July 4th - The birthday of this incredible country that we call home. In the spirit of America, in the spirit of collective chants of "U-S-A! U-S-A!” and in the spirit of sports, we wanted to share the Top 10 Greatest Patriotic Moments in Sports in America's history. Enjoy!
10. Kerri Strug's "One-Footed Vault" at the 1996 Olympics. We all can remember the visual, and if you weren't old enough to remember you have seen the replay. The courage, toughness and fortitude exhibited by Kerri Strug was incredible. With the Americans' shot at a Gold Medal resting on her performance, Strug, who injured her ankle on her first vault attempt limped back to attempt her 2nd try. She sprinted, hit the vault and somehow landed it on one ankle...held the landing for a moment and then virtually collapsed, needing assistance in getting off the mat. Her score of 9.7 sealed the Gold for The Americans!
9. The Dream Team, 1992 Olympics. Many consider this the greatest team ever assembled, any sport, ever. But even that description doesn’t come close to describing this team’s impact. This was a phenomenon on and off the court. In their 8 games during their quest for the gold medal they won by an average margin of 44 points. It was like Elvis and the Beatles put together. Traveling with the Dream Team was like traveling with 12 Rock Stars.” – Chuck Daly, Coach of the Dream Team.
8. Landon Donovan, 2010 World Cup. It's simple, you had to win to advance. The 2010 United States World Cup Team's hopes, and the hopes of the country rested on the U.S. team getting a victory in their final match versus Algeria. It's the 91st minute, score is tied at nil-nil, seconds away from a the U.S. team's World Cup journey ending and then...cue Landon Donovan and his heroic goal. This video sums up America's reaction.
7. Michael Phelps and the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In 2008 the world watched as Michael Phelps set the record for Most Gold Medals at a single Olympic Games with 8! Phelps' intensity, his smile and the way he won - setting numerous world records and also winning in dramatic fashion - captivated the international audience.
6. Jesse Owens > Nazi Germany. Can you imagine being Jesse Owens during the Berlin Olympics? Owens absolutely dominated the Track & Field competition winning 4 Gold Medals in front of a country who despised him, his race and everything about him and Owens also did this in front of Adolf Hitler himself.
5. Joe Louis KO's The Germans in 2 Minutes. The world was listening in 1938 for the most politically charged sporting event of all-time; Louis vs. Schmeling. The world wasn't sure if the Arians could be beat, in the ring or in a war. Louis made quick work of Schmeling and KO'd him in the first 2 minutes of the fight!
4. Pat Tillman: the new athletic hero. In 2002 Pat Tillman turned down a multi-million dollar NFL contract with the Arizona Cardinals as he decided to enlist in the U.S. Army to serve in Afghanistan. Tillman was killed on April 24, 2004 by friendly fire. The sports world and America lost a true hero that day. Tillman demonstrated the ultimate sacrifice and heroism that all of this country's fallen soldiers show and they will always be honored for their sacrifice.
3. Jackie Robinson breaks the color barrier. His debut with the Dodgers in 1947 made him the first African American to play professional baseball in the Major Leagues...this ended nearly 80 years after segregation in baseball. There could not have been a better man for the job as Robinson's resilience, determination to succeed, focus and patient we're unmatched. Not only did Robinson break the color barrier, but he helped lead African Americans into the next level of emancipation in the United States. To this day, Robinson's number "42" is universally retired in all of Major League Baseball.
2. "The Miracle on Ice" - U.S.A Hockey defeats Russia. Do you believe in Miracles? YES! I'm not even sure what else I can say about this one a true David vs. Goliath story in the 1980 Winter Olympics. Against all odds, Herb Brooks' Team prevailed in the semi-final game...and then went onto take the Gold!
1. George Bush throws a "strike" to unite the Country! Less than 2 months after the Tragedy of 9/11, George Bush threw a perfect strike. It was Game 3 of The World Series and the President walked out of the dugout to the mound alone, no security wearing the FDNY fleece to throw out the first pitch. The ovation and the chants from the stadium (U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!) were felt and heard throughout this great country and around the world. The President's courageous act, centered around sports, truly united the country...and he threw a perfect strike! For further patriotic moments in sports goose bumps, see the full pitch.
*Originally Published July 4, 2012.