Brooks demanded of you?
Answer: I can’t really look at it as pure self-interest as that implies that all I cared about was myself. However, there was an element of self-interest. I was definitely interested in furthering my development as a hockey player and learning more about myself as an athlete and competitor. I was excited to play for a new coach with new ideas and philosophies and I was determined to play on that team. My view at the time was that I would not have much of a professional hockey career after the Olympics and I was very excited about being at the Olympic Games, representing my country, sharing that experience with my family and teammates, etc. I totally understood the beauty of being an Olympic athlete, win or lose. I viewed myself as a total team player, but if I try to boil down how much of my efforts were selfish or individual based, it all disconnects. I was interested in challenging myself on whatever level necessary to be a better player and to help make my team a better team so we could reach our potential and compete at the highest level during the games. Is that self-centered? Maybe, but also, maybe not; perhaps, without realizing it, a little of both.
Did the fact that you were an amateur in 1980 make a difference in the effort you put forth?
Answer: Not really, we viewed ourselves as the US Olympic Hockey team and as much as that implied amateurism, we didn’t really dwell on that aspect. In a more clear sense, there were no NHL players in those Olympics and therefore everyone was “amateur.” We didn’t really think about it, that was just what the Olympics were at that time. We were just playing hockey. I don’t think any hockey player in an Olympic event or in any important competition would give anything less than their absolute best effort. The Olympics, the nationalism aspect, the environment, and the code of competitive athletes all demands that. The difference for us is that we spent 7 months together growing as a team, learning about one another in a team environment. That aspect made us much, much stronger than had we been 20 quality players thrown together and given 2 days to prepare. Given our preparation experiences, Our team was much stronger than 20 individuals taken separately.
Did you and your teammates consider the goal of winning a gold medal to be something that would help your personal careers or where you more interested in the accomplishment of the team as a whole?
Answer: I can only speak to my feelings, but I can probably speak for the team when I say that my thoughts of winning the gold (when I allowed myself to think about it) was only that it would be fun and tremendously rewarding on a team accomplishment level. The part about how this could benefit us as individuals only may have entered our thoughts when the agents started talking to us after we had won. Also, winning gold did not exactly create a greased skid into the NHL. I spent the next 2 years playing for the Blackhawks farm team in Moncton, New Brunswick and many guys ended up in the minors for at least a little while, some guys forever. We mostly viewed our Olympic experience as something separate and special rather than a means to an end. It was all about setting a goal and through a lot of sweat and personal challenges, having an opportunity to reach that goal. The most fun is always in the pursuit, not necessarily the result.
Do you believe that professional hockey players should be used in the Winter Olympics? Why, or Why not?
Answer: I like seeing the best players in the Olympics, at every level. If they are professionals, fine, if not, fine also. When there were amateurs, everyone was always saying that the eastern bloc countries were getting paid and there was all this grousing about that. People whine about anything, and if we went back to the way it used to be, they would complain and if we stay the way we are, they’ll complain. At least with the only rule being that the best players make the team, the playing field is level. It’s the same in the other sports, how do you legislate out athletes that are compensated to compete? How do you hold other nations accountable to what the US considers professional? Why do we get to make the rules? What we have to accept is that there are great athletes in the world and not all of them are from the US. We need to cherish great athletic feats and accomplishments even when those athletes are not Americans. We also need to look at the positives, not the negatives.
Could part of the reason the Soviet Union lost in 1980 be due to fact that their players grew up in a Communist system that denied them the opportunity to seek out their self-interest?
Answer: I really don’t think any of that mattered. They were just hockey players, like us. In those times of the Soviet Union, their self interest was all about the safety of their families and extended families. Believe me they were plenty self-motivated. It is all relative. There were many reasons why they lost and one of the main reasons is that the US hockey team in 1980 was highly talented and tremendously prepared. You have to add to that, the fact that the USSR may have been a little over-confident given that they had just beaten us 10-3 and basically were beating everyone else pretty handily. The confluence of these facts leads me to believe that the reason we had a chance to win was, for that one game, we were better prepared than our opponents who, typically, were the most prepared team in the world. They may have let their guard down. We were definitely better prepared mentally but also, we were much better prepared physically and emotionally than our opponents realized. During those Olympics, we surprised a lot of good teams with our physicality, our raw emotional intensity, our passion, our talents, our abilities, and our overall commitment to one another. It was very special and that is why people continue to talk about it, 27 years later.
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Book signing at FreedomFest, 2005