By Brian Kalchik @BrianKalchik on June 13, 2014
Sports have always been a mainstay in American culture. Not only do sports teach the lessons of teamwork, fair play and hard work, but they have also produced some of the greatest moments in our nation's history. Whether its off-field issues like Michael Sam's announcement or on-field moments like Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics, some sports moments have changed the world. Here now are 15 moments in sports that forever changed the world.
Six days had passed since the horrific and unspeakable terrorist attack that took the lives of more than 3,500 people on 9/11. With the nation looking to return to some kind of normalcy, longtime St. Louis Cardinals and Hall of Fame broadcaster Jack Buck read his own handwritten poem to the more than 32,000 fans in Busch Stadium. With that, sports took everyone's minds off that unforgettable day of horror, despair and tragedy.
Just before the NFL Scouting Combine this past February, Michael Sam, the SEC co-Defensive Player of the Year in 2013, announced his sexuality to the world. After having an average performance at the Combine, it was still a mystery whether any team wanted to take a chance on him as not just a player, but his story. When the St. Louis Rams selected Sam in the seventh round, all stereotypes about sexuality in sports took a turn for the better.
On Sept. 20, 1973, women’s tennis star Billie Jean King faced off against Bobby Riggs in a match dubbed the “Battle of the Sexes.” Riggs, a former Wimbledon champion, believed he could beat any woman player, and King took him up on the challenge. Riggs hyped the contest with offensive comments, but he lost to King 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. King's victory, along with the passing of Title IX, helped sparked a boom in women's sports.
Before Lance Armstrong began one of the most impressive streaks in sports history, he was given a 50 percent chance to live after being diagnosed with cancer. Amazingly, Armstrong wound up cancer-free, and from 1999-2005, he would win the Tour De France in seven consecutive years. He would be banned for life for doping later on, but his fight against cancer has inspired others who have been or are currently fighting this disease.
On Apr. 30, 1993, then-world No. 1 Monica Seles was playing Magdalena Maleeva in the Citizen Cup. During a changeover, Gunter Parche, an unemployed 38-year-old, leaned over and stabbed Seles with a nine-inch blade. Parche's motive was to end the rivalry between Seles and Steffi Graf, who he had an obsession with. This was the first incident where the line between players and fans was crossed.
The ESPY Awards are supposed to be a night of celebrating achievements by the world's greatest athletes, but in 1993, it turned out to be a celebration of life and a call to action by one man in Jim Valvano. In a stirring nine-minute and 36-second speech, Valvano told each of us how to live and how to relish every moment we have in our lives. The V Foundation raises millions each year for cancer research in his honor.
On Apr. 28, 1967, boxing champion Muhammad Ali refused induction into the U.S. Army and was immediately stripped of his heavyweight title. Ali, a Muslim, cited religious reasons for his decision to forgo military service in the Vietnam War. Ali was banned from boxing for three years, but his decision sparked a national uprising. It could be argued that Ali's decision helped spark the anti-war protestors.
For the first time in sports history, a major American sports championship would be contested by one team that was all-white and another whose starters were entirely black. Texas Western, despite its 27-1 record, was a heavy underdog against the No. 1-ranked Kentucky Wildcats led by Adolph Rupp. With racial tensions still gripping the nation, the Miners defeated the Wildcats 72-65, proving that color is not a hindrance in sports.
On Friday the 13th 32 years ago, a Uruguayan plane carrying 45 passengers, mostly rugby players, crashed in the Andes Mountains. 12 died in the crash, but the rest had to fight not just hunger and the fearful mountains but 30 degrees-below-zero temperatures during the night. With scarce resources, the survivors were forced to resort to eating the bodies of their fallen passengers. Finally, after 72 days, 16 were rescued.
After placing first and third in the 200m of the 1968 Summer Olympics, Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised a black-fisted glove as the American national anthem was playing. Both were booed after their gesture and were expelled from the Games. Smith and Carlos were largely ostracized by the U.S. sporting establishment and they were subject to criticism. Their image of defiance and pride stunned the world.
After becoming one of the greatest players in NBA history, Magic Johnson stunned the world when he retired from the Los Angeles Lakers. He retired not because he was fed up with the game or because he gave everything he could; he retired because he was HIV positive. His announcement showed the world that anyone can be affected by the virus.
The 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey team was ranked just seventh out of the 12 teams heading into the 1980 Winter Olympics. After the Soviet Union, which was arguably the best hockey team on the planet, routed the U.S. 10-3 in an Olympic exhibition, the Americans were given little chance to defeat the Russians when they matched up in the medal round. Amazingly, the U.S. defeated the Russians 4-3 en route to capturing a gold medal.
During the 1972 Olympic games, eight Palestinian terrorists killed two members of the Israeli Olympic team and then took nine others hostage. All of the hostages would be killed in a huge gunfight. All of the footage was captured on national TV, which horrified everyone. It remains as one of the world's worst sports moments ever.
On Apr. 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first African-American in the major leagues when he played his first game with the Brooklyn Dodgers. During his first season in the majors, Robinson encountered racism from opposing teams and fans, as well as some of his own teammates. Despite all the abuse, Robinson went on to have a Hall of Fame career. 50 years after his first game, his No. 42 was retired across all of baseball.
At the 1936 Berlin Olympics, African-American track star Jesse Owens won his fourth gold medal of the Games, which were supposed to be a showcase of supposed Aryan superiority. With Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in attendance, Owens and other African-American athletes shattered the Nazi propaganda machine. Owens went on to break or tie three world records in the games.
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