Lessons from Of Miracles and Men

Last night I watched a great new 30 for 30 titled Of Miracles and Men about the Soviet point of view of the “Miracle on Ice.” There was something very interesting that I think crosses over to what we do here at Over the Cap.

Anatoli Tarasov was one of the main characters of the documentary, he was the person tasked with putting together the Soviet hockey program from scratch after World War II. As this was a communist society that had never played the game of hockey before, along with the fact that there weren’t many media outlets to see it or learn about it at the time anyway, no one had really seen the game. At the time he was tasked with this undertaking, he had already played soccer and managed the sport as well, so he had experience coaching.

He had this realization that can sound a little counterintuitive, but was absolutely brilliant: Tarasov did not watch any hockey.

His reasoning was that the Canadians had been playing hockey for hundreds of years, so the Soviets weren’t going to beat the Canadians at their own game. By not letting film of the Canadians cloud his creativity, Tarasov decided to create his own unique Soviet style of ice hockey, their own unique game. Rather than take tactics from Canadian hockey, he took bits and pieces from other professions, especially dancing and choreography. The documentary had film of their strenuous practices, which gave you an insight into why they had such a unique style of play as well.

The other major quote that I took from the documentary was that in Canada, they depended on the man with the puck to set up the pass, but in the USSR, the four without the puck set things up for the passer, the passer depended on them.

It was these unique ideas and this style that Tarasov brought to the game of hockey that made me realize the power of coming at a problem with a fresh set of eyes. By comparison, I listen to a lot of comedic podcasts and guys like Joe Rogan and Joey Diaz will talk about how they write a bit stone cold sober and then smoke some marijuana (legally of course) to take a completely different perspective on what they’re writing. Tim Ferriss talks about how he’ll write after a few glasses of wine and edit sober. Many people use meditation as well or just a change of scenery, the important part is figuring out how to get yourself and your biases out of the way of what you’re trying to accomplish.

I was also shocked at how powerful these Soviet teams were. I always knew they were good, but I never knew that they almost beat the Canadians in a 8-game series in 1972 and were up 4-1 when the Canadians broke the Soviets best player’s ankle on a dirty play. I also had no idea that they beat the 1979 NHL All-Stars in a three-game Challenge Cup, winning 6-0 in the deciding game three. This NHL All-Star team had 20 future Hall of Fame players on it, which according to the documentary was the most of any pro-all-star team ever.

The most absurd thing I took away from the documentary is that the Soviets were basically the biggest hockey power in the world about 20-25 years after their country started playing hockey, which is an unimaginable feat. I recommend the documentary wholeheartedly.

I also want you guys to takeaway from this piece the idea that sometimes we get too caught up in our own biases, our old ways of thinking. From the standpoint of how that applied to football, so many of us have spent our whole lives involved in the game, so we’ve become accustomed to the way the game is played. What makes Belichick such a fantastic coach was illustrated throughout this playoff run, especially those unique formations that he ran against the Ravens.

This play below illustrates the new unique angles that Belichick brings to the game:

Vereen Ineligible

The Patriots neutralize the Ravens pass rush through confusion. They made Shane Vereen ineligible and Hoomanawanui, who’s rarely used in the pass game, going out for a pass route from his tight end spot.

Looking at the game, what we do at Over The Cap, your personal lives, and professional lives, I encourage you to look at things from angles you’ve never seen before, forget your biases and get creative, who knows what we’re missing.