The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SPORTS

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

Sporting events are always going to be a central part of the American experience. In the fall, Americans tune in to watch their favorite sports, be it the NFL, MLB, NHL, and even the NBA. Every two years, we come together as a nation to support Team USA in the Winter or Summer Olympics. We even sometimes come together to see the USA compete in World Cup play.


American sports bleed into American life — and vice-versa. From the yellow ribbon tied around the Superdome during Super Bowl XV to remember hostages taken in Iran to chants of “USA” when a crowd in Philadelphia learned about the death of Osama bin Laden, American sports fans and players wear their American hearts on their sleeves.

 1. Team USA carries the WTC flag to the Olympics

Rarely does a flag presentation at the Olympic Games happen to a quiet crowd. But as eight members of Team USA, flanked by members of the NYPD and New York Fire Department, marched the flag of the host country into the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, you could hear a pin drop.

The flag they carried was found in the rubble of ground zero and had flown atop the World Trade Center in New York when the buildings were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001. It was under the debris for three days before being found and given to the National Guard.

2. Rulon Gardner defeats the undefeated

For a decade, Aleksandr Karelin was the world’s dominant super heavyweight wrestler. By the time the 2000 Olympics rolled around, Karelin (aka The Russian Bear, aka Aleksandr the Great) hadn’t been defeated in a match since Russia was still called the Soviet Union – even then, that was his only loss. Then, he faced off with a dairy farmer from Wyoming.

In six years, Karelin hadn’t even given up a single point to an opponent. His American opponent, Rulon Gardner, hadn’t placed higher than fifth in the world up until this point and even lost to Karelin, 5-0, before. But Karelin lost his grip — and a point — to Gardner in the second period.

3.  Mary Lou Retton wins a gymnastic first

A little girl from West Virginia dealt a stunning blow to the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War. Before Retton, Team USA was never able to wrest Olympic Gold from Eastern Europe in the Individual, All-Around Gymnastics event. She came into the event trailing Romania’s Ecaterina Szabo.

In Retton’s own words, she believes her performance showed that American-born and trained athletes can do anything – no matter what the odds are.

4. 1999 Women’s World Cup Final

The 1999 Women’s World Cup came down to a shootout tie-breaker against the Chinese. With the score tied 0-0 in extra time, the US team would end up winning based on penalties. It wasn’t so much the game play that mattered, it was the draw. With 90,000 spectators, it was the largest turnout for a women’s sporting event ever.

The lasting image of the US win would be Brandi Chastain’s post-penalty kick celebration of the victory, where she fell to her knees and took off her jersey, revealing the “sports bra seen ’round the world.” The image became one of Sport Illustrated most iconic covers ever.

5. Joe Louis knocks out a Nazi

In 1938, Hitler was still touting the Germans as a “master race,” as German athletes competed the world over for top honors. On June 22, Max Schmeling met American champion, the “Brown Bomber” Joe Louis. The first time the two met in 1936, Schmeling took advantage of Louis’ dropping his left hand after a jab and gave Louis his first loss in the 12th round of that fight. That would not happen again.

With the world listening via radio and more than 70,000 watching in Yankee Stadium, Louis unloaded on Schmeling, knocking him down three times in two minutes. Schmeling was only able to throw two punches in the whole one-round match.

6. The Champ lights the Olympic Torch

Lighting the Olympic Flame at the end of the torch relay is an honor reserved for a legendary Olympic athlete from the host country. Does it get more legendary than “The Greatest” Muhammad Ali? Except in 1996, the one who would light the flame itself was a close-kept secret. Even swimmer Janet Evans, who was handing the torch off, didn’t know to whom she was handing it.

Ali was stricken with Parkinson’s Disease and had long since retired by this point. When Ali emerged to take the Olympic Torch and light the flame, the sound in Atlanta was less a roar of applause and more of the collective gasp of elated surprise as the once-great boxer, shaking, lit the torch.

7. Rick Monday saves the flag

Remember MLB outfielder Rick Monday? He might be before most of our readers’ time, but Monday was with the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 1981 World Series-winning team. Before that, he was the top prospect in the 1965 MLB draft. Somewhere in between, he saved Old Glory from public humiliation.

In 1976, Monday was with the Chicago Cubs, visiting the Dodgers. With Monday in center field during the fourth inning, two protestors jumped the outfield fence and tried to burn a flag on live TV. Monday, seeing what was about to transpire, ran over and snatched the lighter-fluid-soaked flag. The protestors were arrested and Monday was able to keep the flag.

Ever since that day, Monday used the actual flag to raise money for military families.

8. The President’s Post-9/11 opening pitch 

It’s hard to imagine the Leader of the Free World facing a new Global War on Terrorism being psyched out by throwing the first pitch in Yankee Stadium. But in his own words, he absolutely was. Thousands of New Yorkers came to the stadium to watch the President throw the pitch to open game 3 of the 2001 World Series. It was also just weeks after 9/11.

He didn’t want Americans to think the President was incapable of finding the plate. But as he practiced, Yankee Derek Jeter told him that he needed to both throw from the mound (not in front as originally planned) and not bounce it. “They’ll boo you,” he told the President.

Bush, shaken but loose, walked onto the field and threw a strike to an eruption of applause.

9. ‘The Buckeye Bullet’ burns Hitler

Before he ever arrived in Berlin for the 1936 Olympic Games, Jesse Owens had already set three world records and tied another. At Ohio State, he won eight individual NCAA championships, which was a record in its own right. When he arrived in Berlin, he knew Nazi Germany was using the games as a showcase for its racial policies, but competed anyway.

Owens went on to win four gold medals in 1936, an unrivaled achievement until some 50 years later when Carl Lewis did the same in 1984. When Owens won gold in the long jump, the Olympic Committee told Hitler he had to greet all the winners or none at all. Hitler opted for none. As Owens won other events, Hitler would leave early. Nazi minister Albert Speer would later write that Hitler “was highly annoyed by the series of triumphs by the marvelous colored American runner, Jesse Owens.”

