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

Black Knights use Army-Navy uniform to tell story of division

When the players on the Army West Point football team take the field, they do so for more than themselves.

They represent the U.S. Military Academy and the generations of graduates who make up the Long Gray Line. They play for the U.S. Army and those who have fought and died protecting America. And each week during the season, they play for a particular division of the Army and the soldiers currently serving and who have served in it.

For most of the regular season, the division is honored by a patch on the back of the players’ helmets. But for the past three years during the Army-Navy Game, the Black Knights have honored one of the Army’s divisions by wearing an entire uniform telling the division’s story.


The new uniform tradition started with a design telling the story of the 82nd Airborne Division. So far, the 10th Mountain Division and 1st Infantry Division have also been honored.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

This year, Army will take the field in honor of the 1st Cavalry Division and tell the story of the soldiers’ role in the Vietnam War as America’s first airmobility division.

(Danny Wild, USA Today)

This year, Army will take the field in honor of the 1st Cavalry Division and tell the story of the soldiers’ role in the Vietnam War as America’s first airmobility division.

The 1st Cav’s role as the honored division was kept secret until the uniform was unveiled Dec. 5, 2019, in front of the assembled Corps of Cadets, but the process of designing the uniform for the game each year is an 18-month collaboration between Nike and West Point’s Department of History.

The cycle of divisions is decided three to four years in advance by West Point’s Athletic Department, and each design process starts about a year and a half out from the game. This year’s uniform hasn’t been unveiled yet, but most of the work is already done on 2020’s uniform and the process for 2021 will start to ramp up in the near future.

After the division is selected, step one of the process is determining the timeline that will be honored. For the 82nd Airborne it was World War II and for the 1st Infantry Division they highlighted World War I for the 100th anniversary of the signing of the armistice.

Then, Nike’s designer in partnership with the USMA history department starts doing research and crafting the story the uniform will tell.

“It is almost like a method actor preparing for a role,” Kristy Lauzonis, senior graphic designer for Nike college football uniforms, said. “I just go as deep as humanly possible with the research. I order books, read everything I can under the sun and then that is when I start hitting the history department back with all kinds of crazy questions.”

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

In 2017 Army represented the 10th Mountain Division with its Army Navy uniform.

(Photo by Cadet Henry Guerra)

With help from the Department of History, Lauzonis goes through photos and artifacts of the unit from the chosen timeline and starts working to craft a uniform that will authentically tell the story of the unit. Some elements are predetermined by NCAA rules such as whether the uniform is light or dark depending on if Army is home or away, but everything from colors of elements to fonts are built from scratch in order to make them historically accurate.

On the first uniform, the flag on the players’ shoulder may have looked backward to a casual observer, but it was placed the way it was worn in World War II. On the 10th Mountain Uniform, the popular Pando Commando logo wasn’t something created by Nike, but was instead a little used logo found during the research process. On last year’s uniforms, the Black Lions were to tell the story of the 28th Infantry Regiment and the first major combat for American forces in World War I.

“I think one of the great things about being authentic to history is you will have those moments like where you’ve done something where it is 100% authentic and people aren’t aware of it,” Lauzonis said. “That is that bonus element where everyone is saying the flag is backward and we are able to say it pre-existed flag code and this is exactly how it was worn on the uniform and we purposely did it that way. It is not just a company woops we flipped the flag the wrong way. We are never going to do that.”

Throughout the entire process, the USMA history department is fact checking elements on the uniform and making sure they accurately represent the division’s history and the timeline being depicted. That includes checking colors such as the red used in last year’s Big Red One on the helmet and making sure each insignia used is authentic and historically accurate.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

In 2016 the Black Knights honored the 82nd Airborne Division.

(US Army photo)

“We provide historical context and then of course, the Nike designers are amazing,” Steve Waddell, an assistant professor in the Department of History, said. “They’ve got to kind of translate a historical idea concept to actually make it work on a real uniform and have the color contrasts and everything work … I’m a World War II historian and we did the 82nd Airborne for the first one. It’s just exciting that they’re tying the sport of football to military history and military history is always popular.”

Along with assisting in the uniform design, the USMA history department helps tell the story of the uniform and the division through the athletic department’s microsite, which is created as part of the unveil each year.

There the elements of the uniform are explained, and the story of the division is told in detail.

“The Army’s business is people,” Capt. Alexander Humes, an instructor in the Department of History, said. “That’s why it’s also important to tell the story of this unit and the people that were part of this unit and to take this as an opportunity to do that. This presents the Army a great opportunity in something as highly visible as the Army-Navy Game to be able to tell its story to the American public.”

This year’s uniform pulls elements from the 1st Cav’s Vietnam War era uniforms and the pants were designed to resemble the motif of the UH-1 “Hueys” the soldiers flew during the war.

“I hope that for the folks that are in or have a relationship to the unit, that they feel like their story is being told authentically,” Lauzonis said of her goal when designing the uniform each year. “That they feel like they now have something they can wear with pride and that we’ve done right by them with the storytelling.”

The annual rivalry game against the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis will take place Dec. 14, 2019, in Philadelphia.

