Exactly 35 years ago this past Sunday, a group of young U.S. hockey players upset their "invincible" Soviet counterparts in a medal-round Olympic hockey game that we still remember today as the "Miracle on Ice."
As all of you know, I'm a big history buff. And I believe it's worth taking the time to study the events of the past – both to appreciate their relevance and to understand the great life lessons they hold for us.
Feb. 22, 1980's "Miracle on Ice" can certainly teach us much about wealth and wisdom.
I'm going to share some of what I learned from that game.
The Upset of the Century
I still get goose bumps – chills, in fact – when I think about that hockey game and the impact it had on the United States.
On that Friday in 1980, when news broke of the improbable 4-3 win, folks all across the nation were heard cheering "We beat the Russians!" until it cycled into an almost cacophonous roar.
Strangers embraced. Motorists parked their cars wherever they happened to be – even on highway shoulders – so they could take part in the impromptu celebrations.
It was no different at Penn State University, where I was just a few months into my freshman year. ABC decided to delay its broadcast of the late-afternoon match until prime time, meaning we already knew the U.S. team had won. In fact, when news of the victory first broke, we opened our windows and listened as a cheer rolled from one end of Penn State's massive "Happy Valley" campus to the other.
When the broadcast began about an hour later, a dozen of us crowded around a pint-sized black-and-white television in a dorm room and watched what to this day is considered one of the greatest sporting events in history.
It didn't matter that we already knew the outcome: I still experienced those chills as the youthful Americans kept battling back, and I felt my eyes sting as announcer Al Michaels issued his now-classic line: "Do you believe in miracles – yes!" And another cheer rolled through Happy Valley.
Beyond the great memories, here are four of the most important investing lessons I gleaned from that historic upset.
Lesson No. 1: Don't Believe the Hype
Coming into the 1980 Winter Olympics hockey tournament in Lake Placid, N.Y., it was almost an accepted fact that the Soviets were unbeatable. And everyone understood why.
The Soviet Union national team had won the gold medal in six of the seven previous Winter Olympics – including the previous four, dating back to their victory in the 1964 games in Innsbruck, Austria. Indeed, in the four Olympic tournaments that followed the Soviets' 1960 upset by Team USA at Squaw Valley, Calif., Soviet teams had gone 27-1-1 – and outscored their opponents 175-44 in the process. In matchups against U.S. teams, the cumulative score was 28-7.
The Wealth and Wisdom Lesson: It sounds like something out of a kids' book, but it's a truism nonetheless: Never let anyone tell you they're better than you – or that something can't be done.
There are clear parallels to the financial markets here, where "upstart" retail investors like you and I are repeatedly told we can't outgun the investment pros on Wall Street.
The investing parallels are striking. Retail investors are like the upstart Americans. But that's malarkey. Retail investors with the right commitment – and the right preparation – can easily outdo the Evil Empire of Wall Street.
About the Author
Before he moved into the investment-research business in 2005, William (Bill) Patalon III spent 22 years as an award-winning financial reporter, columnist, and editor. Today he is the Executive Editor and Senior Research Analyst for Money Morning. With his latest project, Private Briefing, Bill takes you "behind the scenes" of his established investment news website for a closer look at the action. Members get all the expert analysis and exclusive scoops he can't publish... and some of the most valuable picks that turn up in Bill's closed-door sessions with editors and experts.