10. The Miracle On Ice

Would you bet money on a bunch of college amateurs taking on the world’s greatest hockey team in a competition for Olympic Gold? Not many would – and not many did, as it turns out. That was the situation Team USA faced in the 1980 Winter Olympics. It was a tough time for the United States, with hostages in Iran, an energy crisis, and runaway inflation, it looked like the American Dream was coming to an end.

But no words echoed through the ages like Al Michaels’ “Do you believe in miracles!” as Team USA topped the Soviet Union 4-3 in one of the biggest upsets in sports history.

MIGHTY SPORTS

How this soldier pushed himself to the max to make fitness team

Sgt. 1st Class Carlos Zayas wiped the sweat off his brow as he glared at the box on the floor in front of him. Listening to the loud music that echoed throughout the gym, Zayas took a deep breath as he anticipated his next set of exercises.

During a typical high-intensity workout, Zayas would be surrounded by other fitness enthusiasts, but not today. Alone at the Army Warrior Fitness Center, Zayas had one thing motivating him — the clock.

“Training by yourself is OK — you need it sometimes,” he said. “However, you always want somebody right next to you to try to beat you in a workout and give you that extra push.”


With a loud beep, the gym’s timer went off launching the former detentions noncommissioned officer into a fury of movements. For the next 20 to 25 minutes, Zayas would complete a series of box jumps, pushups, rows, wall-ball shots, and kipping pullups.

This was his first of three workouts that day.

High-intensity training started as a way to get back into shape and later evolved into a means to compete, he said. As a member of the Army Warrior Fitness Team, Zayas is determined to represent himself and the Army at high-level competitions, all while encouraging others to join the service he admires.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

Sgt. 1st Class Carlos Zayas is determined to represent himself and the Army at high-level competitions, all while encouraging others to join the service he admires.

(Photo by Zachary Welch)

Finding his path

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Zayas was the first in his family to join the military. During the early years of his career, Zayas served as an 88H cargo specialist, but later re-classed to become a 31E internment/resettlement specialist.

Zayas married shortly after joining the military and his family grew, he said. At the same time, the family lifestyle took over. Zayas started to put on excess weight through poor eating habits and an ineffective fitness routine.

“I was back and forth between being in and out of shape,” he said. “I was on the border of getting kicked out of the Army.”

In 2011, Zayas deployed to Afghanistan and saw this as an opportunity to reset. He quickly locked down his diet, engaged in a rigorous fitness routine, and got back into shape.

Zayas returned home to Fort Bliss, Texas, with a healthier mindset and desire to help others. Upon his arrival, Zayas’ wife announced that she was pregnant with the couple’s second child. With a newborn on the way, he did what was necessary to balance his work, family, and fitness schedules.

Shortly after the birth of his second daughter, Zayas and his wife joined a CrossFit gym to help her get back into shape, he said. This was his first introduction to CrossFit.

“I was hooked,” he said. “But, the workout wasn’t much. I would go for one hour like everybody, and then I would work out again [later on].”

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

Sgt. 1st Class Carlos Zayas is determined to represent himself and the Army at high-level competitions, all while encouraging others to join the service he admires.

(Photo by Zachary Welch)

Competition

Zayas continued to dedicate much of his free time to his fitness routine, all while helping other soldiers with their PT performance, he said. The family eventually moved on to their next assignment at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Zayas was quick to find a local CrossFit gym.

“I met two guys over there that were really competitive,” he said. “I started training with them. That’s what got me into the [competitive scene]. It gave me a purpose.”

Determined to break into the competitive-fitness circuit, Zayas allocated what little free time he had toward his diet and workouts. As a detentions NCO, Zayas was responsible for many of the inmates at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks on Leavenworth.

The USDB is a maximum-security facility for male service members convicted of crimes under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

“I would work eight- to 12-hour shifts, to include physical training, and NCO [tasks],” he said. “It was stressful. You have to deal with different personalities and expected the worst.”

Fitness quickly became an outlet for Zayas to relieve stress, he said. During the worst of days, he would return home, change his clothes, and immediately go into his garage gym to unwind.

“I don’t like lifting angry,” he said. “Once I started training, I forgot what I was mad about.”

All of the long days and nights paid off, making him a better soldier, NCO, and competitive athlete.

For instance, Zayas put on three ranks in five years, and continuously was recognized for his exemplary PT performance. He served as the post-partum PT coordinator for his unit and helped soldiers get back into shape after childbirth. Lastly, Zayas went on to compete in several individual and team competitions throughout Kansas and Missouri.

More importantly, Zayas was selected to join the Army Warrior Fitness Program and PCS to Fort Knox, he added.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

Sgt. 1st Class Carlos Zayas and other members of the U.S. Army Warrior Fitness Team attended the 2019 CrossFit Games to support their teammates, Capt. Chandler Smith and Lt. Col. Anthony Kurz, participating in the event. During their visit, the team engaged with the fitness community to share the Army’s story. In the photo, from left to right: Capt. Deanna Clegg, Capt. Kaci Clark, Capt. Allison Brager, 1st Sgt. Glenn Grabs, Capt. Ashley Shepard, Command Sgt. Major. Jan Vermeulen, Capt. Rachel Schreiber, Staff Sgt. Neil French, Spc. Jacob Pfaff, Staff Sgt. Gabriele Burgholzer.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

Army Warrior Fitness Program

The Army Warrior Fitness Program is an Army Recruiting Command engagement and outreach initiative. Through this initiative, the Army has an opportunity to connect the soldier community to the “fittest people in the American population,” said Master Sgt. Glenn Grabs, first sergeant of the Outreach and Recruiting Company.

“The Warrior Fitness Team started in the fall of 2018,” Grabs said. “The decision was made to organize a competitive team that could display the strength of the American soldier to the public.”

