Happy Birthday, America’s Sports!
From masks to guns to politics to Roe v. Wade and even Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard, America finds itself fiercely divided.
Thankfully we have sports to keep us united, or at least from completely unraveling at the seams. Even apart, thanks to sports, we stand together.
We may not love the same teams, but we do cherish the games, leagues, players and moments that provide respite from the larger issues threatening to crowbar us as a country.
Without sports, this Fourth of July would be all red, white and boo. It’s as though the victory cigars light the fireworks.
That said, we’re in a slump.
America once dominated around the globe. Don’t look now, but the world has closed the gap. In some cases, foreigners are even hogging hardware.
What once was Mike Tyson is now Tyson Fury (boxing), Lance Armstrong is now Tadej Pogačar (cycling), Pete Sampras now Rafael Nadal (tennis) and Tiger Woods (golf) is now Jon Rahm and Matthew Fitzpatrick. Our last two U.S. Open golf championships have been won by a Spaniard and a Brit; the last American to capture the U.S. Open men’s tennis title was Andy Roddick in 2003.
Canadian-born Cale Makar won Stanley Cup Finals MVP this month, and a handful of American stars are leaving the PGA Tour to play golf on the Saudi Arabian-backed LIV Tour.
Not long ago we set our watches by the championship appearances of LeBron James and Serena Williams. LeBron’s Lakers haven’t won a playoff series the last two seasons. Serena won her last major in 2017 and last week lost in the first round at Wimbledon to an unknown player ranked No. 115.
The NBA’s last four MVPs are from Serbia (Nikola Jokic) and Greece (Giannis Antetokounmpo). In the last 13 Ryder Cups we’re 4-9. The U.S. hasn’t won the Davis Cup since 2007. We won’t win the Tour de France. We’ve only won one World Baseball Classic. We never sniff advancing in the men’s World Cup. We’re not even a lock any longer to win sailing’s America’s Cup.
The most dynamic player in baseball? Japan’s Shohei Ohtani.
Thankfully, all is not lost.
The NFL – America’s real pastime – has never had an MVP born outside our borders. And if we really wanna go jingoistic, thanks to our most dominant “athlete” – Joey Chestnut – America has won the last 14 July 4th Hot Dog Eating championships.
We may need to squint a little harder to see them, but there are still countless reasons to be proud of American sports on the country’s 246th birthday. On this Fourth of July – between the burgers and bikinis – take time to admire and appreciate each unique flame on this homemade, sports-centric cake: 246 candles, 246 reminders why we love our games and the people who play them.
Here’s hoping it reminds you how fortunate we are to have a variety of sports, and the freedom to choose which ones we love and/or loathe.
Happy Birthday, America’s sports!
Consume this list in one barbecued bite. Or nibble all during the holiday. Whatever.
It is, after all, a free country.
246. “Dallas” – i.e. Arlington – hosting the World Cup 2026.
245. Face masks on sports helmets, not civilian heads.
244. Dak Prescott, somehow simultaneously underrated and overpaid.
243. Brett Hull’s “no goal” goal in the wee early morning hours in Buffalo.
242. Aaron Hernandez, Josh Brent, Tim Donaghy, Lance Armstrong, Terdema Ussery, Robert Kraft, Dan Snyder and Deshaun Watson, each held accountable.
241. Cris Collinsworth’s insight and Tony Romo’s intuition.
240. Zion Williamson’s hops and hope.
239. Dirk Nowitzki (I know, I know. But he feels like one of us, yes?)
238. Bryce Harper’s exit velocity.
237. Johnny Football, fleeting as it was.
236. Wiffle Ball in the back yard.
235. Labor peace in baseball. But just barely.
234. Cowboys’ supposed Canton bias, kicked to the curb.
233. The Colonial in Fort Worth, same as it ever was.
232. Cowboys’ Super Bowl expectations. Every single year.
231. Matthew Stafford, vindicated after all these years.
230. The Byron Nelson, whether in Irving or Trinity Forest or Craig Ranch.
229. High school football championship week at AT&T Stadium.
228. The Triplets, inducted into the Ring of Honor on the same night.
227. Jordan Spieth’s past, Corey Seager’s present and CeeDee Lamb’s future.
226. The star on the helmet.
225. Yankees pinstripes.
224. The 18th at Pebble Beach.
223. Dollar Dog Night.
222. Cotton Bowl, still immune to corporate namesakes after all these years.
221. “Hail Mary” and Touchdown Jesus.