MIGHTY SPORTS

How to ‘warm-up’ like a pro

Warming up is an essential phase of your workout, and there are three phases to an effective warm-up. Let’s jump right in:


Phase One: Shift your PH

Time commitment: Five minutes

Our bodies are slightly alkaline with a PH of around 7.3 to 7.4. The function of the warm-up is to shift your body to a more acidic state, which improves muscle efficacy and reduces risk of injury. It’s preferable to use movement patterns similar to ones you will be doing during your workout.

Example: Rowing for five minutes is optimal on both “pull days” and “squat days” due to the specific pull and squat range of motion.

By the end of phase one, your body should be producing some sweat and your heart rate should be elevated to over 100 beats per minute.

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Phase Two: Address sticky joints (Stretch)

Time commitment: Two to 10 minutes

There are a few different types of stretching. For brevity’s sake, let’s reduce them to two: static and dynamic. Static stretching is likely what you learned in high school gym class and involves holding a position for 15 seconds to one minute (think touching your toes and holding before doing a leg workout). This type of stretching prior to dynamic movements (running, jumping, weight lifting, and just about every kind of exercise) is dangerous. Don’t do it.

Your muscles and joints will not be static during your workout, so they should not be static during your warm-up. Instead, try the worm walk.

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This movement not only prepares the specific joints and muscles for what’s to come, it maintains the athlete’s elevated heart rate and PH level.

Dynamic stretching allows the athlete (that’s you) to effectively and gradually move joints through the range of motion they are about to demand from their body while under load.

*The most extreme version of this is ballistic (or bouncing) stretching, which should be reserved for athletes with extensive experience.

Phase three: Pre-set

Time commitment: Three to 10 minutes

Simply do the movement you plan on doing but with less weight.

Example: If today is your squat day, do three sets of 15 to 25 squats with just your body (commonly referred to as air squats). Listen to your body; if your joints still feel tight, do 30 to 60 seconds of walking lunges before approaching the barbell.

Continue this phase by loading the bar to roughly half of the load you plan to lift in your main set. Complete three to eight repetitions. Increase the amount of weight by roughly 10 percent until you arrive at your desired set weight.

Every body is different. By spending 15 minutes preparing your body for the strenuous movements to come, it will be more capable of performing at peak levels. The desired physiological adaptations occur when an athlete operates at those levels, whatever they may be specific to their current level of fitness.

Remember: An effective warm-up should always be specific to the nature of your day’s training.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Avoid ‘cramping’ your running style with these Army expert tips

It may not make for polite conversation, but most runners at one time or another have dealt with unpleasant intestinal rumblings, sometimes called runner’s stomach, or faced other gastrointestinal running emergencies while running recreationally or competitively. The Army Public Health Center’s resident nutrition experts offer a few strategies to help runners avoid unfortunate GI issues.

“It is difficult to connect the cause and effect of this unfortunate situation, but some plausible culprits are dehydration and heat exposure,” said Joanna Reagan, registered dietitian at the Army Public Health Center. “Contributing factors likely include the physical jostling of the organs, decreased blood flow to the intestines, changes in intestinal hormone secretion, increased amount or introduction of a new food, and pre-race anxiety and stress.”

Reagan offers a few suggestions to help runners avoid runner’s stomach while running or training.


“If you have problems with gas, bloating or occasional diarrhea, then limit high fiber foods the day before you race,” said Reagan. “Intestinal bacteria produces gas and it breaks down on fibrous foods. So avoid foods such as beans, whole grains, broccoli or other cruciferous vegetables. Lactose intolerance may also be something to consider, so avoid dairy products, but yogurt or kefir are usually tolerated.”

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kissta DiGregorio, 82nd Airborne Division Public Affairs)

APHC Nutrition Lead Army Maj. Tamara Osgood recommends avoiding sweeteners and sugar alcohols, which can cause a ‘laxative effect’ and are commonly found in sugar free gum and candies.

“Also, limit alcohol before run days, and try to eat at least 60-90 minutes before a run or consume smaller more frequent meals on long run days,” said Osgood.

So broccoli and cauliflower are out. Are there any “good” foods to eat before a planned run?

“In the morning the stress hormone, cortisol, is high,” said Reagan. “To change the body from a muscle-breakdown mode to a muscle building mode eat a small breakfast or snack of 200 to 400 calories within an hour of the event. This depends on your personal tolerance and type of activity.”

Reagan says some quick food choices are two slices of toast, a bagel or English muffin with peanut butter; banana (with peanut butter); oatmeal, a smoothie, Fig Newtons, or granola bar.

“These food choices will also help provide energy and prevent low blood glucose levels,” said Reagan.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

(DoD photo by Benjamin Faske)

Although energy bars and gels are popular, runners who haven’t trained with these products may experience diarrhea because of the carbohydrate concentration, said Reagan. A carbohydrate content of more than 10 percent can irritate the stomach. Sport-specific drinks are formulated to be in the optimal range of 5 to 8 percent carbohydrate, and are usually safe for consumption leading up to and during a long run.

Reagan advises staying well hydrated before and during the run and consider getting up earlier than usual to give the GI tract time to “wake up” before the race. For those in race “urges” it’s wise to know the race route and where the portable restrooms are located.

Osgood says runners should train like they race to learn how their bodies tolerate different foods.

