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Happy Birthday, America's Sports: 246 Reasons to Love Houston's Games and Those Who Play Them

On this Fourth of July, let's celebrate every Texan from David Carr to Davis Mills.

Happy Birthday, America’s Sports!

From masks to guns to politics to Roe v. Wade and even Johnny Deep vs. Amber Heard, America finds itself fiercely divided.

Thankfully we have sports to keep us united, or at least from completely unraveling at the seams. Even apart, thanks to sports we stand together.

We may not love the same teams, but we do cherish the games, leagues, players and moments that provide respite from the larger issues threatening to crowbar us as a country.

Without sports, this Fourth of July would be all red, white and boo. It’s as though the victory cigars light the fireworks.

That said, we’re in a slump.

America once dominated around the globe. Don’t look now, but the world has closed the gap. In some cases, foreigners are even hogging hardware.

What once was Mike Tyson is now Tyson Fury (boxing), Lance Armstrong is now Tadej Pogačar (cycling), Pete Sampras now Rafael Nadal (tennis) and Tiger Woods (golf) now Jon Rahm and Matthew Fitzpatrick. Our last two U.S. Open golf championships have been won by a Spaniard and a Brit; last American to capture the U.S. Open men’s tennis title was Andy Roddick in 2003.

Canadian-born Cale Makar won Stanley Cup Finals MVP this month, and a handful of American stars are leaving the PGA Tour to play golf on the Saudi Arabian-backed LIV Tour.

Not long ago we set our watches by the championship appearances of LeBron James and Serena Williams. LeBron’s Lakers haven’t won a playoff series the last two seasons. Serena won her last major in 2017 and last week lost in the first round at Wimbledon to an unknown player ranked No. 115.

The NBA’s last four MVPs are from Serbia (Nikola Jokic) and Greece (Giannis Antetokounmpo). In the last 13 Ryder Cups, we’re 4-9. The U.S. hasn’t won the Davis Cup since 2007. We won’t win the Tour de France. We’ve only won one World Baseball Classic. We never sniff advancing in the men’s World Cup. We’re no longer a lock to win sailing’s America’s Cup.

The most dynamic player in baseball? Japan’s Shohei Ohtani.

Thankfully, all is not lost.

The NFL – America’s real pastime – has never had an MVP born outside our borders. And if we really wanna go jingoistic, thanks to our most dominant “athlete” – Joey Chestnut – America has won the last 14 July 4th Hot Dog Eating championships.

We may need to squint a little harder to see them, but there are still countless reasons to be proud of American sports on the country’s 246th birthday. On this Fourth of July – between the burgers and bikinis – take time to admire and appreciate each unique flame on this homemade, sports-centric cake: 246 candles, 246 reminders why we love our games and the people who play them.

Here’s hoping it reminds you how fortunate we are to have a variety of sports, and the freedom to choose which ones we love and/or loathe.

Happy Birthday, America’s sports!

Consume this list in one barbecued bite. Or nibble all during the holiday. Whatever.

It is, after all, a free country.

246. Hosting World Cup 2026

245. Face masks on sports helmets, not civilian heads.

244. Brandin Cooks, most underrated receiver in the NFL

243. Crawford Boxes

242. Aaron Hernandez, Josh Brent, Tim Donaghy, Lance Armstrong, Terdema Ussery, Robert Kraft, Dan Snyder and Deshaun Watson, each held accountable.

241. Cris Collinsworth’s insight and Tony Romo’s intuition.
240. Zion Williamson’s hope.
239. David Carr, for a hot minute.

238. Aaron Judge’s exit velocity.
237. Johnny Football, fleeting as it was.
236. Wiffle Ball in the backyard.
235. Labor peace in baseball. But just barely.

234. Haywood Jeffires.
233. Unretired: Brady, Gronk, Witten and Ali before them all.

232. The Astrodome, still standing after all these years.

231. Matthew Stafford, vindicated after all these years.

230. Arian Foster, undrafted.

229. Rice baseball at Reckling Park.

228. Arch in Austin: Continuing the Manning family legacy?

227. Guy V. Lewis’ checkered towel.

226. The star on the helmet.
225. Yankees pinstripes.
224. The 18th at Pebble Beach.
223. Dollar Dog Night.

222. Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

221. “Hail Mary” and Touchdown Jesus.
220. The Ice Bowl, the Rose Bowl and the Beer ’n Bowl.
219. David Culley, one-year blunder.

