1. The Miracle Team-US Defeats USSR in the 1980 Olympics
A rag tag assembly of mostly teenaged amateurs, barely together a few months and playing a sport invented and perfected elsewhere, take on the most polished, professional, and seemingly unbeatable team in the history of international hockey and win. This produces the greatest upset in the pantheon of sport in a time of international political tension smack dab in the middle of a Cold War that defined the parameters of the century. What makes the ultimate upset even more unbelievable is the fact that the same two teams played only a week earlier in an exhibition match and the Soviet Union cruised to a 10-1 victory, setting the stage for the expected American embarrassment that never came. Oh, yeah, and the U.S. went on to defeat Finland for the gold in one of the most anticlimactic championship rounds in Olympic history.
2. Jackie Breaks the Barrier
Breaking the color barrier and paving the way for modern American sport, Jackie Roosevelt Robinson becomes the first African-American to garner a Major League Baseball paycheck. Thanks to the efforts of Brooklyn Dodgers President Branch Rickey and the indomitable spirit of Robinson, in less than two years the newest Dodger, after enduring trials and tribulations beyond comprehension, failed player boycotts, and insidious fan outrage, became the Rookie of the Year, while leading his team to the World Series and his race and countrymen into the next stratosphere of social emancipation.
3. Tiger becomes youngest Masters winner ever
In what amounted to a sociological phenomenon as much as a sports event, the 21st century pop culture, social, and international celebrity of Tiger Woods was both launched and cemented during a record 18-under Masters victory by 12 strokes over an awed field. At the tender age of 21, and only his fifteenth appearance as a pro, with the eyes of the world watching his every move, the highly touted Woods became the youngest player to win the Masters in the 61-year history of the tournament, winning an event that didn't even invite a black player until the year he was born at a club that didn't invite a black member to join until 1990. Woods finished at 270, slicing one stroke off the record Jack Nicklaus set in 1965 and Raymond Floyd matched in 1976. His cultural status as a young Asian/African American catapulted Woods career into media-frenzy mania and helped launch a new, sexy and provocative era in a sport once thought too high brow for most sports aficionados.
4. Lou Gehrig's Farewell Speech
In a moment forever held in time for every figure in sports history to heed, a dying man stood before over 60,000 people and the world to impart the genuine feeling that he was "the luckiest man in the world" for having the opportunity to endeavor through the love of his craft. Lou Gehrig, the Iron Horse, who had not missed a game his entire 13-plus year career (spanning a mind-bending 2,130 consecutive games) lowered his head and became the symbol of what sports, and maybe all of life is about; accepting your destiny, giving it your all, and enjoying every moment, good or ill.
5. The Black Sox Scandal
Black Sox are born and baseball almost died. Not saying that this is a great moment, but it is definitely one to remember. For those of us who don't know, 8 Chicago White Sox players made a deal to intentionally lose, or "Throw" games in the 1919 World Series. The Cincinatti Reds won this series, because of the antics of Eddie Cicotte, Oscar Felsch, Arnold Gandil, Joe Jackson, Fred McMullin, Charles Risberg, George Weaver, and Claude Williams. Perhaps one of history's largest scandals in all of sports.