In February 2019, Zayas and 14 others were selected for the program. The team is a combination of strongman and woman competitors and functional fitness athletes who can participate in a wide range of competitions.

In general, functional fitness focuses on the body’s ability to do basic fundamental movements, such as squatting, bending, moving, jumping, and lifting, Grabs said.

“That’s the great thing about functional fitness,” he said. “These soldiers have the skills to compete at a high level. They can use some [fitness] components to pursue powerlifting, obstacle course races, and other competitions.”

Thus far, the feedback the team has received has been “overwhelmingly positive,” Grabs said.

During many of the competitions, former and current soldiers have asked how they can support the program. Several athletes have also commented on the team’s professional demeanor and overall humble attitude.

Moving forward, Zayas is determined to make the CrossFit Games, a national-level competition showcasing the most elite functional-fitness athletes from around the world, he said. Capt. Chandler Smith and Lt. Col. Anthony Kurz, members of the Warrior Fitness Team, recently represented the Army at the 2019 CrossFit Games.

“I think every athlete would like to get there,” Zayas said. “We are looking to go to the CrossFit Games as a team. I think we have a pretty good shot.

“I am grateful for the opportunity,” Zayas said about joining the functional fitness team. “I never saw it coming. I am grateful to my leadership, which allowed me to participate. We are building something new in the Army [and] it’s going to be here for a long time.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Surfing superstar Hangs 10 and donates $20k to veterans

Kelly Slater is known around the world as arguably the greatest surfer of all time. An 11-time world champion, Slater is iconic in the surfing community.


Watching videos on YouTube, it’s easy to see why he has been so dominant on the board and has had such a huge influence and impact on the sport.

Outside the surfing community, there’s another group of people Slater continues to help: veterans.

Slater built a pretty rad surfing ranch out in the California countryside that attracts surf aficionados and celebrities alike.

The ranch is also a spot used by nonprofits to provide outlets for wounded warriors to surf as a part of therapy.

In addition to surfing, Slater is also known for many other things from being a businessman, model, actor, environmentalist, philanthropist and overall cool dude.

When it comes to philanthropy, Slater is known for giving to myriad causes. He has donated and raised awareness for protecting the ocean and worked on suicide prevention.

But this weekend, his focus was on an oft forgotten population – wounded warriors.

In addition to being the greatest surfer of all time, Slater is also an avid golfer. Every year he can, he participates in the ATT Pebble Beach Pro-Am which was held this past weekend.

The Pro-Am is a celebrity-studded event which features the best golfers in the world playing alongside athletes from other sports and entertainment celebrities.

Crowds love the atmosphere which is more relaxed than usual golf events.

One of the events held was the Chevron Shootout. The shootout is where past champions of the tournament are paired with champions from the world of sports to compete in a team putting competition at the Pebble Beach Putting Green with winnings going to the player’s charity of choice.

Other athletes included Steve Young, Matt Ryan, Larry Fitzgerald, Jimmy Walker and Brandt Snedeker. Slater was paired with D.A. Point and won the Shootout, donating his winnings to his charity of choice: Wounded Warrior Project.

Of the ,000 prize his team won, he gets to donate half to that cause.

Slater later posted on Facebook posting pics of the event.

As you can see in the comments, veterans loved the love Slater gave to the veteran community. Mahola, Mr. Slater.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Here are 7 foot exercises for a stronger foundation

Twenty-six bones, 33 joints, and over 100 ligaments. That’s not your body we’re talking about — that’s just your feet. It’s an awful lot of moving parts to pack into a foot-long space. Throw on 180 or so pounds on top of that, and then consider that if you exercise, every running step you take multiplies the impact of your weight threefold, and you can see the kind of pressure your delicate foot structure is under day in and day out.

The perks of strengthening your feet are multifaceted. First, strong feet give your legs a durable base to push off from when you’re running, cycling, squatting, or doing whatever it is you like to do to stay fit. Second, strong feet are more resistant to foot pain, one of the most common sources of bodily aches right up there with back pain. Tight arches, sore heels, plantar fasciitis — all of these complaints are met with a physical therapist’s advice to build foot strength. By pre-emptively exercising your digits, you might avoid the pain altogether.

Make sense? Great. Here are 7 exercises to get you started. The whole series takes about 20 minutes and you should do it several times a week.


1. Towel scrunch

Sit in a chair with bare feet. Place a towel on the floor, about two feet in front on the chair. Using the toes on your right foot, extend your digits across the towel, then contract them, scrunching your toes together and pulling the fabric close to your chair. Release the towel and extend your toes against, grabbing more fabric and you scrunch them together. Continue reaching and scrunching until you have created a balled-up towel in front of your chair. Do three times.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

(Photo by Nino Liverani)

2. Arch raises

Sit in a chair, feet flat on the floor in front of you. Place one hand on either knee. Press down with your arms while simultaneously lifting your heels off the floor, resisting the pressure and rising onto your toes. Release. Do 3 sets of 10 reps.

3. Pick-up game

Take the pieces to your favorite board game like Monopoly (chess and checkers work, too), and scatter them on the floor. Sit in a chair in the middle of the mess. Using only your toes, grab, lift, and carry each piece to a nearby bucket where they will be stored. Continue until floor is clean. Bring the kids in on this one — it’s a family favorite.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

(Photo by Alexander Mils)

4. Foot flex

Tie an exercise band around the leg of a couch or bed. Sit on the floor, about two feet from the bed, and tie the other end of the band around your midfoot so that there is pressure on the band. Begin to flex and point your foot, keeping resistance on the band the whole time. Do 20 reps on one foot, then switch sides and repeat. Do three full sets.