220. The Ice Bowl, the Rose Bowl and the Beer ’n Bowl.
219. Rangers flirting with .500 after a 6-14 start.
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218. Cameron Crazies and Reunion Rowdies
217. Eldrick “Tiger” Woods.
216. Zack Martin, silently spectacular.
215. Cowboys 6-0 against the NFC East by a combined 240-107.
214. Boston’s Green Monster and Augusta’s green jacket.
213. The 12th Man.
212. Brian’s Song.
211. Sammy Baugh, Doak Walker, Davey O’Brien and Kyler Murray, soaring over their size.
210. “H-O-R-S-E,” “Hot Box” and “Tackle the Man with the Football.”
209. Happy Valley and March Madness.
208. Vince Young in, around and through USC’s defense.
207. The 7th-inning stretch and “Down the stretch they come!”
205. The Southwest Conference.
203. “Gentlemen, start your engines!”
202. Rougned Odor’s fist and Nolan Ryan’s headlock. But most of all, George Teague protecting the star … and carrying our flag.
201. Vince Lombardi.
200. Donnie Nelson, for discovering and delivering our favorite imports (Dirk and Luka Doncic).
199. Kobe Bryant.
198. Arch in Austin: Continuing the Manning family legacy?
197. The Three J’s, The Four Horsemen and The Fab Five.
196. “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”
195. Hawg hats, Fort Worth Cats and Minnesota Fats.
194. Mark Holtz’ “Hello, Win Column!” Yes, still.
193. A two-putt birdie.
192. Wide Right and Student Body Left.
191. Josh Hamilton’s power electrifying Yankee Stadium in the Home Run Derby.
190. The smell of fresh-cut grass on Opening Day.
189. SMU’s Pony Express ’82 and Dallas Carter ’88, our best teams to not lift the trophy.
188. Boban Marjanovic’s size and disposition.
187. Pizza delivered exactly five minutes before kickoff.
186. The hole in the roof so God can watch his favorite team.
185. “The Immaculate Reception.”
184. Jinxing a no-hitter.
183. Jimmy Connors at Flushing Meadows. At night.
182. Alligator arms, swim moves and The Shark. Kenny Gant, not Greg Norman.
181. Tom Dempsey’s long kick with a short foot.
180. The Silver Boot, the Iron Skillet and plain ol’ braggin’ rights.
178. Hansen, Hitzges and Galloway. Throw in The Old Grey Wolf.
177. Fans who refuse to do “The Wave.”
176. Hat tricks via bicycle kicks.
175. Rangers manager Chris Woodward, suddenly the dean of DFW head coaches.
174. NFL Films.
173. God’s gifts to Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders and Bob Hayes.
172. Bobby Knight’s sweaters. And trifecta bettors.
171. Sean Lee’s tenacity, transferred to Leighton Vander Esch.
170. Michael Young’s character.
169. Red Zone Channel.
168. Two points, three-peats and four-baggers through the five hole.
167. Robert Hughes.
166. Slap Shot.
165. Troy Aikman, Daryl Johnston and Michael Irvin on the other side of the camera.
164. John Wooden’s program, Jerry Tarkanian’s towel and Red Auerbach’s cigar.
163. Booing Roger Goodell. Admiring Adam Silver.
162. Taking your glove to the game.
161. Tatu. And tattoos.
160. “Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier!”
