There’s two things I like about Independence Day:
(1) It has relatable plot with an underlying universal message.
(2) Jeff Goldblum is awesome and receives ample screen time in the film.
But what you may not know about Independence Day is not only did they recently make a sequel that was somehow not awesome, despite comparable screen time for the incomparable Jeff Goldblum, but it’s also a nationally recognized holiday typically held annually on the fourth day of July, in honor of America’s own personal independence from the powdered-wig influence of the Redcoats.
And while a third thing that I like about Independence Day is hotdogs, not being forced to sip Earl Grey while trying to figure out dry British humor at high noon is probably what the Fourth of July is more about.
That being the case, and with national politics doing their best to squander national pride ever since they shot JFK, I figured we’d honor America’s time-passed by way of its greatest pasttimes, that, unlike the Warren Commission, have always made the however-many-billion of Americans that McDonald’s has “now served” proud to be from the good ol’ U.S. of A.
So crank up the Springsteen and hold onto your McNuggets, America, because here’s the five best Fourth moments in American sports history:
(5) Don’t call Billie Jean King ‘The Queen’
Even with the box office finally showcasing a strong female role model with “Wonder Woman,” apparently, it’s, like, still kind of a tough time for leftist American women left wondering how many more Independence Days before we’re free of the powdered-orange influence of the too-long Red Ties.
But before there was Gal Gadot, when it came to strong women, Billie Jean King was the queen.
Not only was Billie Jean King one of the top athletes of all time, regardless of chromosomes, but she also came out on top in a nationally televised match literally dubbed “The Battle of the Sexes” when she took down a guy by the name of Bobby Riggs — whose very public pre-match antics almost made Donald Trump look like an OK guy by comparison.
Independence Day moment-wise, it was on July 4, 1975, that Jean King ended her reign at Wimbledon by defeating Goolagong Cawley in near straight sets of 6-0, 6-1 for her final Grand Slam title — solidifying her legacy as a practical superhero, movie deal or no… (But the movie does come out this fall, though.)
(4) Mickey Mantle goes 300 on Washington D.C.
According to baseball, nothing says America like baseball. And according to the New York Yankees, nothing says baseball like pinstripes.
While I’m not sure if, according to Mickey Mantle, nothing says pinstripes like “The Mick,” I do know that Mantle was one of the game’s all-time greatest, showcased by that time he went 300 on the nation’s capital in a totally non-“This is Sparta”-type way.
The year was 1960, when America was celebrating their 184th career trip around the sun not having to learn however many houses of Parliament there are, while Mantle was celebrating his 300th career trip around the bases with a Fourth of July homer.
I’m probably reaching for irony here, but, ironically enough, the Yanks still lost to the Washington Senators in a game played in D.C., where a young John F. Kennedy would soon take office as the last U.S. president before Americans had to start pretending to be Canadian during trips to European countries that obviously excluded England because, honestly, why go there when we have plenty of clocks and even a guy named “Big Ben” that plays real football here in America… I mean Canada… where I’m from, obviously, eh.
(3) Rockies, flag and eagle
Everyone loves an underdog. And everyone loves a good comeback. With the exception of my actual childhood dog, a chocolate Lab named Snickers who ran away one day and never returned, no matter how many times I called for her to come back. (She went to some farm, apparently?)
Anyway, aside from the movie, the best Independence Day comeback was probably the one by the Colorado Rockies in 2008.
Down 13-4 in the fourth inning of their July 4, game against the Marlins, the Rockies rallied back to an eventual 18-17 lead on a bases-loaded walk-off single that sealed the win.
Now that’s an underdog comeback story if I’ve ever seen one. (I would have probably really enjoyed it, too, if the post-game interview hadn’t been sponsored by Snickers.)
(2) World Cup half-full
It was July 4, 1994, when the U.S. men’s soccer team lost a heartbreaker of a World Cup match after hanging around until the 73rd minute with eventual World Cup champion Brazil.
A cup-half-empty Fourth of July moment, sure, but the 1994 team would go down as the one that finally shed some half-full optimism on the future of U.S. soccer. The success of the match held at Stanford Stadium even helped paved the way for professional soccer in the States, with the formation of the MLS just two years later.
Also, at least the loss wasn’t to England.
(1) “The luckiest man on the face of the earth.”
Even though I wasn’t there, or, you know, like, close to being born yet, I can still hear the words in the echo of my mind like I was Harry Nilsson.
It was just days after being diagnosed with ALS — the disease that had ended his consecutive games streak at 2,130 and would go on to be known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease” — that Lou Gehrig got up to deliver his farewell to Yankee Stadium on July 4, 1939.
Despite the circumstances, Gehrig would go on to say: “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth,” in one of one of the greatest Independence Day speeches of all time — way better even than the one the president gives to Will Smith in the movie version before he and Jeff Goldblum go to fight the aliens and save the world and everything, which was actually quite good, if that tells you anything.
All jokes aside, I don’t know why Lou Gehrig considered himself lucky in the speech he delivered that Fourth of July back in 1939, but I do know why I’ll consider myself lucky come this one.
It’s because we live in a country where the freedom of speech is still protected as constitutional right. Where you can call out the president for needing to shorten his tie without him calling out for the shortening of your tongue, and where even if he did in an early-a.m. Twitter rant, no one (except for Eric, probably) is going to take it seriously.
Where, even though there’s a McDonald’s on every corner, you’re free to eat at Burger King or even literally “have it your way” by starting your own restaurant. And because no matter how half-empty America’s cup might look at times, you’re free to vote on the solutions to fill it.
I guess what I’m saying is there’s probably more than just great sports moments to celebrate this Fourth of July, and there’s probably more than two things and hotdogs that I like about Independence Day.
Just like the Colorado Rockies and the McRib sandwich, as long as we have the Declaration of Independence, the Purple Mountains Majesty will always have their shot at a comeback before the ninth inning is through.
It’s thanks to that historic day, on July 4, 1776, that there’s no dry British sarcasm involved when I say that, come Independence Day 2017, we should all still consider ourselves lucky to be able to chase our own American dream and — just like the incomparable Jeff Goldblum — to call ourselves Americans… (You know, unless you’re in France and someone asks… eh.)