5. Calf raises

The same exercise that tones your calves also builds strength and stability in your ankles. You can do these exercises with both feet at once, or one at a time. Stand facing a wall, about a foot away. Placing hands on the wall for balance as needed, rise up onto your toes and back down, making sure you roll up to the very top each time. Do 3 sets of 12 reps.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

(Photo by Clem Onojeghuo)

6. Blind balance

Stand in the middle of a room, feet shoulder-width apart. Shift your weight to the right side and lift your left foot off the floor 6 inches. Close your eyes. Attempt to count to 30 (30 seconds) while balancing with eyes closed. Repeat on opposite side.

7. Alphabet game

Stand next to a wall, feet shoulder-width apart. Shift weight to the right side and lift your left foot in front of you, knee bent. Trying to maintain your balance (use the wall for support if necessary), begin to trace the letters of the alphabet in the air with your left foot. Work from A to Z, then switch sides and repeat.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Watch the best intro to the Army-Navy Game ever made

On Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, CBS will once again present the Army-Navy Game, live, at noon EST. Army and Navy already released the uniforms they’re sporting this year, troops around the world are uploading their spirit videos to join in on the smack talk, and, hopefully, CBS Sports will have another outstanding introduction to the game like the one they made in 2017.


This 2018 matchup is the 119th time Army and Navy will take the field in what many call “The Greatest Rivalry In Sports.” Each side will have its students, alums, and military fans cheering on — both in the stadium in Philadelphia and wherever the U.S. Military operates. But as remarkable as the storied game is, the day is truly all about the cadets and midshipmen who are on the field and in the stands that day. Few things can accurately describe the all-encompassing magnitude of a young person choosing life in a service academy quite like the energy of the Army-Navy Game.

Attending the U.S. Military Academy at West Point or the Naval Academy at Annapolis doesn’t just affect the person who wants to go, who competes with so many others for a coveted spot. It affects everyone in their lives, as it has for generations.

And CBS Sports did an amazing job of describing the power of such a decision.

The entry requirements for both of these service academies are rigid — they won’t take just anyone. A candidate must be between 17 and 23 years old and must not be pregnant or have any dependents. The candidate can’t be married and must be a United States citizen. Beyond that, a candidate must be nominated by an official of the U.S. government, which is a sitting Representative, Senator, or Vice President of the United States.

Beyond an excellent high school record and standardized test scores, the candidate must also be in above average physical condition and must successfully complete a Candidate Fitness Assessment for their desired service academy. Needless to say, candidates aren’t just your average American college-age student before they get in.

And before you start thinking this intro video is a little dramatic, consider the ranks academy graduates will be joining.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

(U.S. Army)

The cadets of West Point and the midshipmen of Annapolis share a lineage with a “who’s who” of American Military History. West Point has graduated names like William Tecumseh Sherman, Ulysses S. Grant, John J. Pershing, George S. Patton, Douglas MacArthur, H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, and even current Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.

Other notable alums include Mike Krzyzewski, current head coach of the Duke Men’s Basketball Team, who has led the Blue Devils to five national championships and even coached the U.S. Men’s Basketball Team in the 2008, 2012, and 2016 Summer Olympics.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

(U.S. Navy)

Midshipmen have their own stunning heritage. Former President Jimmy Carter is a USNA alum who helped pioneer the development of nuclear submarines. Former Arizona Senator John McCain is an alum, along with football great Roger Staubach, Basketball legend David Robinson, billionaire tycoon H. Ross Perot, and the first American in space, Astronaut Alan Shepard.

Along with its distinguished alumni come 21 ambassadors, 24 members of Congress, two Nobel Prize winners, 73 Medal of Honor Recipients, 54 astronauts, and countless scholars.

MIGHTY SPORTS

David Robinson’s meteoric rise from the Naval Academy to the NBA

If you had told David Robinson when he entered the Naval Academy that he would become one of the all-time greats in professional basketball, he probably would have rolled his eyes at you and laughed. But, by the time Robinson’s NBA career was over, that’s exactly what happened. With his dominant 7’1 stature and unprecedented agility for a center, Robinson earned a sure-fire ticket to the Hall of Fame.


Robinson became a two-time NBA champion, NBA MVP, 10-time All-Star, and led the league in scoring, rebounds and blocks several times. He also was a three-time Olympian, winning the gold medal twice, most famously as a member of the 1992 USA Basketball team. The team would go down as the best basketball team of all time, forever remembered as the Dream Team.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

live.staticflickr.com

But the future NBA legend didn’t start playing basketball until his senior year of high school. Born to a career Navy man, Robinson spent his childhood moving around until his father’s retirement. Finally, the family settled in Virginia. By this time, Robinson was a great athlete and pretty tall for his age. He excelled at many sports, but when he tried basketball in junior high, it didn’t go well despite his 5’9 frame at such a young age. By the time he was a senior in high school, he had blossomed to 6’6 and decided to try again.

It turned out he was pretty decent. He was the star player on the team and was named an all-district player. But that wasn’t enough to get much attention from college scouts, so while he was a late bloomer in basketball, it looked like it wouldn’t lead anywhere.

Robinson likely didn’t mind and had his sights set on a better prize. He had worked really hard on his academics and wanted to fulfill his dream of being a Naval Officer. He applied and was accepted into the United States Naval Academy in 1983 with hopes he would become a career officer. Robinson was recruited to play basketball there by Coach Paul Evans. Evans had seen Robinson and figured he would be a great back up to the team he had steadily built over the years.

After his acceptance, however, Robinson had a small growth spurt. He grew to 6’7 and that put him over the maximum height for the Academy. But the Navy quickly granted a waiver as he wasn’t even the biggest player on the team and figured he wouldn’t grow anymore.

They were wrong.

His freshman year, Robinson played as a backup but then had the mother of all growth spurts between his first and second year, taking him from 6’7 to 7’0. While growing, he kept his lithe athleticism, which turned him from a backup winger to a very versatile center. His sophomore year, he became one of the most dominant centers in college basketball and a true national star.

