Sports Moments That Would Make Uncle Sam Proud

Nick Dimengo@@itsnickdimengoFeatured ColumnistJuly 4, 2014

Sports Moments That Would Make Uncle Sam Proud

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    It's great to be an American, isn't it?

    On this day, we honor our incredible country by blasting fireworks, singing songs and taking some time to appreciate those moments for the red, white and blue.

    And because there are a lot of sports memories that would make Uncle Sam proud, here are a few that we think should be remembered on the Fourth of July.

Rick Monday Saves the Flag

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    He may not be known as one of the most patriotic people ever, but former MLB outfielder Rick Monday probably should be mentioned as a Great American Hero.

    That's because, back in 1976, he noticed two protesters who ran onto the field and were set to burn the American flag.

    Knowing better than to let something like this happen, the then Chicago Cub sprinted to the two people and ripped the flag from them before they could spark a flame.

    Monday showed those guys not to mess with the flag.

Kerri Strug

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    Noticeably limping on a bum ankle during the 1996 all-around gymnastics competition, Kerri Strug would not let down her teammates.

    After suffering the injury on her first vault attempt, she knew that the hope of the first gold medal for the Americans rested on her shoulders—and weak ankle.

    Landing on her feet in pain and hobbling to complete her pose for judges, Strug's second attempt gave the U.S. the necessary points it needed to claim the gold medal—bringing tears of joy to every American's eyes.

Brandi Chastain

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    Locked in a draw during the 1999 Women's World Cup on American soil versus China, the United States women's national soccer team found themselves in an all-or-nothing, penalty-kick shootout for the title.

    With veteran midfielder Brandi Chastain set to try and close the match out, she stepped up to the ball and drilled it past the opposing goalie for the win.

    Completely caught up in her exuberance, Chastain's famous bra celebration occurred, as she ripped her jersey off and dropped to her knees to go wild for Team USA's first Women's World Cup trophy.

Michael Phelps

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    While we all know that Olympic champion Michael Phelps would later go on to capture the most medals in Olympic history four years later, but what he accomplished in 2008 in Beijing may be even more memorable.

    Aiming to collect a record eight gold medals at a single Games to break former U.S. swimmer Mark Spitz's record of seven, Phelps dominated his competition, breaking world records in every race he competed in on his way to matching Spitz.

    A thrilling, come-from-behind victory over France in the 4x100-meter relay to keep Phelps' hopes alive proved that destiny was on his side, as he eventually got his eight gold in eight races.

Muhammad Ali Lights the Olympic Torch

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    Arguably the greatest athlete to ever play a sport, boxing legend Muhammad Ali had his shining moment when he was the final recipient of the Olympic torch in 1996, providing the flame for the Atlanta Games.

    Winning a gold medal at the age of 18 in the 1960 Rome Olympics, Ali—who showed signs of his battle with Parkinson's disease during the ceremony—was also awarded another medal to replace the one that he had earned but no longer possessed. He tossed his original one into the Ohio River after being refused service at a restaurant shortly after winning it.

Tommie Smith and John Carlos

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    Anonymous/Associated Press

    Fighting racism during the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, track and field gold and bronze medalists Tommie Smith and John Carlos made a stand that would be remembered for eternity.

    Both donning black gloves on their hands, the two men made a statement by reaching toward the sky with a fist while standing at the podium, creating a memorable scene that was a proud moment for all Americans who were trying to end the division between races.

The 1992 Dream Team

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    What happens when you take the best basketball players on the planet and put them on one team?

    As the world found out—and no pun intended—magic.

    Led by superstars Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan, the 1992 USA Olympic team didn't just break the barrier for future squads using pro players over college kids but also completely dominated the competition, winning by an average of nearly 44 points per game.

    The aptly named "The Dream Team" won gold easily.

Whitney Houston's Star-Spangled Banner

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    Sure, it later came out that Whitney Houston's incredibly passionate rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner" was actually lip-synched, but, at the time—and even still—it's still a classic American moment.

    Performed before Super Bowl XXV between the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills, Houston captivated the crowd in a time when the country was rallying after recently announcing a war in the Persian Gulf Coast.

    The fact that she was acting the entire time doesn't derail the significance it had at the time.

George W. Bush Throws a Strike

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    A night before Halloween and just six weeks following the devastating attacks on September 11, 2001, the country needed something to lift its spirits.

    That symbol came in the form of then U.S. President George W. Bush, who took the mound before Game 3 of the World Series between the New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks to toss out the first pitch.

    Walking up with confidence and zeal in the most famous stadium in the country, Bush hurled a strike right over the plate.

Tim Howard vs. Belgium

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    His team may have ended up on the losing end, but that doesn't discount the incredible performance from U.S. men's soccer goalkeeper Tim Howard against Belgium earlier this week.

    Posting a career-high and World Cup record 16 saves in the match against Belgium, Howard made America proud by giving his best effort in a win-or-go-home match on the world's biggest stage.

    It would have been even sweeter had the U.S. won.

Jesse Owens

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    Associated Press

    One of the greatest Olympians ever after capturing four gold medals in the 1936 Berlin Games in numerous track and field events, Jesse Owens should be applauded for his athletic prowess.

    But it was at those Olympics that he really made his mark.

    Not shying away from the pressure of Adolph Hitler during an extreme time in history, Owens showed that he had the courage and talent of a lion, literally running away with his four golds.

The "Miracle on Ice"

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    Seemingly overmatched against the powerful USSR team in the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, a bunch of rag-tag, unknown college and amateur players didn't know any better than to win.

    Inspired by head coach Herb Brooks, the United States did enough to hang around and make the Soviets sweat a little bit, proving the red, white and blue wouldn't go quietly.

    And when captain Mike Eruzione netted the go-ahead goal with 10 minutes to play, the USA were able to hang on and pull off one of the most memorable upsets in sports history. They ultimately won the gold medal the following game against Sweden.