159. Amen corner. And Death Valley.
158. Nike vs. Reebok vs. Adidas vs. Under Armor.
157. No. 16 over No. 1.
156. “Boomer Sooner”, “Rocky Top” and “wake up the echoes.”
155. Kindred spirits who also hate Joe Buck.
154. Phil Jackson’s Triangle and Dean Smith’s four corners.
153. The versatility and vision of Colin Kaepernick.
152. The Great One and The Greatest.
151. Instant replay.
150. Monday Night Football’s original theme music.
149. “Havlicek stole the ball!”
147. The Ring of Honor.
146. Between the hedges.
145. Shutting up Spike Lee.
144. The Von Erich’s at the old Sportatorium.
143. The chills + a hangover + the day off = the Cotton Bowl.
142. Two minutes for roughing.
141. 30 for 30.
140. The Cubs’ “Friendly Confines” vs. the Raiders’ “Black Hole.”
139. The Zamboni.
138. Yankees-Red Sox, Duke-North Carolina and Michigan-Ohio State.
137. ”He could … go … all .. the … way … !!!”
136. Jimmy Johnson, Hall of Famer. Soon in the Ring of Honor?
135. Tailgating, tickets or not.
134. Heisman hype.
133. A blue parking pass.
132. Eyeballs vs. analytics.
131. Amari Cooper, sent packing in his prime because of crunch-time aloofness.
130. Tim Duncan’s bank shot.
129. Rick Barry’s underhand free throw.
128. Goal-line stands and the Stanford band.
127. “Can I have your autograph?”
126. Tom Brady in the pocket and Patrick Mahomes out of it.
125. DeMarcus around the edge, both Ware and Lawrence.
124. Brad Sham, Eric Nadel and Chuck Cooperstein. Yes, we are blessed.
123. Lambeau Field, January.
122. Sports talk radio wars.
121. Then: Defense wins championships; Now: First one to 50.
120. “Steeeerriiiike Three!,” “Let’s play two!” and “We’re No. 1!”
119. Roger Staubach down 13 with 2:19 remaining.
118. Dropping the gloves. And catching big air.
117. Kareem’s “Sky Hook” and Errol Spence Jr.’s right hook.
116. “Coooold beeeeeer!!”
115. Robert Horry, Adam Vinatieri and Mariano Rivera, when it really matters.
114. Bobblehead night.
113. The fair pole.
112. Rangers – of all teams – forking over half-a-billion for a middle infield.
111. Doomsday Defense.
110. Your baseball cap in the dishwasher; shoestring around your glove.
109. Office pools.
108. “Pistol Pete”, Sampras and/or Maravich.
107. Day games.
106. “The Catch.”
105. Unretired: Brady, Gronk, Witten and Ali before them all.
104. “Hey, ump, you’re missing a great game!”
103. North Dallas Forty.
102. Soccer moms.
101. Michael Johnson’s golden shoes.
99. Shirts and skins.
98. “The Iceman.”
97. 17-0 in ’72.
96. Winners and losers. Not participation plaques.
95. Yellow cards, yellow flags and the yellow first-down line.
94. Cowboys’ new No. 73 (Tyler Smith) being half as good as their old one (Larry Allen).
93. 56-game hitting streak.
92. “Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk!”
90. “You Cannot Be Serious!” and “Practice? We talkin’ ’bout practice?!”
89. College NILs spawning Nick Saban vs. Jimbo Fisher.
88. Skip Bayless, permanently muted.
87. The two-minute warning.
86. Emmitt Smith out the other end of the pile.
85. The Laker Girls and the Cowboys Cheerleaders.
84. Ryder Cup vs. Davis Cup vs. Stanley Cup.
82. Seeing your breath on a small-town Friday night in December, population
81. Steph’s Warriors dynasty vs. Jordan’s Bulls dynasty.
80. Jalen Brunson’s loyalty. Maybe?
79. “Phi Slamma Jamma.”