At the same time, he was drawing attention from the media and NBA scouts, and questions started to arise as to whether or not an NBA team would draft him in two years. He was a Midshipman and had a five-year commitment to the Navy after graduating. Robinson wanted to honor that commitment and had said he had no problem serving out his commitment as that is what he knowingly signed up for.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

But it turned out that awesome growth spurt that gave birth to his basketball superstardom also was about to limit his Naval Career.

Robinson already had a waiver to get into the Navy at 6’7, but now being a seven-footer, he was not allowed to be an unrestricted line officer. He would never command a ship and would be relegated to shore duty because of his height.

In the meantime, the Academy was getting significant media attention and scouts were trying to get as much information about Robinson as possible. He would be eligible for the draft in two years, but would a team have to wait five more years to see him play? Would any team want to draft a player in 1987 and have the only uniform he would wear until 1992 be a military uniform?

The Navy itself looked at Robinson’s situation as well and realized the predicament. Yes, he signed up for a five-year commitment, but at the time, he was still eligible to be an unrestricted line officer. But now that that plan was scrapped, they also realized that Robinson could have another growth spurt and be disqualified from the Navy in general. Could they really benefit by having a Naval Academy Midshipman not be a first-round draft pick?

At the time this was happening, the Navy had some great PR. They had another graduate, Napoleon McCallum, who was drafted by a USFL team and would spend his weekend playing for the Raiders and then the Rams. They were also about to benefit from a movie that was about to come out about Naval Aviators that featured a young star named Tom Cruise, awesome action sequences and an amazing soundtrack.

Being in his sophomore year, Robinson could have selected to leave the Academy, transfer to another school, sit out a year and play a final year putting him in the league in 1988. Would he really wait until 1992? Would he want to pursue the Navy that would restrict him from advancing in rank while missing out on millions of dollars?

The Navy didn’t want to lose Robinson and decided to take steps to keep him at the Academy and have him serve while still protecting his future basketball career.

The discussion went all the way up to Secretary of the Navy John Lehman, who figured in the best interest of the Navy, Robinson would serve as a Naval Reserve Officer. After graduating, he would serve two years on active duty and then be allowed to go play basketball. During those two years, however, Robinson would be allowed to play in international competitions. (The Navy wanted Robinson on the 1988 Olympic team.)

Robinson agreed and played the next two years at the Academy, taking the Midshipmen to the Elite 8 one year. He became the dominant center in basketball his senior year and was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs. Robinson spent two years stationed at Naval Submarine Base, Kings Bay, in Georgia. He worked as an engineering officer, worked out relentlessly to keep his basketball skills honed and ended up making that Olympic team. (In an ironic twist, that U.S. team lost which partly spurned officials to create an Olympic team with NBA stars in 1992. This would become the legendary Dream Team Robinson was a part of). Robinson was also the de facto poster boy for Navy recruitment as they took the opportunity to plaster his image on every promotional asset they could.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

Robinson joined the Spurs in 1989 and never looked back. He was a legend at center, won gold in Barcelona with the Dream Team and won two NBA titles. He also was a devoted philanthropist and man of faith; so much so that in 2003 the NBA gave recipients of its Community Assist award the David Robinson plaque.

Robinson started the Carver Academy in 2001, which helps inner-city kids reach new heights in education. In 2012, it became a public charter school with Robinson doing the lion share of donating and fundraising while taking an active day-to-day role in the school’s operations.

It’s amazing to think how a growth spurt could change someone’s life so much and impact millions of others as well.

MIGHTY SPORTS

How this one-handed Seahawk proves anything is possible

Seattle Seahawks linebacker Shaquem Griffin was born with amniotic band syndrome, a fetal congenital disorder that affected his left hand in utero. By age four, he was in so much pain he wanted to cut the appendage off himself. He did have the hand amputated – but still grew up doing everything a young boy from Florida would do, including playing football.

But Griffin didn’t just play football, he excelled at it. He and his brother played football together their whole lives, including at the University of Central Florida, where Shaquem was named 2016 American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year and the 2018 Peach Bowl MVP. The league watched as the talented one-handed linebacker went up for the 2018 NFL Draft – and was picked up in the third round.

One-handed athletes everywhere rejoiced.


It’s not a PR stunt. The one-handed Griffin is a talented back, and his missing hand doesn’t cause him to miss a beat. In the NFL combine, he performed 20 reps on the bench press wearing a prosthesis and ran the fastest 40-yard dash for a linebacker since the NFL started tracking the numbers.

When the Seahawks drafted him, he signed a four-year deal worth .8 million.

The spotlight on Griffin was almost unbearable but, luckily for him, his brother Shaquill is still playing right along with him, playing cornerback for Seattle. While the team itself may not have the record they hoped for, the two brothers are having quite a season themselves, and Shaquem is an inspiration for everyone who might have been told they couldn’t do the same.

The six-foot, 227-pound rookie linebacker is now a shining example for not only children with a similar issue, but anyone missing an appendage or anyone in a circumstance that might otherwise keep them from competing at the highest levels.

The boy in the video is 11-year-old Daniel Carrillo, a California boy who was born without his right hand, a result of the same affliction Shaquem Griffin had when was born. He cried tears of joy as he opened his gift in time for the Seahawks play the 49ers on Dec. 2, 2018. Carillo is a junior Spartan, and wants to play high school football to be a Spartan. He wants to then go on to Michigan State – the Spartans – to play. He has NFL dreams, of first being a player and then a coach. Now he knows it’s possible.

Carillo knows he’s going to the 49ers-Seahawks game. What he doesn’t know is that he’s going to meet Shaquem Griffin – on the field.

Who says athletes can’t be heroes anymore?

MIGHTY SPORTS

How West Point football games recruit soldiers

Each week during the season, Army West Point Football players wear a decal on the back of their helmet honoring an Army division the current cadets may one day serve with.

During Aug. 30, 2019’s season opener against Rice, the team honored the soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division with the red, white, and blue AA decal proudly displayed on the back of their helmets along with the American flag.