218. Cameron Crazies and Reunion Rowdies
217. Eldrick “Tiger” Woods.
216. 4-13, but beating the Titans in Nashville.

215. Serena and Venus Williams.
214. Boston’s Green Monster and Augusta’s green jacket.
213. The 12th Man.
212. Brian’s Song.
211. Sammy Baugh, Doak Walker, Davey O’Brien and Kyler Murray, soaring over their size.

210. “H-O-R-S-E,” “Hot Box” and “Tackle the Man with the Football.”
209. Happy Valley and March Madness.
208. Vince Young in, around and through USC’s defense.
207. The 7th-inning stretch and “Down the stretch they come!”
206. Army-Navy.
205. The Big E.

204. Caddyshack.
203. “Gentlemen, start your engines!”
202. Texans 24, Chiefs 0, first quarter, Jan. 12, 2020.

201. Vince Lombardi.
200. Dusty Baker’s toothpick.

199. Kobe Bryant.

198. The Manning Family.
197. The Three J’s, The Four Horsemen and The Fab Five.
196. “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”
195. Hawg hats and Minnesota Fats.
194. Earl Campbell’s tearaway jersey.

193. A two-putt birdie.
192. Wide Right and Student Body Left.
191. Josh Hamilton’s power electrifying Yankee Stadium in the Home Run Derby.
190. The smell of fresh-cut grass on Opening Day.
189. Jalen Green’s hops.

188. Boban Marjanovic’s size and disposition.
187. Pizza delivered exactly five minutes before kickoff.
186. Game 5, 13-12.

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185. “The Immaculate Reception.”
184. Jinxing a no-hitter.
183. Jimmy Connors at Flushing Meadows. At night.
182. Alligator arms, swim moves and The Shark. Kenny Gant, not Greg Norman.
181. Tom Dempsey’s long kick with a short foot.
180. Rivalry week.

179. Underdogs.
178. Akeem to Hakeem to “Dream Shake.”

177. Fans who refuse to do “The Wave.”
176. Hat tricks via bicycle kicks.
175. Billy “White Shoes” Johnson.

174. NFL Films.
173. God’s gifts to Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders and Bob Hayes.
172. Bobby Knight’s sweaters. And trifecta bettors.
171. George Springer, October 2017.

170. Luka Doncic, s-l-o-w motion superstar.

169. Red Zone Channel.
168. Two points, three-peats and four-baggers through the five hole.
167. Handing the ball to Justin Verlander with your life on the line.

166. Slap Shot.
165. Easy power: Yordan Alvarez.

164. John Wooden’s program, Jerry Tarkanian’s towel and Red Auerbach’s cigar.
163. Booing Roger Goodell. Admiring Adam Silver.
162. Taking your glove to the game.
161. Lovie Smith: Defensive guru; Head coach flop?

160. “Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier!”
159. Amen corner. And Death Valley.
158. Nike vs. Reebok vs. Adidas vs. Under Armor.
157. No. 16 over No. 1.
156. “Boomer Sooner”, “Rocky Top” and “wake up the echoes.”
155. Kindred spirits who also hate Joe Buck.
154. Phil Jackson’s Triangle and Dean Smith’s four corners.
153. The versatility and vision of Colin Kaepernick.
152. The Great One and The Greatest.
151. Instant replay.
150. Monday Night Football’s original theme music.
149. “Havlicek stole the ball!”
148. A-Roid.
147. NRG Stadium.

146. Between the hedges.
145. Shutting up Spike Lee.
144. Calvin Murphy at the free-throw line.

143. The chills + a hangover + the day off = Jan. 1 bowl day.
142. Two minutes for roughing.
141. 30 for 30.

140. The Cubs’ “Friendly Confines” vs. the Raiders’ “Black Hole.”
139. The Zamboni.
138. Yankees-Red Sox, Duke-North Carolina and Michigan-Ohio State.
137. ”He could … go … all .. the … way … !!!”
136. The relentless rebounding of Kelvin Sampson’s Coogs.

135. Tailgating, tickets or not.
134. Heisman hype.
133. Charlie Morton over Yu Darvish.

132. Eyeballs vs. analytics.
131. Jabari Smith, NBA Rookie of the Year.

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. Tom Brady in the pocket and Patrick Mahomes out of it.
125. Kevin Durant, fickle championship-chaser.

124. Bill Yeoman’s Veer.

123. Lambeau Field, January.
122. Sports talk radio wars.
121. Then: Defense wins championships; Now: First one to 50.
120. “Steeeerriiiike Three!,” “Let’s play two!” and “We’re No. 1!”
119. Soccer’s Dynamo and Dash.