“Training is the time to understand how your body tolerates the types of food or hydration you are fueling with,” said Osgood. “Everyone is different when it comes to long runs regarding the type of foods or best timing to eat for you to avoid GI intolerance. Find out what works for you while you train.”

Osgood also recommends refueling following the run. Most studies suggest 3:1 or 4:1 carbohydrate-to-protein ratio within 30 minutes post run.

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

MIGHTY SPORTS

This Steeler went to four Super Bowls after being wounded in Vietnam

Rocky Bleier was unique among Americans in the late 1960s. He was drafted – twice. In the same year. First, the Notre Dame running back was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Then, the college graduate was drafted by the U.S. Army to head to Vietnam. And he did. Unlike many athletes at the time, the 1-A draftee was not put in reserves, so he put his NFL career on hold to answer the country’s call to arms.


Unfortunately for the Steelers, Bleier was sent to combat duty in southeast Asia after leaving basic training in 1969. He joined well over half a million American troops there, more than 11,000 of which would die in combat. Rocky Bleier was not one of those men but he came very, very close.

“There were a handful of players who had been drafted in their career, and I got drafted in the latter part of the year,” He told Fox Sports. “Next thing I knew, I was in basic training and my world had kind of been turned upside down. Then, eventually, I found myself in Vietnam, like all replacement soldiers at the time –€ shipped over because they needed bodies.”

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

Bleier arrived in Vietnam in May, 1969, a mortarman with the U.S. Army’s 196th Light Infantry Brigade. His company was in an area called LZ Siberia near Hiep Duc. One day, in August, 1969, his unit got word that their sister company was ambushed by an entire regiment of North Vietnamese Army regulars. Bleier’s Charlie Company was sent in to help Bravo Company.

But the moment they arrived in the area, they had to extract. It was a bloody mess. Charlie company had to carry out the dead and wounded bodies of Bravo Company, and as they did, they were ambushed themselves. Bleier and his fellow soldiers had to go. Two days later, they would have to come back for those bodies.

They were ambushed again.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

“Obviously, we knew there was some enemy in the area, and we had just taken a break early in the morning and were moving out on an open rice paddy,” Bleier said. “So we’re moving out into that open rice paddy and all of a sudden we kind of ran into, accidentally, enemy soldiers. Our point man got excited and opened up fire, and then they started to run. We started to chase them, the machine gun leveled the area, and now we’re in a firefight in open rice paddies and that’s when I got hit the first time.”

Bleier was wounded in the thigh in that action; the bullet tore through his body. It felt like a punch to the leg and the Pittsburgh running back wasn’t sure if he could run. Or walk. Or even crawl. Somehow, he tied gauze around the wound and made it back to his commanding officer.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

But that was far from safety. As the day wore on, the NVA were able to advance on the Americans. The communist troops were able to get a grenade into the position Bleier and his CO occupied.

“It hit my commanding officer, who I was lying next to,” Bleier said. “It bounced off his back and rolled between my legs, and by the time I jumped to get up, it blew up. I was standing on top of it and it blew up on my right foot, knee and thigh and my commanding officer caught a lot of that shrapnel as well.”

it was during that exchange that the North Vietnamese troops suddenly retreated from the battlefield. No one is quite sure why, but the Americans suspected the NVA field commander had been killed or wounded. It was dark by then, the two sides had been fighting almost the entire day. With the break in fighting, Bleier’s unit decided to leave. It took them hours to get to their landing zone.

Bleier suffered from a bullet wound in the thigh, shrapnel wounds in both legs, and a torn-up right foot. Doctors removed 100 pieces of shrapnel from him throughout several procedures, each a threat to his football career. Doctors told him he would never play again. The future Steeler set out to prove them wrong.

And the NFL and the Pittsburgh Steelers were going to help.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

Bleier was placed on Injured Reserve for the 1970 NFL season and on waivers for the 1971 season, where he went unclaimed. By 1972, he was good enough to make the team again. He had few touches on the ball before the 1974 season, where he helped take the Steelers to the first of his four Super Bowls.

After doctors told him he would never again have the flexibility and strength to perform at an NFL level, Bleier ran for 3,826 yards on 922 carries, scoring 23 rushing touchdowns. On top of that, he also caught 133 passes for 1,226 yards and two touchdowns.

“I was one of a few Vietnam veterans that our fellow soldiers could identify with and say, ‘Hey, he’s one of ours, and God bless him,'” Bleier later said. “I was telling the story and giving a different image than one of baby-killers or derelicts or post traumatic stress or unemployment or homelessness. It was that kind of image that needed to be changed and I got to be a part of that, of changing that image.”

MIGHTY SPORTS

Soldier running her 100th marathon in Boston

It all started when she was stationed in Virginia 12 years ago. That’s when Chief Warrant Officer 4 Beofra Butler saw everyone training for the Marine Corps Marathon and decided to give the 26.2 mile race a try.

As a soldier, running was already a part of her daily life and physical fitness routine. She had ran several other shorter races to include the Army 10-miler and a few half marathons, so the challenge of a full marathon appealed to her. She wasn’t even afraid of the dreaded “wall” that everyone told her she would hit around mile 20 when her body would start shutting down as energy stores ran low and fatigue set in.