The commanding general and command sergeant major of the 82nd Airborne Division attended the game, the division’s chorus performed before the review parade and has become the norm over the last couple years soldiers from the division who are eligible to attend the U.S. Military Academy were invited to visit for the game.


This season marks the third year of the Soldier Visit Program where five to 10 West Point eligible soldiers from the honored division for home games are invited to attend the game and learn more about West Point.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division pose for a photo with their host cadets from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point after the Army vs. Rice football game at Michie Stadium Aug. 30, 2019, at West Point, N.Y.

(Photo by Cadet Samuel Wehrli)

The visits are structured much in the same way as an official visit for an athlete being recruited by one of West Point’s corps squad teams. The soldiers arrive the Thursday before the game and are paired with a prior-service cadet currently attending West Point who hosts them for the weekend. The soldiers stay in the barracks with their host cadet, attend classes and eat in the cadet mess hall.

They are also given a tour of both West Point and the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School and the chance to meet with leadership from both West Point and USMAPS.

They then attend the football game with the corps of cadets and are honored along with division leadership on the field during a break in the game.

The goal of the program is to introduce eligible soldiers, meaning those who are under 23 years old, unmarried and have no dependents, to the possibility of applying to attend West Point.

“I go out to the Army a lot and I’ll talk to command sergeant majors or sergeant first classes who are senior noncommissioned officers and they’ll be like, ‘I had no idea that West Point was an option as a soldier.’ It blows my mind,” Capt. David Mason, the soldiers regional commander and founder of the Soldier Visit Program, said.

As part of each year’s incoming class, West Point has available slots for 85 current active duty soldiers and 85 Reserve/National Guard soldiers. Typically, the full allotment of Reserve/National Guard soldiers are admitted, but less than 50 of the spots for active duty soldiers are filled, Mason said. There are also additional spots available for soldiers to attend the prep school for a year.

According to Capt. Brian Gaudette, an officer in the West Point Directorate of Admissions, on average 53% of prior service applicants are admitted to the academy, a much higher percentage than applicants coming directly from high school.

“They see it as more attainable,” Mason said of the soldiers’ reactions after visiting for a football game. “They learn more about USMAPS because people have this pie in the sky view of what a West Point cadet is, and that it is the all-star captain of the football team, and they’re on all-state and they do all these things. They don’t see themselves as that mold. I think it definitely opens their eyes.”

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division talk to Command Sgt. Maj. Jack Love, West Point senior enlisted leader during their visit before the Army vs. Rice football game Aug. 30, 2019, at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.

(Photo by Robert Luna)

Once the soldiers return to their division, even if they don’t end up applying to West Point, the academy still gains a benefit from them telling their friends about the program and spreading the word that West Point is an option for soldiers on active duty.

Pfc. Abdiel Leon was one of 10 soldiers from the 82nd airborne Division to visit for the Rice game. Prior to being invited on the trip, he said he had heard of the prior-service program at West Point but knew next to nothing about it. In the month since being invited, and even before arriving at West Point for the visit, he’d done enough research to compel him to go ahead and apply to the academy.

“So far, after seeing all the things that I saw and all the good opportunities and the things I could do here, I’m definitely going to go through and finish that application,” Leon said. “I never even thought about West Point. I never even thought that I would be given the opportunity. So, now that I was given the opportunity just to even come here, it has definitely changed my mind a lot.”

During the trip, the 82nd Airborne Division soldiers had the chance to spend time with prior-service cadets, meet with Command Sgt. Maj. Jack Love, the senior enlisted Leader at West Point, and attend a spirit dinner in the cadet mess hall along with going to the season opener for the Black Knights.

“I plan on staying in the Army for 20 years, and there’s no better place to try to stay in than USMA,” Sgt. Levi Aslani said of why he is interested in West Point. “The connections you make here, the opportunities you make, or are given to you, no other place compares.”

Aslani applied to West Point for the Class of 2023 and after not getting in on his first try he is taking this year to improve his application with the hope of being accepted to the prep school for the next academic year. After visiting West Point for the first time, he said his desire to attend West Point has only increased.

“I paired up with a prior service E-5 as well,” Aslani said. “He was in the boat of either staying enlisted or being an officer and he chose the officer route and he’s really reaping the benefits from it.”

The visits are a chance for the soldiers to meet with current cadets who have taken the same path as them and ask questions they couldn’t get answered elsewhere. After being invited to take part in the visit, Pfc. Mackenzie Hochstetler said she talked with officers who are West Point graduates to learn more about the academy. But it was not until she arrived at the academy that she has come to realize why it is special.

“It’s definitely a place that you see a lot of competitiveness,” Hochstetler said. “A lot of times, you don’t really see that in the regular Army, but everyone wants to be the best. I think that’s a really cool atmosphere. I think that’s really important, especially being at West Point and that reputation of being a West Point grad, I kind of understand it now. Because it’s a pretty big deal. It’s pretty prestigious.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

That time the Panthers ran a play from ‘Little Giants’

In 2011, the Carolina Panthers were up 14-0 against the Houston Texans. With time running out in the first half, Carolina ran a trick play that saw quarterback Cam Newton secretly slip the ball between the legs of tight end Richie Brockel after quickly taking the snap. Brockel ran the ball in for another touchdown and the Panthers would win the game, 28-13.

After the game, reporters wanted to know where head coach Ron Rivera drew inspiration for the play. The answer was the movie, Little Giants.


The play even has a name – “The Annexation of Puerto Rico” – and it was devised by the tiny computer nerd, “Nubie,” who explained it to John Madden as a slow fake play with the quarterback running to one side of the field and a tailback picking up the ball and swinging around the opposite way.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

“The Annexation of Puerto Rico” from the 1994 movie “Little Giants”

The play in Little Giants sounds a lot like the legendary trick play, the fumblerooski, where the hidden ball is purposely set down by the QB who then distracts the opposing team by running with the “ball” or “handing it off” to another player. Then, another player, usually a player no one would suspect, like a lineman, picks it up, and runs it home.

