As we begin Memorial Day weekend, we realize how lucky and blessed we are to live in this great nation. Veterans and current armed force members are the real heroes who have stood their ground to make sure freedom prevails. These veterans have shaped America to what it is today and have allowed us to enjoy our beloved sports each day.
As we honor our vets this Monday, I would like to look back at some of the greatest sports moments that occurred at times where our freedom was in jeopardy and the heroes of sport came to our rescue.
On the night of June 22, 1938, Joe Louis and Max Schmeling met for the second time in the boxing ring. The fight, which was one of the most politically influenced sporting events of all time, was held at Yankee Stadium before a crowd of 70,043.
The fight was broadcasted to millions of listeners throughout the world, with radio announcers reporting on the fight in English, German, Spanish and Portuguese. Louis lost the first bout, but this fight, however, proved to be a different story. Louis won the fight in the first round, knocking his opponent out in a mere two minutes and four seconds. This made Louis an American icon and proved to the world the Arians could be beat.
The bidding for these Olympic Games was the first to be contested by IOC members casting their votes for their favorite host city. The vote occurred in 1931, before Hitler rose to power. Adolf Hitler was using the games to show the world that Nazi Germany would be a force to be reckoned with. He and other government officials had high hopes that German athletes would dominate the games with victories, which they eventually did.
Nazi advertising also promoted concepts of "Aryan racial superiority" and depicted Africans as inferior. Owens, however, dominated the games by winning the Gold medal in the 100 m, 200 m, 4x100 m relay and the long jump.
The Soviet Union came into the 1980 Winter Olympic games as the clear cut favorite to take home the gold in men's hockey. The Soviet players were classified as "amateurs," but many believed that they were professionals who had access to world class training facilities.
With tension between the two nations already escalated, the teams battled rigorously, and the Americans found themselves down 3-2 heading into the final period. After scoring two unanswered goals, the Americans eventually overcame their Cold War enemies, taking the game 4-3. Many believe this is the greatest sports moment in American history.
It was a mere 10 days after the attacks of September 11. The Mets were playing the first game in New York since the tragedy. With the Mets down 2-1 and with a man on base in the bottom of the eighth inning, Mike Piazza lifted the sprits of all Mets fans by smashing a two-run blast off Braves reliever Steve Karsay. The homer put the Mets ahead 3-2, securing the win, and the significance of Piazza's spirit-lifting home run has been cited as one of the greatest moments in MLB history.
It was the top of the ninth inning, two men on base and the score tied at one, just a normal game at Citzens Bank Park....or was it? Fans began chanting "USA, USA", leaving the players on the field puzzled. The reason was that fans learned that al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden was finally killed. This showed how great sports are, because for that moment, Mets and Phillies fans were both cheering for the same teams.