The Most Patriotic Pictures in Sports History

Zack Pumerantz@z_pumerantzAnalyst IIIJuly 2, 2012

The Most Patriotic Pictures in Sports History

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    It's that time of year when flags sway, fireworks crackle in the distance and fans roar for freedom. The fourth of July is upon us.

    It was July 4, 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was adopted by Congress. Thomas Jefferson's groundwork would lay the foundation for a new future, and a separation from the Kingdom of Great Britain.

    Breathtaking stuff.

    Almost 300 years later and we have yet to stop thanking our forefathers. And only in the passionate world of sports can we truly appreciate the American dream.

    As we prepare for another festive and colorful Independence Day, let's enjoy 25 shots of sports and patriotism at its best.

    An epic collision to say the least. 

25. Alexander Massialas Embraces His Country

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    Coached by his fencing father, Greg Massialas, the young Alexander always gives his audience a breathtaking performance.

    His mysteriously star-spangled mask makes every bout memorable.

24. Carrying the Torch

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    Guard Grant Cook led his Razorbacks into battle with this brilliant display in remembrance of September 11th. 

    Just a slight raise of the flag really gets the crowd going.

23. Hope Solo Defines the 50 States

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    The heart and soul of American sports fans, national team goalie Hope Solo rarely reeks of anything but pride and patriotism.

    She keeps her country's blood pumping with ferocious saves and intriguing Dancing with the Stars performances.

22. Starry-Eyed Surprise

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    Flags gracing America's pastime is like mustard on a hot dog. 

    The ideal pre-first pitch presentation.

21. Honoring the Troops

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    There's nothing like athletics on an active aircraft carrier. When the North Carolina Tar Heels beat the Michigan State Spartans, 67-55, before a patriotic crowd, a warming ambiance flooded the hardwood.

    This was no routine game; this was the new Carrier Classic.

20. The Dark Plight

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    With a vibrant cape, epic headband and fearless nature, this diehard fan seems ready to protect the neighborhood from lower-tier bad guys.

    Reading too much Captain Underpants, it seems.

19. Fighting for Freedom

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    Perhaps William Wallace can take this one.

    Those goosebumps should go away soon enough.

18. Golden Gate Glow

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    Despite cloudy skies and vicious mists, these San Francisco-ans are in high spirits.

    Come on, football!

17. Paying Tribute

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    It was a day that tightened our country's closeness. Millions of strangers suddenly became one.

    September 11th, 2001, a day that changed a nation.

16. Kevin Vickerson's Fashion Show

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    The flag salute was obviously spine-tingling, but it was Kevin Vickerson's shoe debut that really had the crowd roaring.

    PE Air Jordan 3 cleats—fresh.

15. Field of Dreams

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    As stars, stripes and hearts collide, the only feelings that arise are those of awe.

    Perfect contrasts.

14. Light at the End of the Tunnel

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    Thanks to an inspirational speech from Navy SEAL Jack Riggins, the Nebraska Cornhuskers football team decided to add some stars and stripes to their tunnel walk.

    Newly minted Houston Texan Jared Crick (No. 94) leads his fiery pack to greatness.

13. Peter Varellas Rises Above

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    This magnificent moment captures the art of water polo and the importance of patriotism at their peaks.

    Peter Varellas is simply carrying the team on his back.

12. Face-Paint Madness

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    The United States hosted the 2009 Concacaf Gold Cup.

    This was the masterful result.

11. A Trojan War

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    Moments often seem far more intense with flags in hand.

    The USC club is ready to carry the country on its back.

10. A Patriotic Entrance

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    By the Pender Patriots, of course.

    This shot looks eerily familiar.

9. Patriotic Cheeseheads

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    This Packers crowd is all about enthusiasm, and rarely does it disappoint.

    The wavy flow is a necessary touch.

8. Mary Lou Retton Sticks the Landing

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    Sure, she became the first American woman to take gold in the individual all-around gymnastics competition with a miraculous perfect 10 on her final vault, but that's not what has us inspired.

    Mary Lou Retton was also the first female spokesman for Wheaties and looked quite delighted on the front.

7. Building on the Past

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    While this is easily the most patriotic jersey we have ever laid eyes upon, it's the reddish aura of Arrowhead Stadium that has us truly enamored.

    Just brilliant.

6. Pat Tillman's Legacy

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    Leaving a promising career on the professional gridiron to join the Army following the September 11 attacks was all Pat Tillman needed to do to show fans he was no average human being.

    The true definition of a warrior.

5. The Case of Rick Monday

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    Rick Monday played 19 seasons in the majors, securing two All-Star nods and a World Series ring. But it was his heroics on April 25, 1976 that earned him a solid carving in sports history.

    As two protesters (William Thomas and his 11-year-old son) ran onto the field and prepared to burn a flag they had brought with them, Monday sprinted over and took the flag before flames could be sparked.

    "If you’re going to burn the flag, don’t do it around me. I’ve been to too many veterans’ hospitals and seen too many broken bodies of guys who tried to protect it," said Monday.

    Let's relive the moment here.

4. Cal Ripken Jr. Takes a Bow

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    The Iron Man himself. 2,632 straight games, generations of inspired fans.

    A euphoric display of patriotism.

3. Jesse Owens Defies the Odds

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    To say that Jesse Owens won four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics does not tell the full story.

    He stood up against Adolf Hitler when the dictator was attempting to perpetuate Aryan dominance.

    A true sports legend.    

2. The Birth of a Dream Team

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    With names like Jordan, Bird and Magic on their squad, the 1992 Olympic men's basketball team wasn't only the first American Olympic team to feature active NBA players, but it was the first American team to display complete and utter dominance. 

    After defeating opponents by an average of almost 44 points and securing the gold medal against Croatia, the Dream Team cemented itself as perhaps the greatest athletic team ever constructed. 

1. An Icy Miracle

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    As 8,500 fans exited the Olympic Center the night of February 22, 1980, few could believe what they had just seen.

    The youthful American squad had just defeated the impregnable Soviet team who had not failed to win gold since 1964. 

    With a final score of 4-3, greatness was achieved. "Do you believe in miracles?"