“I had never experienced the wall and was feeling pretty great,” recalled Butler. “I saw the mile markers for mile 19, then mile 20, then 21. I was feeling good and thinking to myself that maybe I avoided the wall. Then at mile 22, everything from my waist down locked up — it felt like I really did hit a wall. My muscles were in knots, my toes were cramping and every time I took a step it just hurt.”

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

Beofra Butler running in the 2018 Tunnel Vision Marathon in North Bend, Wash., Aug. 19, 2018. She set a personal record, finishing the race with a chip time of 3:34:11.

A lady tapped her on the shoulder and encouraged her to move off to the side and stretch before resuming the race.

“I wanted to cry,” she said. “I knew it was just four more miles. I wobbled to the finish along with a bunch of other people doing the exact same thing.”

After the race later that night, with ice bags on her legs and a computer on her lap, Butler signed up for her next marathon.

“I just had to do it again for myself so I could figure out how to do it without pain,” she said.

Butler ran her second marathon during a deployment, followed by another and another and another. She’s preparing to run her 100th marathon in Boston on April 15, 2019. The race will be her sixth Boston Marathon and she says that it is fitting because it’s her favorite event.

“There’s something special about running in Boston,” she said. “It’s the only race you have to qualify for to get in and after working so hard to be a part of it, you really enjoy the moment when you get there. The support of the crowd is amazing and it’s just a great place to be.”

She got there by figuring out how to avoid that wall of pain.

“For the most part, I don’t hit a wall anymore,” Butler said. “Now I know what that feels like and I never want to feel it again.”

How does she do it? The way anyone in the Army does anything — with an abbreviation. According to Butler, the key to running a successful marathon comes down to the 3P’s: pacing, patience and practice.

She says that you need to control your pace throughout the entire marathon and exercise patience as those around you start out fast or crowd the track. To refine your pacing and patience, you need to practice.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Beofra K. Butler, administrative executive officer to the commanding general, U.S. Army Forces Command, poses with her five Boston Marathon marathon medals.

(Photo by Eve Meinhardt, FORSCOM)

“It comes down to having time on your feet,” said Butler. “You have to put in the time and stay positive.”

Her time comes from running at least five days a week. She averages 10 miles a day with Saturdays being her long run day of anywhere from 13 to 20 miles. She does speed work on Wednesdays, often bringing others along with her to help them train to meet their goals.

As the administrative executive officer to the commanding general of U.S. Army Forces Command, her work schedule can often be hectic and conflict with her training time. To mitigate this, Butler is a conscientious meal planner, preparing all her meals, to include snacks, on the weekends. She says she often hits the pavement at 3 a.m. just so she can ensure she gets time to run.

“I just love the feeling of running,” she said. “It’s freedom. I don’t listen to music. I listen to my heartbeat. My footsteps. My breathing. It’s a meditation and I’m always trying to get better.”

Butler says that running is wonderful because you can do it wherever you are and with no special equipment. For those aspiring to run in races of any distance, she said that it’s important to find a training plan.

“Training is a part of learning yourself,” she said. “It helps you become more comfortable when you’re out there. You need to trust your training and just enjoy the moment.”

Despite the fact that Butler says that she could probably roll out of bed and run an impromptu marathon, she still finds ways to challenge herself. Five of her marathons were ultra-marathons ranging from a 50K to a 100 mile race.

Butler’s most recent race was her third All American Marathon here at Fort Bragg. She led the 4:15 pace group. Her pacing was right on point with her crossing the finish line at 4 hours, 14 minutes and 37 seconds and still placing first in her age group.

Her personal record is 3 hours and 34 minutes and she says that she would like to get that down to 3:30.

“After Boston, I’m not racing again until August,” she said. “I’m going to be training for my PR and I’m going to get it.”

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

MIGHTY SPORTS

The ‘crazy Swede’ was a paratrooper who rode his bike to summit Everest

Leave it to military veterans to make one of Earth’s last tests of human endurance that much more difficult. It’s a 6,000-mile bike ride from the town of Jonkoping, Sweden, to the base camp of Mount Everest. Former Swedish paratrooper Goran Kropp knew how far it was as he packed up his bicycle with 200-plus pounds of gear and departed on that trip in 1995.


His first summit of a major mountain came when he climbed the highest peak in Scandinavia with his dad – at just six years old. Although he indulged a rebellious streak as a young man, the experience of that first climb never left him, and he soon found himself in thin air once more.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

Kropp grew up as a hard-partying punk rocker but soon joined the Swedish paratroopers. This was the event that would shape Kropp for the rest of his life. He met his climbing partner while in the army and moved from an apartment to a tent pitched in a gravel pit that was close to his barracks. While still in the Swedish military, he would test himself through different climbing endurance challenges. The two paratroopers even made a list of progressively higher mountains.

Until it was time to go climb them.

He soon earned the nickname “The Crazy Swede” and became known for his insane feats. The first major peak he summited was Tajikistan’s Lenin Peak, far below the 8,000-meter “Death Zone” of mountaineering, but still a great place to start. What made his summit of Lenin Peak special is that he set the record for it at the time.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

The hits just kept coming. Kropp was the fourth climber ever to conquer Pakistan’s Muztagh Tower in 1990. He was the first Swede to summit K2, a much deadlier mountain to climb than Everest. One of every ten people who climb Everest will die there. On K2, the fatality rate is more than twice that. Climbers of K2 regularly face life-threatening situations that end their trip before it begins.