It might literally be the oldest trick in the book, which is what might have attracted Ron Rivera to the “Annexation of Puerto Rico” in the first place.

For the Carolina Panthers, they couldn’t purposely forward fumble the ball, that’s illegal in the NFL. And they still had to fool the Texans defenders. So Cam Newton takes the quick snap and most of the Carolina players continue the play as if it’s moving to the right, while others make key blocks to keep the way clear for Brockel.

Who says real life is nothing like the movies?

Actor Ed O’Neill played Kevin O’Shea, the coach of the Little Giants’ number one enemy: the Cowboys. During an interview with NFL analyst Rich Eisen, Eisen told O’Neill the play had actually been used by an NFL team. O’Neill is an avid football fan and former NFL player who was a linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers before being cut by the team in 1969.

He had no idea. His response (with a smile): “You gotta be kidding me.”

MIGHTY SPORTS

Blind Army vet inspires as Summer Sports ambassador

“It was a long walk into darkness … “

That’s how Chuck Miller describes his maddening descent into blindness — something he refused to accept as his world slipped away, little by little.

The Army veteran, who gets care at the Gainesville VA Medical Center, is the first blind veteran sailor certified by the American Sailing Association. He’s also an ambassador at the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic, where he connects with others to help them adjust to different disabilities.

The clinic brings blind, amputee and paralyzed veterans, and those living with post-traumatic stress, to San Diego, Calif., Sept. 15 to 20, for adaptive surfing, sailing, cycling and kayaking.


“One of the most difficult things about being disabled is acceptance. That to me is one of the biggest struggles veterans have…”

Miller stops and cries for a moment.

“You know, something significant changes in their lives and they try to ignore it. That’s what I did. I was a proud soldier. Being a soldier was everything to me.”

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

Chuck Miller, a totally blind Army Veteran, has been an ambassador at the Summer Sports Clinic the last three years.

Going blind

Miller, a single dad with full custody of his son, was first diagnosed with spots on his retina in 1984.

“They just said, ‘You have something wrong with your eyes. They weren’t sure,” he said.

In 1990, his doctor diagnosed him with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a rare, genetic disorder that breaks down cells and creates scar tissue on the retinas.

“The retinas become so damaged, they’re basically dead,” Miller said. “The only problem I was having was night vision problems and some depth perception. It was difficult to accept. It went on for another 15 years and wasn’t at the point I couldn’t function. I was still driving, still doing normal work. It didn’t register at the time. I just thought, ‘Well, I got an eye problem.'”

By 2005, a doctor leveled with him. “You need to quit driving. You’re going to kill somebody if you don’t.”

“I still didn’t listen until I T-boned somebody in my car,” Miller said.

By 2009, he was blind, only seeing light but nothing else.

“I remember when I realized I was going blind, how terrified I was,” he said. “Just like every veteran, I went through a dark period. I drank, I did drugs, I wanted to kill myself. Thought I’m not worthy as a father, which is one of the most important things in my life. I literally pushed every single person away from me. I lost every friend I had as a sighted person.”

Fighting rehabilitation

Miller’s turning point came when he went to the Blind Rehabilitation Center at the Birmingham VA Medical Center.

“Don’t leave,” he told his friend who drove him there. “I’m not staying. I’m going back home. It’s not for me.”

His friend left anyway.

“That’s where you have to learn to be that disability,” he said. “You have to face it. That’s when you have to say, ‘Damn, I’m blind,’ or, “Damn, I’m this,’ or whatever,” Miller said.

He fought against instructors and struggled to learn skills needed to live in his sightless world. Instructors paired him with a roommate who was blinded at 18 in Vietnam, in hopes he could learn to accept it.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

Chuck Miller chats with James Byrne, the deputy secretary of VA, while sailing with him at the Summer Sports Clinic.

“I was pretty angry,” Miller said. “The first couple of days, he’d lay in his bed, and he’d pray out loud to God, thanking him for his day, thanking God for being blind, and I’m thinking, ‘What the hell is wrong with you? How could you be so thankful for being disabled?'”

“Man, this is a gift, you just don’t know it yet,” his roommate said. “I get to see things different. I get to see how people are on the inside.”

Miller remembers one day in class, trying in frustration to put together a leather belt kit. The next day, his instructor gave him glasses that blocked out light.

“And I put that thing together in less than an hour,” he said. “I started to see through my fingers.”

Miller gave in, and his world without sight came into focus.

“They start taking me places. Up and down stairs, escalators, crossing four-lane roads. Before that, I wouldn’t go out without holding onto anybody. I learned braille. Found out I’m a natural. I’m sick, I actually took algebra in braille.”

Summer Sports Clinic

He put on a brave face at his first Summer Sports Clinic in 2015.

“I was talking all kinds of junk, but inside I was afraid,” he said. “It’s easy to picture doing this stuff in your mind, but doing it is scary. My first day was surfing, and I was pretty scared to go out there. I don’t know where the beach is at, I can’t see the water. At the end of the day, I was the last one out. I start thinking, ‘This is pretty freaking cool!’

“I had never sailed before in my life. You’re overwhelmed in that first year because there’s so much to take in, but from there I did a five-day sailing clinic in St. Petersburg, Florida, and they put me on a boat with a paraplegic in a wheelchair and a coach. And I’m thinking, ‘We’re screwed.’ But it’s all about exposure.”

Miller fell in love with sailing so much he got his American Sailing Certification with a score of 95 out of 100. He sails with a sighted coach, but does the work himself — untying ropes, hoisting the mast, trimming the sail to catch the wind, and steering.

“When I’m on the water,” he said, “I feel the wind blowing, the birds, the sounds of the ocean, the sun on my face. I enjoy it in a way that a sighted person can’t experience.”