118. Dropping the gloves. And catching big air.
117. Kareem’s “Sky Hook” and Errol Spence Jr.’s right hook.
116. “Coooold beeeeeer!!”
115. Robert Horry, Adam Vinatieri and Mariano Rivera, when it really matters.
114. Bobblehead night.
113. The fair pole.
112. Anyone who beats Nick Saban.
111. “Luv Ya Blue?”, forever.

110. Your baseball cap in the dishwasher; shoestring around your glove.
109. Office pools.
108. “Pistol Pete”, Sampras and/or Maravich.
107. Day games.
106. “The Catch.”
105. John Lucas, physical skills and mental health.

104. “Hey, ump, you’re missing a great game!”
103. The right arms of Nolan Ryan and Warren Moon.

102. Soccer moms.
101. Michael Johnson’s golden shoes.
100. Rudy T.

99. Shirts and skins.
98. “The Iceman.”
97. 17-0 in ’72.
96. Winners and losers. Not participation plaques.
95. Yellow cards, yellow flags and the yellow first-down line.
94. Charley Hennigan.

93. 56-game hitting streak.
92. “Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk!”
91. Mulligans.
90. “You Cannot Be Serious!” and “Practice? We talkin’ ’bout practice?!”
89. J.J. Watt, American hero.
88. Skip Bayless, permanently muted.
87. The two-minute warning.
86. Toyota Center.

85. The Laker Girls and the Cowboys Cheerleaders.
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. Floyd “Money” Mayweather.
80. Vince Carter, way above the rim and deep in the corner.

79. “Phi Slamma Jamma.”
78. 6-4-3.
77. Bill Worrell, voice of a city.

76. Montana to Rice. Stockton to Malone. Meredith to Cosell.

75. GEICO commercials.
74. “You are looking live … !”
73. Joe Torre’s stare, Steve Nash’s hair and the Golden Bear.
72. “Sweetness.”
71. Phyllis George and Erin Andrews.
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. Andre Johnson’s hands.

63. Christian Laettner’s turnaround.
62. J.R. Richard’s heat.

61. Steph’s Warriors dynasty vs. Jordan’s Bulls dynasty.

60. “The Curse of the Bambino.”
59. The Swamp, The Pit and The Big House.
58. Cal Ripken Jr. and Dale Earnhardt Sr.
57. Evel Knievel.
56. Wilt’s 100 points vs. Russell’s 11 rings.
55. J.J. Watt, American hero.

54. Eight seconds. And Title IX.
53. Sudden death.
52. Churchill Downs, first Saturday in May.
51. Madison Square Garden.
50. Mixed doubles, stand-up doubles and triple-doubles.
49. $1 billion stadiums. $12-an-hour chain gangs.
48. Mattress Mack.

47. Bear Bryant.
46. Mississippi State’s cowbells, Atlanta’s Tomahawk Chop.
and Pittsburgh’s Terrible Towels.
45. Rocky, Rudy and Prefontaine.
44. “Larry Legend.”
43. Byron Nelson’s legacy, on and off the course.
42. Jackie Robinson.

41. Dr. J.
40. Mark Cuban’s passion. And wallet.
39. Michael Jordan and The Last Dance.
38. Strike zone, matchup zone and zone blitz.
37. Otis Thorpe, bodyguard.

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. U.S. soccer, women’s version.
31. 73*.
30. The Fat Lady. And the skinny post.
29. Minute Maid Park, roof open.

28. Bum.

27. Larry Brown, from 12th-round afterthought to Cowboys’ Super Bowl MVP.

26. Clyde The Glide.

25. Nacho cheese on your chin. Smile on your lips.
24. Fresh batteries in the remote control.
23. Charles Barkley.
22. Keith Jackson’s “Whoa, Nellie!” and Dick Enberg’s “Oh, my!”
21. The 7-10 split.
20. The Killer B’s.

19. The promise and potential of Davis Mills.

18. LeBron James, indeed “The Chosen One.”
17. ESPN’s SportsCenter. TNT’s Inside The NBA and HBO’s Real Sports.
16. John Madden, RIP.

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. College NILs spawning Nick Saban vs. Jimbo Fisher.

10. Tom Landry’s fedora.
9. Texas-OU at the Cotton Bowl, split 50/50. And USC-UCLA in the … Big Ten?

8. Hoosiers.
7. High-fiving a complete stranger.

6. Back-to-back in 1994-95.

5. Game 7.
4. “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!!”
3. Getting rid of Deshaun Watson.

2. Our national anthem, before every single game. Kneeling or not.
1. The freedom to love H-town, and hate “America’s Team.”