Perhaps nothing else in the world unites people quite like sports. The unifying power of sports is most evident once every four years, when athletes and fans from every corner of the world come together to celebrate the Olympic Games. But you don’t have to wait for the Olympics to witness sports bringing people together. Every season, in every sport, incredible moments happen. These moments become iconic in sports history and are remembered and revered by fans, whether or not they follow the sport or player involved.
More than forty years after the 1980 Winter Olympic Games, the US Hockey team is still famous for achieving an unexpected feat. This group of collegiate and amateur players bested the Soviet powerhouse team, who had gone largely undefeated since the 1950s. As the final seconds wound down, sportscaster Al Michaels uttered the now famous phrase, “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” The team went on to defeat Finland for the gold medal, but it was this victory that will live on in sports history.
The Dallas Cowboys went into the 1982 NFC Championship game with confidence. They were football royalty, one of the best teams in the sport’s history, and expected to be the San Francisco 49ers. But the 49ers proved to be a formidable opponent, and the Cowboys were unable to maintain a consistent lead throughout the game. With less than a minute left, Joe Montana’s final pass was caught in the end zone by Dwight Clark, propelling the 49ers ahead, 28-27. The Cowboys could not recover, and the 49ers went on to become one of the most dominant teams of the next two decades.
Celebrating a New Record
As Cal Ripken, Jr. took the field for the Baltimore Orioles on September 6, 1995, his mere presence was a historic sports moment. Ripken was doing more than just playing the game; he was breaking a 56-year-old record for consecutive games played, held until that day by Lou Gehrig. Not only did Ripken play in his 2131st game, he also hit a home run in the fourth inning; Orioles fans and Angels fans alike erupted into a 22-minute standing ovation that was broadcast in its entirety, commercial-free, by ESPN.
The 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup final was the most watched women’s sporting event in history. The US team, coming off an Olympic gold medal and World Cup win in 1996, hosted the 1996 silver medal team from China. After regular play and extra time still left the game scoreless, the United States overcame China in a penalty shootout, 5-4. The exuberant players celebrated their victory on home soil, and fans across the country rejoiced. The game was a turning point, both for this team and for the popularity of soccer in the US.
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