Cory Kapes, who runs Warrior Sail at the clinic, said Miller sets the example. Kapes even let him steer the boat as he came into shore one day, where other boats were only 20 feet away.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

Chuck Miller talks to a class of new sailing participants at this year’s Summer Sports Clinic.

“If these people knew I was blind, they’d have a heart attack,” Miller said.

“Just keep smiling and waving,” Kapes said with a laugh.

“It just shows you the impact this clinic can have,” Kapes said. “He never sailed a boat before he came here. He brought it home. That’s what we want other vets to do — bring it home, go kayaking, be committed, make it part of your active lifestyle.”

Ambassador

For the last three years as an ambassador, Miller traveled from Florida to San Diego by himself. When needed, he has a special pair of glasses with a built-in camera that connects him to a live agent to help him navigate. But more often than not, he uses his blind guiding cane.

Most veterans find Miller by his bright pink, volunteer T-shirt, cutting up and telling jokes.

“Hey nice to see you! Well, not really, but you get the idea … ” he tells one veteran.

“I’m Blind Chuck! Would it help if I take off my glasses?” he tells another. “Look, I take off my glasses, I don’t look blind. I put the glasses on, blind! I can look at you, but you know I can’t see you, right?”

He took the deputy secretary of Veterans Affairs on the water, making jokes and cutting up about everyone’s military branch while sailing.

Fellow veteran Michelle Marie Smith, who gets her care at the Sacramento VA, said listening to Miller at the sailing class was a highlight.

“Oh yeah,” she said. “It definitely puts everything in perspective. If I had any doubt, I don’t after listening to him.”

Miller said that’s what it’s all about.

“What I’ve learned from this clinic here – and this is important for veterans to understand – not only can you do things as a disabled person, get to know these volunteers, therapists and team leaders. The only thing they care about is teaching you how to do these sports. They want you to succeed and you just have to trust them.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

First Army goes back to basics to prepare for the ACFT

The upcoming Army Combat Fitness Test is intended to improve soldier readiness, transform the Army’s fitness culture, reduce preventable injuries, and enhance mental toughness and stamina.

But the new test leaves one question: How do soldiers train safely?

First Sgt. Daniel Ramirez, the first sergeant for Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, First Army, answered this question for his soldiers by partnering with a local functional fitness gym. He and fifteen other soldiers of the Detachment recently attended a four-day, in-depth class at Foundation in East Moline, Illinois on proper techniques for lifting, squatting, and other exercises essential to safe completion of the ACFT. The goal of the workshop was to “Train the Trainer,” enabling First Army personnel to be subject-matter experts in advising their teammates on safe and efficient methods of exercise.


“We want to get everyone on the same page technique-wise so we can prevent injuries,” said Ramirez. The Foundation coaches, Ramirez said, were ideal instructors, due to their knowledge and experience.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

Soldiers of First Army practice lifting techniques and proper lifting posture at Foundation in East Moline, Illinois.

(US Army)

Command Sgt. Maj. Todd Sims, Command Sgt. Maj. First Army, also attended the training. He agreed with the idea of partnering with fitness professionals to learn the fundamentals.

“It’s crucial to have a better understanding of what we are asking our soldiers to do,” explained Sims. “By working with professionals in this, it’s only going to build our knowledge base when we go back and train the rest of the team.”

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

Brandon Bartz, Co-Owner of Foundation in East Moline, Illinois, observes Soldiers of First Army practicing their technique that will be used during the standing power throw of the Army Combat Fitness test.

(US Army)

Brandon Bartz and Josiah Lorentzen, owners of the Foundation, instructed the soldiers in the proper exercise techniques.

“We just want to help the soldiers get ready for the new test,” explained Bartz. “We just want all of you to be able to train effectively and safely.”

In addition to developing First Army’s philosophy as a team of Fit Army Professionals and preparing for the fitness test, the event also strengthened ties to the local community and the Rock Island Arsenal.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

Josiah Lorentzen and Brandon Bartz, Owners of Foundation, in East Moline, Illinois, demonstrate the proper dead lift technique to First Army Soldiers.

(US Army)

“It’s awesome to work these soldiers, said Lorentzen. “They are close to home, so we love getting to work with them whenever we can.”

The Army Combat Fitness Test becomes an official for record test staring in October of 2020.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Team gets kicked out of Military World Games for ‘extensive cheating’

A Chinese team got kicked out of the Military World Games in China after accusations of “extensive cheating” from six European nations.

On Oct. 21, 2019, China took gold, silver, and fourth place in the women’s Middle Distance orienteering challenge in Wuhan, as well as silver in the men’s event.

But their celebrations were short-lived.

“The Middle Distance competition was unfortunately overshadowed by extensive cheating by the Chinese team,” the International Orienteering Federation (IOF) said in a press release.


The IOF said it was “discovered and proven” that Chinese runners “received illegal assistance both by spectators in the terrain, markings, and small paths prepared for them and which only they were aware of.”

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

The U.S. Armed Forces Sports team marches during opening ceremonies for the 2019 CISM Military World Games in Wuhan, China Oct. 18, 2019.

(DoD photo by EJ Hersom)

The national teams of Russia, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Poland, and Austria submitted a formal complaint, and the jury disqualified everyone in the home orienteering team.

Business Insider contacted The People’s Liberation Army and China’s Ministry of Defense for comment, but is yet to receive a response.

The IOF said it rejected an appeal from China.

Athletes from Russia’s military were then awarded gold in both the men’s and women’s event.

Orienteering is a foot race involving small teams, who use a compass and map to navigate a path through complex terrain to a finish line.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

The logo and mascot for the 2019 Military World Games in Wuhan, China.

(YouTube/CISM)

The Military World Games are an annual event which see several armed forces compete in a variety of summer and winter sports.

This year’s event ran from Oct. 18 to Oct. 27, 2019, and was opened with a ceremony attended by Chinese president Xi Jinping.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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