Three sports moments stick out to me in terms of patriotic significance.
Most recently, the first baseball game in New York after Sept. 11, 2001, when Mike Piazza blasted the go-ahead home run that helped lift an entire city and entire nation out of its smoky daze.
Back in 1980, the U.S. men's hockey team defeated what was thought to be an unbeatable Soviet Union squad, doing so with the hope of an entire nation resting squarely on their pads.
And the last one, the one that is remembered the least, is Jesse Owens' display during the 1936 Summer Olympics.
Perhaps that's the curse of the clock, as time passes memories and moments seem to fade. However, what Owens did during those Olympics, in that country, during that time, with that color of skin, is something that will never be reached again.
If you don't know, the 1936 Olympics were used as the Nazi Germany's coming out party, and were the first Olympics to be broadcasted on television. It was the first time the torch was brought to site with a torch relay. Adolf Hitler was hoping to showcase how perfect the Aryan race was, allowing only members of said ethnicity to compete for Germany. Things were going well until Jesse Owens came around.
On Aug. 3, he won the 100-meter. On Aug. 4, he won the long jump. On Aug. 5, he took gold in the 200-meter. And to round it off, he won the 400-meter relay after he was a late addition (the rumor is that Owens and another African-American replaced Sam Stoller and Marty Glickman, the only Jews on the U.S. Olympic team, to save Hitler from further humiliation).
Owens took a myth that an entire nation was taking to be true, and completely shattered it. The fact that he returned to the America and had to race animals to make ends meet is appalling.
To win four gold medals in one summer Olympics is almost unheard of (only Carl Lewis has repeated the performance). But, to do it under those circumstances is what's truly astonishing. Coming from a country that believed you were a second-class citizen is one thing. But going to a country that disagrees with your existence is another story.
Tuesday was the 75th anniversary of Owens helped fourth gold medal of those Games. It's up to us to make sure another 75 years go by with us remembering what he did.
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