On this Fourth of July, I want to take a moment to acknowledge just how awesome we Americans are at sports. It’s incredible! We may not have the best politicians, doctors, or architects, but who cares? Eventually, governments collapse, patients die, and Corinthian columns go out of style. Those record books, though, they last forever, and even though our athletes’ names are permanently etched in the history books, those guys still don’t always get the credit they deserve. So, in honor of a championship-laden first half of 2014, I want to honor the unsung stars (and stripes) of the USA.
This All-American kid looked like General George Washington himself during this year’s NBA finals, leading the Spurs’ Remember-The-Alamotion offense to victory against that Castro-loving team from Little Havana. Tony’s pulled himself up by his bootstraps, not letting his undersized frame keep him from driving the ball to the hoop against his taller and more athletic foes. But Tony was also a living, breathing, fireworks-launching example of the harmony and cooperation between America’s states and citizens. He spread the ball to the brave American soldiers around him, including Marco “Liberty” Belinelli and Boris Diaw, the latter of whom moonlights in the intensely American sport of competitive eating. In his spare time, Tony enjoys hunting quail, eating at Carl’s Jr. (his favorite is the Big Booty Burger), and embarking on his yearly pilgrimage to Mount Rushmore. He hopes his face will also be carved into a northwestern mountain one day, or at the very least, a large plateau.
Stan the Man, son of Tom and Laurie Wawrinka, reasserted the USA’s tennis dominance at this year’s Australian Open. His was an underdog story rivaling that of the 1980 Olympic hockey team. Call it the Miracle on Plexipave. On the way to his first Grand Slam championship, Stanley Steemer sent Novak Djokovic back to Serbia, a country that pretends it isn’t in the Soviet Union anymore, but actually is. He then inquisitioned Spanish conquistador Rafael Nadal. In doing so, he became the first player ever to knock of the two top-ranked players in a winning Grand Slam campaign. Stan credits his shotmaking, stamina, and mental toughness to hours spent practicing beneath the searing summer son of his small Texas hometown. He engages in pre-match carb loading at his local Applebee’s, and cites Kenny Chesney, Lee Greenwood, and Ted Nugent as highlights on the soundtrack for his warmup routine. In winning the Australian Open, Wawrinka became the first American man to win a Major championship since Andy Murray won Wimbledon in 2013.
This Yankee golfer went south to Pinehurst, North Carolina in June, where he riveted his home crowd with a blistering victory at the 2014 US Open. He finished eight strokes ahead of the second-place finishers, Germans Erik Compton and Rickie Fowler. As a youth, Kaymer was mentored by Arnold Palmer, and it is said that the pair co-invented the famed lemonade-iced-tea concoction. Palmer initially wanted to mix iced tea with goat’s milk, but Kaymer persuaded his teacher to use lemonade instead, and not to pursue a post-golf career in beverage development. Kaymer sunk the winning putt for the US at the 2012 Ryder Cup, and enjoys watching episodes of “Ice Road Truckers” and “Deadliest Catch” between rounds. He eats and entire apple pie before every tee time, and vomits an entire apple pie if he gets a bad lie in the sand.
Football, basketball, and baseball may get all the airtime, but one mustn’t overlook the fact that the United States is a table tennis powerhouse. World #1 Long Ma isn’t a billionaire, doesn’t show up in many commercials, and has only been on the cover of Sports Illustrated twice, but he is, irrefutably, a giant of American sports. Adopted from China by former NFL star Howie Long (“Ma” is short for “Matthew”), he has continued the winning table tennis tradition in the United States, inspiring millions of Americans to drunkenly swat ping pong balls in the vicinity of beer-stained tables (better to assume it’s just beer) in bars around the country. Disappointed that his sport has been surpassed by beer pong as a favorite activity of undergraduates, Long nevertheless feels a strong devotion to his country, and is motivated to rack up championships around the world. Last month, at Venice Beach’s Bud Light Ping Pong Jam For The 18-29 Demographic, he won the Doubles Pro-Am title with partner 50 Cent. His favorite tourist attraction is the Pro Baseball Hall of Fame, and he has been romantically linked to Camilla Belle, the model and actress who previously dated Swedish former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow.