I am a real American, Fight for the rights of every man.
I am a real American, fight for what’s right, fight for your life!
Remember those lines this Independence Day when you’re chompin’ down brats, lighting off fireworks and embracing your patriotism. Maybe you should consider pulling a Hulk Hogan and run wild over a terrorist like The Iron Sheik or imitate Rocky Balboa and fight a really tall Russian?
But enough with fictional American nostalgia from the 1980s, folks. Let’s recognize true patriotic moments in sports history where we were glowing with American pride and bleeding red, white, and blue.
While the Philadelphia Phillies were battling the Mets in a tight contest, the fans at Citizens Bank Park discovered the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death. The fans disregarded their fandom and in unison, started the glorious chants of “U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!.”
The Arizona Cardinals’ Pat Tillman felt it was his American duty to enlist in the U.S. Army after the September 11 attacks. There is no one in sports who sacrificed more than Tillman. Which modern pro athlete could you imagine turning down a multi-million dollar contract to go fight for their country? Tillman exemplified true sacrifice. He was a true patriot.
The world’s most iconic boxer and 1960 Olympic boxing gold medalist lit the cauldron to start off the Olympic games. It was impossible to not get chills watching The Greatest represent us.
Despite a severely injured ankle, gymnast Kerri Strug showed heart. Like many, I have not watched any gymnastics since or before those 1996 games. But little Kerri Strug showed toughness that Lebron James wishes he had. After Strug’s first attempt at the vault resulted in an injury, the U.S. team quest for the gold was called in question. But on her
second attempt, she landed perfectly on one foot. The crowd went nuts as Strug guaranteed the gold for America.
During Desert Storm in 1991, Super Bowl XXV was a welcomed distraction. The Buffalo Bills and the New York Giants were set to be on display that night but they took a distant backseat to the American pride that was beaming throughout the stadium. The fans were waving thousands of American flags as Whitney Houston proceeded to sing the best version of the National Anthem that has ever been heard by human ears.
In 1976 during a game featuring the Cubs and Dodgers in Los Angeles, the Chicago Cubs’ Rick Monday proceed to make the greatest play in baseball history. It wouldn’t show up in the box score but it struck a chord in American hearts. Two protestors ran onto the field and attempted to light the American flag on fire until Monday came up behind the two idiotic and snatched the flag from their grasp. THAT’S AN AMERICA HERO!
Adolph Hitler used the Olympic games in Berlin to push his Nazi agenda but there was one man who stood strong and above the rest during those games — Jesse Owens. The track star would become the most successful athlete by winning four gold medals, and more importantly, crushing Hitler’s hopes.
There is no other greater collection of talent in the history of sports than the 1992 Dream Team. Honestly, the group of basketball talent was like a collection of real-life superheroes. The Avengers? Psst. They got nothing on this squad.
Look at this roster: Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Scottie Pippen, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, John Stockton, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Clyde Drexler, Chris Mullin, and Christian Laettner. That team consisted of 11 Hall of Famers. That is and will always be the greatest team of all time.
As expected, the Dream Team destroyed everyone by an average margin of 44 points on their way to the gold.
Only seven weeks after the tragic attacks on the World Trade Center, President George W. Bush would throw out the first pitch of Game 3 of the World Series between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the New York Yankees. Fittingly the game was in New York.
Wearing a FDNY fleece, President Bush strolled out to the mound, all by himself in front of Yankees stadium with thunderous applause. The President wound up and threw a strike right down the middle and walked away like a boss waving to the crowd as chants of “U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!” rang loud throughout the stadium. The symbolism of the moment was incredible and was a major moment in our nation’s healing.
How could it be any other moment, my fellow Americans?
With the evil Soviets as the villain and the Cold War as the backdrop, a group of American college kids were our only hope. The Soviet Union had won the gold at the previous four Olympic games dating all the way back to 1964. The group of American rag-tag kids stood no chance on paper. But in true underdog fashion, after Mike Eruzione’s go-ahead goal, the Herb Brooks led team pulled off the biggest upset in sports history on their way to the gold.
Is there a more iconic call than Al Michaels’ “Do you believe in Miracles!?” I think not.
After the victory, the U.S. team went back to the locker room and began to sing “God Bless America.” It doesn’t get more American than that.
Joshua Caudill is a writer for CraveOnline Sports, a surfing enthusiast, an unhealthy sports fanatic, and an expert on all things Patrick Swayze. You can follow him on Twitter @JoshuaCaudill85 or “like”CraveOnline Sports on CraveOnline Sports.
Photo Credit: Getty