On Kropp’s first attempt at a K2 summit in 1993, he stopped to help rescue Slovenian climbers stranded at a high altitude. His ascent on K2 would happen a week after this aborted attempt, but danger didn’t always stop Kropp. That’s why it took him three attempts to summit Everest.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

Kropp leaving Sweden for Nepal in 1995.

Kropp left Sweden on his 8,000-mile journey to Nepal in October 1995 and arrived at base camp in April 1996. He wanted to make the ascent without the use of oxygen tanks or assistance ropes. His first attempt saw him struggle to make it to the south summit in waist-deep snow, but his slow pace meant he would be descending in the dark, a risk he was not willing to take. So, he turned around to climb another day.

As Kropp recovered at base camp, a blizzard killed eight trekkers making a descent from the summit, in what became known as the 1996 Mount Everest Disaster. It was the deadliest climbing season on Everest to date. Kropp joined the relief efforts as he recovered, but it was during this deadly season that Kropp summited the mountain, without oxygen and without sherpas.

Then, he rode his bike 8,000 miles home to Sweden.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

From Paratrooper to Adventurer.

He climbed five of the world’s fourteen 8,000-plus meter mountains and was the only Swede to summit Everest twice.

In later years, Kropp and his wife skied across the North Pole ice sheet, attempting to reach the North Pole. He had to back out, however, due to a frostbitten thumb. It was on that trek that the press turned against him, claiming he was a poacher for shooting a Polar Bear that was stalking him and his wife during the expedition. As a result, Kropp left Sweden for Seattle.

It was in Washington State that 35-year-old Kropp died an ironic death. After making so many miraculous summits and life-threatening firsts, he died climbing a routine 70-foot rock wall near his home after two safety rigging failures.

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4 awesome traditions to look for at the Army-Navy Game

Along with more than 100 years of history, the game comes steeped in traditions that range from the usual smack talk between fans to events that can only be found when Army plays Navy.


Almost all American sporting events feature the National Anthem, many games get a U.S. military flyover, and every sports rivalry is characterized by fans going above and beyond to demonstrate their team spirit. The Army-Navy Game has all of those, except this game gets a flyover from two service branches and fans in attendance willing to break strict uniform regulations to show their spirit.

Along with the traditions typical of every other sporting event, the Army-Navy Game comes with the added traditions of two military academies that are older than the sport they’re playing, of military branches whose own traditions date back to the founding of the United States, and a unique culture developed through the history of American military training.

And despite the intense rivalry, it’s all in good fun.

1. The Prisoner Exchange

Before the game kicks off, seven West Point cadets and seven Annapolis midshipmen will march to midfield in Philadelphia to be returned to their home military academies. These “prisoners” were sent to their rival service academies in the Service Academy Exchange Program, which sends students from each of four service academies (along with West Point and Annapolis, the Air Force Academy and the Coast Guard Academy also participate) for the fall semester.

The prestigious, competitive exchange program began its semester-long life in 1975 and has remained the same ever since. Each academy sends seven sophomore students to the other academies. The “Prisoner Exchange” allows the visiting cadets and mids to sit with their team’s fans.

2. The Army-Navy Drumline Battle

At the Army-Navy Game, there’s more confrontation than just what happens on the football field. Before the game, the bands representing each branch engage in a drumline – one as much about showmanship as it is about skills with the sticks.

3. “The March On”

Before the kickoff of every Army-Navy Game, the cadets of the U.S. Military Academy and the midshipmen of the U.S. Naval Academy take the field. No, not just the teams playing the game that day, the entire student body — thousands of people — march on the field in the way only drilled and trained U.S. troops can.

4. “Honoring the Fallen”

Every Army-Navy Game is going to see one loser and one winner. No matter what the outcome of the game, the players sing both teams’ alma maters. The winners will join the losing team, facing the losing side’s fans. Then, the two groups will do the same for the winning team. It’s a simple act of respectful sportsmanship that reminds everyone they’re on the same side.

To date, this tradition hasn’t caught on across college teams, but it might be happening as we speak. The Navy team invites every school it plays to sing “Navy Blue and Gold” after the game, and sometimes they do, like in 2014, when the Ohio State Buckeyes joined in.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

How to work out with your spouse (and not hate each other forever)

If you’re hoping to facilitate a healthy, loving, and lasting relationship, it’s a great idea to workout with your spouse! Also, if you’re hoping to ensure that you’re forever trapped in an endless Mobius strip of resentment, one-upmanship, and inventive new levels of searing joint pain, it’s a great idea to workout with your spouse! Yeah, exercising with your spouse can really go either way, sorry.

Be honest: You’ve seen couples working out together, and your reaction is generally either “Why don’t we do that?” or “Who in the ruddy blue hell has time for this GOOP new-age Pitbull-obsessed-$750-for-Athleta-pants-nonsense?” And both reactions are valid! Couples who work out together share a valid interest that carries the side benefit of helping to keep both parties alive, and Athleta is seriously expensive, guys. It’s black yoga pants, calm down.