77. Rangers’ star-is-born Adolis Garcia, channeling Ruben Sierra.
76. Montana to Rice. Stockton to Malone. Meredith to Cosell.
75. The Kristaps Porzingis Trade.
74. “You are looking live … !”
73. Joe Torre’s stare, Steve Nash’s hair and the Golden Bear.
71. Phyllis George and Erin Andrews.
70. “And one!”
69. Bull Durham.
67. Charlie Hustle. And Uncle Charlie.
66. The Aggie War Hymn vs. Texas Fight.
65. Cold dreary Sunday. Warm comfy couch. Big screen TV.
64. Seeing Globe Life Park out the windows of Globe Life Field.
63. Christian Laettner’s turnaround.
62. Mavs’ coach Jason Kidd, proving us all wrong.
61. Chuck Morgan’s “It’s baseball time in Texas!”
60. “The Curse of the Bambino.”
59. The Swamp, The Pit and The Big House.
58. Cal Ripken Jr. and Dale Earnhardt Sr.
57. Evel Knievel.
56. Wilt’s 100 points vs. Russell’s 11 rings.
55. High-school hurling phenoms: Clayton Kershaw (Highland Park), Kerry Wood (Grand Prairie) and Todd Van Poppel (Arlington Martin).
54. Eight seconds. And Title IX.
53. Sudden death.
52. Churchill Downs, first Saturday in May.
51. Madison Square Garden.
50. Mixed doubles, stand-up doubles and triple-doubles.
49. $1 billion stadiums. $12-an-hour chain gangs.
48. Mike Modano speeding with his shirttail.
47. Bear Bryant.
46. Mississippi State’s cowbells, Atlanta’s Tomahawk Chop.
and Pittsburgh’s Terrible Towels.
45. Rocky, Rudy and Prefontaine.
44. “Larry Legend.”
43. Byron Nelson’s legacy, on and off the course.
42. Jackie Robinson. Forever.
41. Dr. J.
40. Mark Cuban’s passion. And wallet.
39. Hard Knocks featuring the NFL’s loved and hated team.
38. Strike zone, matchup zone and zone blitz.
37. Luka, s-l-o-w motion superstar.
36. Wrigley’s ivy.
34. Sha-sheff-ski, spelled K-r-z-y-z-e-w-s-k-i.
33. The Babes. Ruth and Didrikson Zaharias. Sorry, Laufenberg.
32. U.S. soccer, women’s version.
30. The Fat Lady. And the skinny post.
29. Winning Game 6 in Salt Lake City, then Game 7 in Phoenix.
28. Kyle Field.
27. Larry Brown, from 12th-round afterthought to Super Bowl MVP.
26. Duncanville High School Pantherettes, 12 state championships.
25. Nacho cheese on your chin. Smile on your lips.
24. Fresh batteries in the remote control.
23. Charles Barkley.
22. Keith Jackson’s “Whoa, Nellie!” and Dick Enberg’s “Oh, my!”
21. The 7-10 split.
20. Crazy Ray, Zonk and inflatable Mavs Man.
19. Neftali Feliz striking out A-Rod looking. Hello, World Series!
18. LeBron James, indeed “The Chosen One.”
17. ESPN’s SportsCenter. TNT’s Inside The NBA and HBO’s Real Sports.
16. Martin Perez’ reincarnation as a Cy Young candidate.
14. The checkered flag.
13. Pat Summerall, Chick Hearn and Vin Scully.
12. The bell, the buzzer, the horn, the gun and, especially, the organ.
11. Mavs over Heat, 2011.
10. Tom Landry’s fedora.
9. Texas-OU Weekend, whether part of the Big 12 or SEC. And USC-UCLA in the … Big Ten?
7. High-fiving a complete stranger.
6. Jerry Jones, all of him. The good, the bad and the ugly.
5. Game. Seven.
4. “Do you believe in miracles? YES!!”
3. Three Super Bowls in four years.
2. Our national anthem, before every single game. Kneeling or not.
1. The freedom to love America’s Team, and to always hate the Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants and Washington Commanders.