God Bless America. And Sports.

Happy Birthday!

Our country turns the ripe old age of 232 tomorrow. Between burgers and beers and bikinis, let us not forget how fortunate we are to have a variety of sports and the freedom to choose which ones we love and loathe.

In honor of the Fourth of July I started jotting down reasons to love American sports, and I’ll be damned if all the sudden I hadn’t come up with one for every single year.

Add to the list if you want. Or just pick and choose. Whatever.

It’s a free country.

232. Sharing personal space with 20,000 really happy people and high-fiving a guy
whose name you'll never know.

231. Michael Phelps.

230. Josh Hamilton’s resurrection.

229. Jennie Finch.

228. Jim McKay.

227. Rocco Mediate’s one-hit wonder.

226. The star on the helmet.

225. Yankee pinstripes.

224. The 18th at Pebble Beach.

223. Dick Vitale, John Madden and, yes, even Brent Musburger.

222. Marion Jones, before she lied.

221. Hail Mary and Touchdown Jesus.

220. The Ice Bowl, the Rose Bowl and the Beer 'n Bowl.

219. Game 7.

218. Cameron Crazies.

217. Stockton to Malone.

216. Brandi Chastain's sports bra.

215. Richard Williams. Well, he was right.

214. Boston's Green Monster and Augusta's green jacket.

213. The 12th Man.

212. Brian's Song.

211. Spurrier's visor.

210. "H-O-R-S-E," "Hot Box" and "Tackle the Man with the Football."

209. Happy Valley and March Madness.

208. Michael Jordan.

207. The seventh-inning stretch and "Down the stretch they come!"

206. Army-Navy.

205. Pauley Pavilion.

204. Caddyshack.

203. "Gentlemen, start your engines!"

202. Atlanta's Tomahawk Chop.

201. Vince Lombardi.

200. Don King, Gene Keady and Slick Watts.

199. Kobe in the clutch and Junior on the gas.

198. Hot dogs.

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. Michael Irvin’s reincarnation.

193. A two-putt birdie.

192. Wide Right and Student Body Left.

191. Natalie Gulbis.

190. The smell of fresh-cut grass on Opening Day.

189. Slow-motion instant replays.

188. Al Davis' white(ish) windbreaker.

187. Pizza delivered simultaneously with kickoff.

186. The hole in the roof so God can watch his favorite team.

185. The Immaculate Reception.

184. A no-hitter after eight.

183. Jimmy Connors at Flushing Meadows. At night.

182. Alligator arms, swim moves and The Shark.

181. Tom Dempsey.

180. The Silver Boot, the Iron Skillet and plain ol' braggin' rights.

179. Underdogs.

178. Navratilova vs. Evert.

177. Grass.

176. Hat tricks via bicycle kicks.

175. Jerry Jones.

174. NFL Films.

173. Bo Jackson.

172. Bobby Knight's sweaters. And trifecta bettors.

171. Texas-OU Weekend.

170. Flo-Jo and Little Mo.

169. DirecTV's Sunday ticket.

168. Two points, three-peats and four- baggers through the five hole.

167. Robert Hughes.

166. Slap Shot.

165. Troy Aikman, Daryl Johnston and Deion Sanders on the
other side of the camera.

164. John Wooden's program and Red Auerbach's cigar.

163. The Steel Curtain.

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.

157. No. 1 vs. No. 16.

156. Boomer Sooner, Rocky Top and "wake up the echoes."

155. One-handed 360.

154. Phil Jackson's Triangle and Dean Smith's four corners.

153. Breathe Rights, eye black, mouthpieces and ear holes.

152. The Great One and The Greatest.

151. "Fumblerooski."

150. Monday Night Football.

149. "Havlicek stole the ball!"

148. A-Rod.

147. The Ring of Honor.

146. Between the hedges.

145. Reggie Miller vs. Spike Lee.

144. Chris Berman.

143. The chills + a hangover + the day off = the Cotton Bowl.

142. Two minutes for roughing.

141. Rick Reilly.

140. "The Friendly Confines." And Raiders fans.

139. The Zamboni.

138. Yankees-Red Sox.

137. "He could ... go ... all .. the ... way ..."

136. Joe Pa.

135. Tailgating.

134. The Downtown Athletic Club.

133. A blue parking pass.

132. Mel Kiper Jr.'s mock draft.

131. Jill Arrington’s sideline reports.

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. Labor peace.

