Fourth of July: Celebrating Patriotism in Sports

Tomorrow, on a day known as Independence Day, Americans celebrate in a wide variety of ways. Wisconsinites, such as myself, typically attempt to enjoy this nice summer day by taking out the lawn chairs, lathering on the SPF 90, and attempting not to burn. Others hold family reunions in the backyard or even might try their hand at whipping up one of Chef Jerry Garcia’s tailgate tips. Whether or not you’re tossing around the pigskin with family and friends in the backyard, the connections between July 4th and the world of sports are ever-present. It’s hard to smell hotdogs on the grill on the 4th and not be reminded of the ballpark. Similarly, driving by miniature American flags stuck into the freshly-mowed lawns of suburban households maybe takes you back to that memory of attending a game and watching fighter jets do a fly-by.

There have been many athletes and sports moments that show us the great ties between patriotism and athletics. Few things send shivers down my spine quite like listening to Blackhawks fans go absolutely bonkers every time Jim Cornelison sings the National Anthem.

It’s nearly impossible to imagine a more dramatic moment for New Yorkers as a whole than when Mike Piazza hit a home run in the bottom of the 8th inning for the Mets in the first game played at Shea Stadium after the 9/11 attacks.

Lastly, despite his Dominican Republican roots, David Ortiz’s friendly reminder about whose city it actually is was a moment that Fenway Faithfuls truly needed following the events in Boston that April.

While these moments have great worth to Americans and sports fans alike, some of the individuals that have entertained us throughout the years are the true heroes. On a day where we remember how great of a country we live in, make sure to appreciate some of our finest athletes and what they’ve done for our nation.

Ted Williams – Boston Red Sox, Left Fielder

He put together what is widely known as the best rookie season of all time by hitting .327 with 31 home runs and 145 RBIs. I could write an entire article about his many accolades and the size of his trophy case. But, what really matters is that, just months after his 1941 season, in which he batted .406 (!!), he was drafted into the military for World War II. Since his mother was completely dependent on him, his deployment was deferred until after the 1942 season, so he was able to play the next season. But, the next three years after that, arguably during the peak of his career, he spent his time in the military’s active duty. He returned to the military seven years later to fight in the Korean War as a pilot. Williams racked up many nicknames throughout his life such as “The Kid” and “The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived;” However, none of those monikers holds nearly as much value as being called a US Marine.

Ahmard Hall – Tennessee Titans, Full Back 

Not only is Ahmard Hall partially responsible for teammate Chris Johnson’s 2,000 rushing yard season, but he is also an Army Veteran. Hall went straight from high school to the Marine Corps, where he served in Afghanistan as a field radio operator. He eventually worked his way up to sergeant in the military ranks before walking on at the University of Texas before playing for the Titans. Simply put, Hall was a protector not only of Johnson, but the American people.

Bobby Jones – Golf

Bobby Jones goes down as one of the best golfers of all-time. He completed the 1930 Grand Slam (pre-Masters era) where he won The Amateur Championship, The Open Championship, U.S. Open, and U.S. Amateur competitions all in the same year. Upon retiring from the sport, Jones bought land in Georgia which eventually became known as Augusta National Golf Club where the Masters Tournament has been played every year since 1934 but three. Jones is also widely known for his service in World War II as an officer in the Air Force. He eventually became an interrogator of POW’s in Normandy, France. Oddly enough, Jones allowed cattle grazing on Augusta’s land during the war.

J.J. Watt – Houston Texans, Defensive End

For many reading this article, you’re probably well-versed on this former Badger’s commitment to his community off the field. His father is a firefighter and his grandfather is a veteran of the Korean War. Watt has attended a funeral in Texas for Navy SEALs who died in the war in Afghanistan, and he gives 20 tickets to children and families of the military to every Houston Texans home game. The list just goes on and on for this guy. For crying out loud, his sack celebration dance is even a salute.

And then there’s Jonny Gomes:

There are many, many more athletes that have fought in wars and paid homage to their country throughout the years. Countless individuals were drafted in the early 1900s that made huge sacrifices to their family, teams, and country along the way.

God Bless America.

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