Summary: This montage of two clips from the 2004 movie Miracle documents the United States Hockey Team’s win over Russia to secure the gold medal at the 1980 Winter Olympics; the montage also features footage from the actual game. In the first clip, U.S. head coach Herb Brooks asks the players to introduce themselves, which they do using their names, cities of origin, and university affiliations. In the second clip, the team has just lost a scrimmage game and Brooks keeps them on the ice to run drills despite the players’ exhaustion and coaching staff’s disapproval, until one of the players “reintroduces” himself; Brooks asks again who the player, Mike Eruzione, plays for, and Eruzione replies, “I play for the United States of America.” Upon hearing this, Brooks appears satisfied and ends the drills. This video can be used to illustrate several dimensions of Henri Tajfel’s social identity theory and/or John Turner’s self-categorization theory. I show this clip after students have read an overview of role and social identity theories by Thoits and Virshup (1997). First, it can be used to distinguish generally between role identities (who I am) and group or social identities (who we are). Sports teams, in general, are basic examples of I’s coming together to form we’s. Second, more specific principles within theories of social identity are illustrated. Tajfel’s psychologically oriented social identity theory focuses on intergroup processes of in-group and out-group formation, group conflict, and prejudice. Turner’s self-categorization theory is more focused on intragroup processes of categorization and depersonalization; in other words, the process by which individuals form a group. The Miracle montage is an illustration of both intergroup and intragroup processes, with the U.S.-Russia rivalry illustrating group conflict (intergroup) and the post-loss drills leading Eruzione to declare that he plays for the United States (depersonalization and categorization). This montage is especially useful at illustrating the processes of depersonalization and categorization as we watch the players go from identifying themselves as individuals to identifying themselves as members of the U.S. team. The somewhat artificial context of sports can be an accessible entry point to talking about other more “real world” contexts of group identity, both in terms of intergroup conflict and intragroup processes of depersonalization (e.g., ethnic, tribal, and state identifications and conflicts).
Submitted By: Kathleen E. Denny