125. Brett Farve, retired.

124. Brad Sham and Eric Nadel.

123. Lambeau Field in January.

122. Sports talk radio.

121. Miami vs. Florida vs. Florida State.

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. The Sky Hook.

116. "Coooold beeeeeer!!"

115. Robert Horry, AdamVinatieri and Mariano Rivera, when it really matters.

114. Bobblehead night.

113. The fair pole.

112. NASCAR sponsors.

111. Doomsday.

110. Your baseball cap in the dishwasher, a shoestring around your glove.

109. Office pools.

108. Pistol Pete.

107. Day games.

106. "The Catch."

105. Duke vs. North Carolina.

104. "Hey, ump, you're missing a great game!"

103. North Dallas Forty.

102. Soccer moms.

101. Michael Johnson's golden shoes.

100. Bevo.

99. LeBron James.

98. The Iceman.

97. 17-0 in '72.

96. Little Leaguers with valid birth certificates.

95. Yellow cards, yellow flags and the yellow first-down line.

94. The Big O.

93. 56 in a row.

92. "Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk!"

91. Mulligans.

90. "You Cannot Be Serious!"

89. Brenden Morrow’s guts.

88. UConn vs. Tennessee.

87. The two-minute warning.

86. Emmitt Smith out the other end of the pile.

85. The Laker Girls.

84. Ryder Cup vs. Davis Cup vs. Stanley Cup.

83. "GOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLL!!!!"

82. Seeing your breath on a small-town Friday night in December, population
314.

81. C.J. Wilson’s heat and Ian Kinsler’s cool.

80. Hack-a-Shaq.

79. Phi Slamma Jamma.

78. 6-4-3.

77. Nebraska's I-back.

76. Montana to Rice.

75. "Hi mom!"

74. "You are looking live ... !"

73. Joe Torre's stare, Steve Nash's hair and the Golden Bear.

72. Sweetness.

71. Phyllis George.

70. And one!

69. Bull Durham.

68. "Pig-soooooiiiieee!"

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. The Big Red Machine.

63. Christian Laettner's turnaround.

62. Tiger’s chip at 16 b-a-r-e-l-y crawling into the cup.

60. The curse of the Bambino.

59. The Swamp, The Pit and The Big House.

58. Cal Ripken Jr. and Dale Earnhardt Sr.

57. The Brickyard.

56. Wilt's 100 points vs. Russell's 11 rings.

55. The Big Unit. And Lil' Penny.

54. Eight seconds. And Title IX.

53. Steroid testing.

52. Churchill Downs, first Saturday in May.

51. Madison Square Garden.

50. Mixed doubles, standup doubles and triple-doubles.

49. $1 billion stadiums.

48. Up-and-down from the beach.

47. Bear Bryant.

46. Sacramento's cowbells and Pittsburgh's Terrible Towels.

45. Rocky, Rudy and Prefontaine.

44. Larry Legend.

43. Byron Nelson’s legacy.

42. Sudden death.

41. Dr. J.

40. Mark Cuban's wallet.

39. Danica Patrick’s vavoom.

38. Strike zone, matchup zone and zone blitz.

37. Dirk Nowitzki or Paul Pierce?

36. Wrigley's ivy.

35. Showtime.

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. The crack of the bat.

31. 73*.

30. The Fat Lady. And the skinny post.

29. Tony Romo’s ad-libs.

28. Kyle Field.

27. Celtics banners.

26. Lance Armstrong.

25. Nacho cheese on your chin. A smile on your lips.

24. Fresh batteries in the remote control.

23. Shirts and skins.

22. Jackson's "Whoa, Nellie!" and Enberg's "Oh, my!"

21. The 7-10 split.

20. Crazy Ray, Zonk and inflatable Mavs Man.

19. Lamar Hunt’s legacy.

18. Shaq's power.

17. Tiger's power. And finesse. And concentration.

16. Phil Mickelson's disposition.

15. Magic.

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. ESPN SportsCenter.

10. Tom Landry.

9. Ali vs. Frazier.

8. Hoosiers.

7. Venus vs. Serena. Unscripted.

6. Charles Barkley.

5. Nolan Ryan.

4. "Do you believe in miracles? Yes!!"

3. Buster Douglas, Rulon Gardner, Villanova and the New York Giants.

2. Our national anthem, before every single game.

1. The freedom to love America's Team, and to still hate the Redskins. -- Richie Whitt



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