Greatest Moment in the History of Sports

Jun 18, 2008

2008 TMAC2 Sporting News King of Blogging

I wanted to update this story.  I took home first prize in the blog competition.  Thanks to TMAC2 and all of the other competitors.

TMAC2, a member of the Sporting News Community, invited me to participate in a blog competition.  The topic is “What is the Greatest moment in sport’s history?

There are so many moments to choose from “Do you believe in Miracles?” to Joe Namath’s Super Bowl Guarantee to “The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!” to Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary to NC State’s upset over Houston to Cassius Clay’s beating Sonny Liston as he ”shook up the world”.  My own personal moment was the 2004 Boston Red Sox title run. 

However,  one moment stands out to me because the athletic prowess meant so much more than simply one man outperforming his peers.  The moment was the 1936 Olympics.  The man was Jesse Owens.  The impact was felt around the globe.

To get the full picture, one needs to be in tune with the global climate in 1936.  Nazi Germany was in the beginning stages with Adolph Hitler proclaiming the Aryan race (of northern European descent) to be the “master race”.  With the 1936 Olympics set in Germany, Hitler had the opportunity to prove his doctrine to the world.  What he didn’t expect was to be embarrased by an American.  Not just any American though.  Jesse Owens was the Grandson of slaves.  He took home four Gold Medals that day winning the 100 meter, 200 meter, long jump and the 4×100 relay.

Unfortunately, Owens’ Olympic success didn’t dramatically change the race relations in America when he returned home.  He is quoted as saying “When I came back to my native country, after all the stories about Hitler, I couldn’t ride in the front of the bus.  I had to go to the back door. I couldn’t live where I wanted. I wasn’t invited to shake hands with Hitler, but I wasn’t invited to the White House to shake hands with the President, either.”  In fact he never even received a telegram from FDR.  According to Owens ”Hitler didn’t snub me—it was FDR who snubbed me. The president didn’t even send me a telegram.”  

Years later Jackie Robinson (whose brother Mack Robinson ironically won Silver in the 200 meters behind Owens) would go on to break baseball’s color barrier, but Jesse Owens helped set that stage with his performance.  Two of the staples of great sports moments are sheer dominance over your competition and overcoming long odds and adversity, and Jesse Owens set the standard for those two staples.


. .

17 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Mo Morrissey
    June 18th, 2008 at 11:12 am #

    Capital work Ryan.

  2. LestersLegends
    June 18th, 2008 at 11:13 am #

    Thanks Mo.

  3. David Funk
    June 18th, 2008 at 11:19 am #

    Good call Lester. I wrote an article on AC saying that it was the “Miracle on Ice”. I still like watching it when ESPN Classic plays it.

    But I agree with your point that Jesse Owens set the standard for adversity and performance in 1936. The Olympics have been under heavy scrutiny in recent years, but they’ve delivered defining moments for the U.S. that have made us all proud to be Americans.

  4. LestersLegends
    June 18th, 2008 at 11:23 am #

    David – Another good one. Herb Brooks came up with some of the best quotes ever while inspiring his team.

    The Olympics aren’t what they used to be, but you are right, we have had some great Olympic moments as Americans.

  5. Eric
    June 18th, 2008 at 1:45 pm #

    Greatest moment in sports…

    Could possibly be, and this was recorded on tape, when Hotdog eating champion Kobayashi was completely destroyed (in record time I believe) by his biggest competitor of all time, a kodiak (or maybe a black or brown) bear. This was on the famous “Man V Beast” which Fox proudly aired. The biggest “X factor”, as the commentators stated, was that “the bear doesn’t know it’s a competition.” But alas, Kobayashi could not use that to his advantage, and the bear ripped through those hotdogs like a hungry wild beast, and set the new “all animal” record for competitive eating that still stands the test of time to this day, as far as I know.

    There were other great physical accomplishments on that show, including 42 midgets racing an elephant, both towing a 747 airplane behind them. I can’t remember who won, but it doesn’t really matter at that point. It’s not about who wins or loses, but about HOW THE GAME IS PLAYED, especially when that game is between 42 midgets and an elephant. And it involves an airplane.

  6. LestersLegends
    June 18th, 2008 at 3:03 pm #

    Eric – Hilarious

  7. Larry Novak
    June 18th, 2008 at 6:42 pm #

    Red Sox 2004????

    Your killing me Ryan!!!!, Your Killing Me!!!

  8. LEV
    June 18th, 2008 at 7:58 pm #

    very nicely done mr. lester… i would have said Miracle on Ice only because it happened in my lifetime, but you are right… no moment finer than that of mr. owens

  9. LestersLegends
    June 18th, 2008 at 9:35 pm #

    Larry – Sorry pal. Hey, you have a lot of Yankee moments to choose from.
    LEV – good point. Of course I was like 5.

  10. Larry Novak
    June 19th, 2008 at 7:45 am #

    There is alot of Yankee Moments to choose. But as Greatest Moments in Sports History my Critera is the impact it had on the country. So I would say it is between the Miracle On Ice
    (1980), Jesse Owens in the 1936 Olympics and Joe Louis
    knocking out Max Scmelling (sp). These events had an entire country watching and cheering. All of our teams favorite moments were great to us, but not so good in other towns.
    (example–Bucky Dent and 2004 ALCS–First one was great in New York, not so good in Boston, and I don’t have to tell you about 2004, That one I would say is the greatest Boston Moment)

  11. LestersLegends
    June 19th, 2008 at 7:50 am #

    Larry – Well said.

  12. Larry Novak
    June 19th, 2008 at 7:51 am #

    I did not relize that FDR snubed Jesse Owens, but my parents said that everyone they knew was proud of Owens, and the newspapers and Radio hailed him as a hero, but as you said when he came back to the USA he was just another black man in America.

  13. LestersLegends
    June 19th, 2008 at 7:56 am #

    Larry – Thanks for adding. It’s sad that all that after all that Owens and Jackie fought for that you have guys like Chris Henry, Pacman Jones, Travis Henry, etc. that take for granted all of the rights their forefathers fought for.

  14. Larry Novak
    June 19th, 2008 at 8:04 am #

    I remember hearing some coloumnist (I think it was Terrence Moore or Art Rust Jr.) say about 15 years ago that the many of the young players had no idea who Jackie Robinson, and Jim Brown and even other legendary players were. THat is why when Mike Tyson first came up I was a fan because he learned all about the History of Boxing.

  15. LestersLegends
    June 19th, 2008 at 8:07 am #

    I always like a guy a little more if they are a student of the game. Respect the guys that blazed the path for you. I too liked Mike Tyson, but mainly for his raw power. Of course, now that I’m older I realized the talent pool he fought against was pretty weak.

  16. lellizaytghjuyhji0fj
    October 8th, 2008 at 8:07 am #


  17. Anonymous
    June 2nd, 2009 at 4:56 am #


Leave a Comment

Partner of USA TODAY Sports Digital Properties