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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

8 From the 80s: Unforgettable Sports Moments

Each installment Mike will look back to the decade of decadence and provide a list of eight things – from movies to music to memorable moments and everything in-between.  Keep in mind, this isn’t a TOP 8 list and any numerical notations are included to merely designate one item from another. Because, frankly, how can you rate one thing over another when it comes from a decade as totally tubular as the 80s?

Unforgettable Sports Moments

Now I know, you’re thinking that sports moments aren't exactly "pop culture" but, if you stop and think about it, there are a number of athletes and teams that eclipse the sport that made them famous. They become more than just a sports figure – picture Michael Jordan in Space Jam – or, at worst, footnotes in pop culture history.  In some instances there are moments that become touchstones for an entire generation (see #1 on this list) that even the most hardened non-sports fan is aware of. So, while sports may not be pop culture, per se, they can, and often do, cross over.  Here’s eight moments that did.

8 - Pete Rose Banned from Baseball
It was 1989 and Rose, known as “Charlie Hustle” during his playing days, was banned from baseball. Three years removed from being an active player, Rose had become the manager of the Cincinnati Reds and had agreed to permanent ineligibility from baseball after accusations began to fly that he’d bet on games involving himself both as a player and as a manager. He remains banned from the game as well as the Hall of Fame to this day.

7 - The “Super Bowl Shuffle”
in 1985, American football team, The Chicago Bears, dominated not only their opponents during a 15-1 season, but the airwaves as well.  Recorded three months prior to beating the New England Patriots in Superbowl XX, players from The Bears, “The Superbowl Shuffle” sold over half a million copies and peaked at number 41 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.  They remain the only professional sports team to have a Top 50 hit song.

6 - Bill Buckner
Buckner played first base for five different Major League Baseball teams during his 21 year career that ended in 1990, but it was with the Boston Red Sox in 1986 that he made his permanent mark in MLB history.  With his team up 3 games to 2 in the best 4 of 7 World Series, Buckner made an error on a simple, routine play which allowed the opposing team, the New York Mets, to score and win, tying the series three games each.  Boston then dropped the seventh and deciding game, adding to the legend of the “Curse of the Bambino”.  Go Google that, we’re not an encyclopedia here.

5 - Roberto Duran vs Sugar Ray Leonard II
In a very heavily hyped November 1980 fight for the WBC Welterweight championship, Duran and Leonard squared off in a rematch of a fight just five months earlier.  In the previous fight, Duran defeated Leonard for the title and neither man was happy with the war of words that surrounded the bout.  In the rematch, Leonard’s speed topped Duran’s “Hands of Stone”, embarrassing him with taunts and fake-out punches to the point that, in the eighth round, Duran turned from Leonard and told the referee “No más” - “No more”.  Duran’s homeland of Panama was disgraced and it took the better part of three years for them to forgive him.

4 - Mike Tyson vs Michael Spinks
Before he was a goofy acting parody of himself in movies like The Hangover, Mike Tyson was a fierce beast of a man. By 1988 he had a 34-0 record, was the unified heavyweight champion of the world (holding the title for the three major boxing promotions at the time) and looked unstoppable.  Spinks, a much better technical boxer, was pegged by almost everyone to be the man to stop “Iron Mike”.
91 seconds into the first of 12 scheduled rounds, Spinks found himself unable to get up following a few fast, hard Tyson shots and lost by knockout in one of the shortest heavyweight title fights in history.

3 - Mary Lou Retton Wins the Gold
In the 1984 Summer Olympics, USA’s Mary Lou Retton was trailing Ecaterina Szabo of Romania in the Women’s All-Around finals for the gold medal. With mounting concern that her recently surgically repaired knee might cause her problems, Retton scored perfect 10s in her final two routines (the floor exercise and the vault) to overcome and defeat Szabo by 0.05 of a point.  Retton became the first American woman to win the all-around gold, a feat that went unmatched for 20 years. As a result, she was featured on a box of Wheaties breakfast cereal and got to portray “Tiny Tim” in Bill Murray’s Scrooged.

2 - 1984 Detroit Tigers

Prior to the early part of the 80s it was common to see the Tigers at the bottom of the standings year in and year out. But in 1984 the Tigers did what very few teams manage to do in any sport and that’s be in first place at the start of a season and end as the champions.  This only their fourth world championship in their (at the time) 84 years of existence.  While not really having much impact on the pop culture zeitgeist, this one is being included for two reasons: 1) it’s hard to ignore a feat such as this, regardless of the reason for a list it could be included on, and, 2) being a kid growing up in the Detroit area in the 70s and loving baseball, it’s the only time I really had to be proud of my hometown team at the time.

1 - Miracle on Ice
While these lists are always prefaced with the disclaimer that they aren’t ranked and any numerical designation is just to designate one item from another, this is an exception.  No other moment in the history of US sports can really come close to the impact the 1980 US Men’s Olympic hockey team had on people.  The Cold War was still in full force and America had a black eye from the Iranian hostage crisis.  When the US hockey team, a group of amateurs and college players, defeated the legendary and nigh-unstoppable Russian squad, it didn’t matter what happened afterwords (the US ended up winning the gold medal, for what it’s worth), because David had slain Goliath. When time was expiring and announcer Al Michaels exclaimed "Do you believe in miracles?!" an entire nation replied “Yes!” 

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