But if you want to work out with your wife, how do you ensure you remain in that first group, and stay free of both workout-relationship struggles and tank tops that cost 5 because they feel sort of fluffy? Read on! (Erm, read on separately, as we’re about to drop some serious samurai-level psychological trickery that won’t work if your spouse knows about it. Unless they already read this and they are doing it to you. *makes mind blown motion* Anyway, it’s something to think about when you’re on the treadmill for 45 minutes.)

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

(Photo by Tomasz Woźniak)

DO: make it a joint effort

If you’re going to do this, do it together. No dropping each other off at the gym and reconnecting in an hour after you’re all blasting quads or crushing jacks or pulverizing obliques or whatever. Work out a way that it’s a couples’ venture. You don’t have to make her watch you on the lat pulldown machine, and you don’t have to watch every minute of her kickboxing workout (although those are awesome), but if you’re in this together, be in it together.

DO: be supportive

There are going to be about a dozen exceedingly hot people in your field of vision. Remind your spouse that he/she is easily the hottest thing in the room, regardless of how long the 5’4″ yoga-pants model can do a plank, which will sometimes be like two minutes, those people are like magical ab-crunching elves.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

(Photo by Victor Freitas)

DO NOT: grunt

Unless you are performing a workout that involves Mjolnir, keep the volume down. Unless you are lifting more than 1,400 lbs. from a standing position, shut up. Unless your spouse is deeply turned on by you making the kind noises that would indicate you’re singing a Korn song, shut up. Also, if your spouse is turned on by Korn, find a new spouse.

DO NOT: Instagram

Under no circumstances should you:

  1. Scroll through Instagram workout models together
  2. Scroll through Instagram workout models separately
  3. Scroll through Instagram workout models in the other room after she goes to sleep
  4. Literally anything involving a peach emoji
  5. Honestly the whole thing is just bad news, those people are almost certainly emotionally bankrupt empty vessels whose primary joy comes from anonymous like numbers*, and the more you two focus on your thing the happier you will all be.

* Except the Rock and Chris Hemsworth, who are both great.

DO NOT: tell your partner to stop doing “vanity exercises”

Unless, that is you want to have a fight at the dumbbell rack. We all have our annoying tendencies. Just turn up the “Sweat Mix” in your AirPods and let them feel better about their show-off zones.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

(Photo by Stage 7 Photography)

DO: go running together

In addition to being a quality exercise that will make your heart work better in your 70s, running offers many fringe benefits, like being outside, spending time together, possibly exploring new trails or paths or beaches, pushing each other, and possibly even doing literally nothing other than quietly enjoying each other’s company. It also might hurt your knees and cause you to trip over roots in the forest, but it’s worth a shot.

DO: try out new classes together

Chances are pretty good your gym offers a bunch of classes featuring words that sound totally made-up, like “aerial fitness” and “black light yoga.” And they might be terrible ideas born because some 20-year-old intern came across a workout content farm online! But unless you’re training together for a marathon or an Olympic discus competition or to launch a workout-couples Instagram (DON’T), you’re probably there to get a little healthier and spend time together. So, pick one or three of the dumbest-sounding classes, and try them out (If you don’t want to hate one another immediately, avoid any class with “Boot Camp” in the title)

Worst-case scenario, you try something new and get a little better at pole dancing. Best-case scenario, you can make merciless fun of those idiots when you’re home later. See, you’re bonding already.

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

MIGHTY SPORTS

Pittsburgh Steelers honor WWII Army veteran brothers

Two brothers who served in the Army during World War II were honored during the home opener for the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Seattle Seahawks with the ATI Salute to Heroes Award.

Former Cpl. Theodore “Ted” Joseph Sikora, 99, served in the Battle of the Bulge in France in 1944 and 1945. Former Sgt. Ed Sikora, 95, served in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1943 and later in the Pacific theater of operations.

The brothers expressed thanks for the tribute. “We’re not used to this much recognition, and I’m very grateful,” said Ted Sikora.


Ed Sikora said he was proud to serve. “I cherished the opportunity to serve my country,” he said.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

Former Pittsburgh Steeler Franco Harris shakes hands with Army Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Vollstedt, grandson-in-law of Ted Sikora.

(Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Dalton Smith)

Although they are natives of Washington, Pennsylvania, both now live in the Pittsburgh area.

Ted Sikora was a crew member on a Curtiss C-46 Commando and Douglas C-47 Skytrain as a member of the 8th Army Air Force. Those transport aircraft dropped much-needed supplies to the besieged American soldiers.

He was stationed in England on D‐Day — June 6, 1944 — and remembers having trouble sleeping because of the noise from the airplanes taking off for France.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

In a historic photo, Ed Sikora poses during basic training at Camp Edwards, Mass.

(Ed Sikora)

He also remembers planes returning damaged and on fire. He said he witnessed a lot of things he will never forget, and that he doesn’t really like to talk about.

After the war, Ted Sikora worked as a machinist. Now, he enjoys working out and taking Zumba classes.

Ed Sikora was on the opposite side of the world, assigned to the 7th Infantry Division 502nd Anti Artillery Gun Battalion.

Although Ed Sikora wasn’t in Oahu when the Japanese attacked on Dec. 7, 1941, he said the Americans were expecting another attack so they were on constant vigil.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

A historic photo of Ted Sikora as a cadet shows him dressed in a flight uniform with a white ascot, black jacket, headgear and goggles.

(Courtesy of Ted Sikora)

In October 1944, he was attached to the 7th Infantry Division, which landed in the Philippines amid bombing by Japanese fighter planes. His unit was credited with downing six enemy planes.

In 1945, Ed Sikora participated in the Battle of Okinawa. His unit was credited with downing 33 Japanese aircraft.

Later in life, Ed Sikora taught high school and college, specializing in industrial arts. He later established a fruit orchard in California.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

Brothers Ed and Ted Sikora, both Army service members, pose for a photo with their rifles crossed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

(Courtesy of Ed and Ted Sikora)

Ted Sikora’s granddaughter, Alia Ann Vollstedt, is married to Army Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Vollstedt, who participated in the game’s opening ceremony joint-service color guard. Daniel Vollstedt is with 2nd Battalion, Army Reserve Careers Division, based in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

Brothers Ed and Ted Sikora pose for a photo wearing World War II veteran caps in October 2018.

(Courtesy of Ed and Ted Sikora)

Daniel Vollstedt said the two veterans have shared some of their stories with him over the years and were proud of his decision to enlist in the Army.

John Wodarek, the Steelers’ marketing manager, said the brothers were selected for the honor because Ted Sikora will turn 100 in March 2020 — which ties in with the National Football League’s 100th-season anniversary being observed this year and next.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The bizarre history of the Naval Academy’s mascot, ‘Bill the Goat’

Every sports team needs their very own cartoony mascot to get the fans going. Sure, it’s a goofy tradition, but it gets the people cheering and those cheers spur the players on to victory, so no one ever questions it. Military academies are no different.

The Air Force Academy sports the high-flying falcon because it’s the apex predator across much of America’s sky. West Point is represented by the mule because it’s a hardy beast of burden that has carried the Army’s gear into many wars. The Naval Academy, in what seems like a lapse of logic, decided long ago that the best representation of the Navy and Marine Corps’ spirit is a goat.

The use of a goat as their mascot began in 1893 with El Cid the Goat, named after the famed Castilian general. Eventually, they settled on the name “Bill” because, you know, billy goats… And it just gets weirder from there.


The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

From 1847 to 1851, the Naval Academy used a cat as their mascot, which we can presume would’ve hated being paraded in front of large crowds.

(National Archives)

In the Navy’s defense, goats actually served a purpose on Navy vessels back in the days of fully rigged ships. Unlike most livestock that required specialized food, a goat can eat just about any kind of scraps, which is handy on a long voyage. And, once it fulfilled its purpose as a walking garbage disposal, as grim as it sounds, it provided the cooks with a fresh source of meat.

Yet, when the U.S. Naval Academy was founded in 1845, then-Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft chose his favorite animal to be the official mascot of his newly established military academy: the monkey. This didn’t last long because the logo was actually of a gorilla and, as most people know, gorilla’s aren’t monkeys. The next idea was a cat (which actually have a place in Naval history), then a bulldog (before the times of Chesty Puller), and then a carrier pigeon.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

Ever since, sailors have enjoyed a long tradition of giving their goats the clever name of ‘Bill.’

​(U.S. Navy Historical Center)

There are two different versions of the story of how the Navy finally got the goat.

The first of those version is simple: The previously mentioned El Cid the Goat appeared at the 1893 Army-Navy football game and its presence, supposedly, helped carry the team to victory. The Navy continued to bounce back and forth between mascots until officially sticking with the goat in 1904. Said goat was re-branded as “Bill,” named after the Commandant of Midshipmen, Commander Colby M. Chester’s pet goat, and the rest is history.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

The biggest takeaway from the legend is the difference between becoming a legend and getting a Captain’s Mast is whether or not you can attribute a Navy victory over West Point on your actions.

(U.S. Navy photo by Joaquin Murietta)

The other version is steeped in legend — and is entirely bizarre. As the story goes, a ship’s beloved pet goat had met its untimely end. Two ensigns were tasked with heading ashore to bring the goat to a taxidermist so that its legacy could live on. The ensigns got lost on their way to the taxidermist, as most butter bars do, and wound up at the Army-Navy game.

The legend never specifies who, exactly, came up with this brilliant idea, but one of them apparently thought, “you know what? f*ck it” and wore the goat’s skin like a cape. During halftime, one ensign ran across the sidelines (because sporting arena security wasn’t a thing then) donning the goat skin and was met with thunderous applause.

Instead of reprimanding the two idiots for clearly doing the exact opposite of what their captain had asked of them, the Naval Academy rolled with it and attributed their victory over the Army to the goat.

This version is kind of suspect because El Cid the Goat was at the fourth game so the goat-skin midshipman would have had to been at one of the three games prior. The first and third games were held at West Point (which is clearly far away from any wandering ensigns) and second Army/Navy game was a victory for Army. But hey! It’s all in good fun.

MIGHTY SPORTS

3 reasons Washington’s football team should be called the Redtails

The Washington Redskins are no more, and this Marine thinks it’s time for the Washington Redtails.


