1980 was a magical year, and not just because of the U.S. Hockey Team’s unbelievable win in the Lake Placid Olympics. As explained by Mark Iwry, senior advisor for the Treasury Department, it was also the beginning of the 401(k), a beginning the IRS had no small hand in (see, “Exclusive Interview: Treasury Senior Advisor Mark Iwry Explains the Early History of the 401(k) and Where We Might be Heading,” FiduciaryNews.com, February 19, 2014). But this story begins a few months earlier.
A funny thing happened on the way to crew practice at the onset of sophomore year – I got lost. I walked up the worn steps of Lindsey-Chit only to find an empty room. I reached into the deep pockets of my green wind jacket for the note with the meeting info. My fingers found nothing but pieces of lint which promptly disintegrated at the touch. I hustled back to my dorm room and interrupted a tense meeting between the hockey team’s current captain, its future captain and at least two others. The room went silent as I opened the door to several pairs of angry eyes.
“Say,” the captain broke the silence, “would you like to be manager of the hockey team?”
With visions of medical tape and “gopher” duties dancing in my head, I graciously declined.
Sensing the reason for my reluctance, the captain immediately shot back, “It’s not what you think. You’ll be in charge of a six figure budget and responsible for team logistics.” And then came the offer that closed the deal. “We’ll even fly you to Buffalo for free.”
The fact the team had a game in Buffalo didn’t matter. What mattered was I would be able to show off my home town and visit my family. Of course, little known to me, who we were scheduled to play would mean a brush with history I’d never anticipated.
You see, the team we played was the U.S. Olympic team. That’s right, the same team that went on to beat the Russians and win the gold in what many view as the turning point of the cold war. At the time, playing this team didn’t even register on the “things that matter” scale. But, for what it’s worth, here’s what I remember. I tend to be a wall flower at parties, and the pre-game reception proved no different than every other social event I’ve attended. Only this time it really made sense.
I was new to the team and more of the players from our team had known the Olympic players longer than they had known me. Sure, I meandered through my peers, impressed by their enduring friendship and their pointed complaints about the “robotic” Herb Brooks. I couldn’t believe they were dissing their coach like that. Our coach, in contrast, was more of a teacher than a taskmaster. I listened and moved on, next winding my way through a sea of business suits and blue blazers (i.e., the alumni). I had nothing to say there so I kept walking, eventually ending up back against the wall staring blankly into the room before me.