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Earlier this week, it was announced that the Washington Redskins will be getting a new name, in a decision that has proven a bit controversial in the political arena. From my vantage point, gleefully removed from the politics of it all and without a real stake in Washington’s football franchise, I welcome this change with open arms for a few important reasons.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

Recognizing the heroism of the brave Black Americans the “Redtails” name comes from

If you’re not already familiar with the story of the real Redtails (also sometimes called the Red Tails), it really is one worth honoring in the most American of sports. Back in World War II, the United States military was still segregated. Black Americans, while expected to serve, were not allowed in many combat roles.

You may not have heard the name “Redtails” before, but you’ve almost certainly heard of the Tuskegee Airmen. These brave pilots were the U.S. Army Air Corps’ (the predecessor to the Air Force) first Black aviators, earning the Tuskegee name from the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama that they trained on.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

(U.S. Air Force photo by Delanie Stafford)

Many white bomber pilots didn’t know that the legendary Redtails were indeed Black pilots at the time, but thanks to their fighting prowess, it soon didn’t matter. Prejudice be damned, the Redtails were often requested for particularly daring missions, as they’d gained a reputation for their courage and technical skill. In all, the Redtails flew more than 15,000 individual sorties over Europe and North Africa during the war, and more than 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses were awarded to the Tuskegee Airmen.

Here at Sandboxx News, one of our contributors is actually the grandson of one of those Tuskegee Airmen. Harry Alford writes about entrepreneurship in the military sphere, and is the co-founder of Humble Ventures.

“I’m a lifelong Washingtonian and I’ve never felt comfortable supporting a team with such a disparaging, racial and offensive name for a mascot. I am very supportive of the name change,” Alford explains.
The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

Members of the first graduating class. Left to right: Captain Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., second lieutenants Lemuel R. Custis, George Spencer Roberts , Charles H. DeBow, Mac Ross

“In particular, I’m especially excited at the potential of the new name, Redtails. As the grandson of one of the original five Tuskegee Airman, Charles DeBow, this would mean the world to me. The name change signifies a new path forward while honoring the past as well as those who currently serve our country today.”

In a very real way, the Tuskegee Airmen of the 332nd Fighter Group, flying planes with bright red painted tails (hence the name Redtails), not only proved to be some of the most heroic aviators of the war, they also helped bring about an end to military segregation. If you ask me, that’s a pretty cool namesake for a football team playing out of America’s capital city.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

Maj. Shawna R. Kimbrell, 555th Fighter Squadron (USAF)

Paying respect to the military community

In America today, the fact that the Redtails were pioneering Black aviators really matters, but these brave pilots fall into another important socio-economic category that the former Washington Redskins can honor: military service personnel.

America’s Armed Forces truly do represent a vibrant cross sections of American cultures and backgrounds, but it has become increasingly apparent in recent studies that America’s military is largely made up of people from what you might call a “warrior class” of Americans. About 80% of those who choose to volunteer to serve in America’s military have a direct family member who served as well. In other words, for most of us, serving in the military could be seen as getting into the “family business.” I’m no exception–my father served in Vietnam as an Army medic and my grandfather was a Marine who fought in the Pacific theater of World War II.

By acknowledging a heroic World War II unit by naming the football franchise that plays in our nation’s capital the Redtails, the former Washington Redskins could send a message to America’s Black communities and service members of any color: We honor the service and sacrifice of our sons and daughters in service, regardless of their race, ethnicity, or heritage.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

(Piqsels)

It could attract new Americans to a great sport

In today’s social media-charged climate, everything is seen as a political statement; whether its watching football on a Sunday, buying beans at your local grocery store, or watching a musical on Disney+. As a guy that’s spent my entire adult life analyzing foreign policy and media manipulation, I find our love affair with waging war on one another troubling, so I try not to participate.

You may have political reasons you choose to skip football. You may have political reasons you choose to watch football. I just love football and prefer to leave the politics on Twitter.

I grew up in a fairly poor family, and we didn’t have the opportunity to do much of anything just because it was fun. Football, however, was always the exception. My dad and older brother both played football before me, and when it was my time to suit up, I reveled in the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than myself. I loved playing football, complete with the broken bones and concussions I ended up with, for many of the same reasons I loved the Marine Corps. To me, my team was more important than I was, and playing well for my team was my chance at doing something that really mattered in my little slice of the world.

The top 10 most patriotic moments in sports history

I continued playing football all the way into the Marine Corps. (Sandboxx)

Yup, football is a violent sport and you can get hurt (Lord knows I did), but you also get to experience the grueling exhaustion of overtime, the thrill of a hard-fought victory and the stinging pain of failure. Football forced me to engage with and appreciate complex emotions at a young age, and made me a better man, and Marine, for it. Today, watching football spurs that part of my brain that remembers padding up to play ball from the peewee leagues to my back-to-back championship run in the Marine Corps… and I’m grateful for it.

For young Americans growing up in an increasingly chaotic world, a positive change like honoring the Tuskegee Airmen could be just the push they need to throw the game on one Sunday. For some small percentage of folks, that experience may mature into a love for the game that I hold so dear.

A new name that pays respect to a downtrodden American community, that honors military service and sacrifice, and can entice non-football watching Americans to give the sport I love a try? The Washington Redtails (or Red Tails) seems like a no-brainer to me.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

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.”

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