So, March Madness. I've never really gotten it. This year it's been fun, but only because Miami was actually in the tournament and winning games. Even so, I never made a bracket, and the Canes lost last night, so my March Madness experience has kind of petered out.
But never fear! The USOC posted a Team USA Bracket Challenge on its Facebook page, and suddenly my bracketology game face is on. Let's do this thing!
"Dream Team," 1992 vs. "Redeem Team," 2008 -- This is a joke, right? There's no possible way to vote against a team comprised of Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson, Scottie Pippin, Karl Malone, Clyde Drexler, etc. etc. etc. Sorry, LeBron. Winner: Dream Team.
"Magnificent Seven," 1996 vs. "Fierce Five," 2012 -- Two words: Kerri Strug. Winner: Magnificent Seven.
Men's 4x100m Relay, 2008 vs. Michael Phelps, 2008 -- This is dumb. Michael Phelps vs. Michael Phelps hardly seems like a fair contest. But whatever. As great as the relay was, I had to vote in favor of Phelps' .01 margin of victory. Because how does that even happen?! Winner: Michael Phelps.
Jesse Owens, 1936 vs. Joan Benoit, 1984 -- I'm ashamed to say that I don't know much about Joan Benoit. Even so, it's going to be hard to pick anyone or anything over Jesse Owens. Winner: Jesse Owens.
Brian Boitano, 1988 vs. Sarah Hughes, 2002 -- Oh god, not cool, USOC. Not cool at all! I grew up watching Brian Boitano skate in all the pro tours, and seriously, the Battle of the Brians in Calgary 1988? Legendary. But I watched Sarah Hughes skate her long program on my eleventh birthday, and jumped around screaming with glee at around midnight when she won gold. For that reason alone, I've got to go with Sarah, by the width of a skate blade. Winner: Sarah Hughes.
"Miracle on Ice," 1980 vs. Women's ice hockey, 1998 -- Listen, I'm super proud of the ladies and everything, but this one is pretty much a no contest. Pretty sure the Miracle on Ice vs. anything is a no contest, actually. But let's not get ahead of ourselves! Winner: Miracle on Ice.
Eric Heiden, 1980 vs. Dan Jansen, 1994 -- Again with the mean match-ups, man. Watch the videos I linked; they each talk about each other. Ugh, making this choice sucks. You've got the guy that won five -- five! -- speed skating gold medals in a single Olympics, and the guy that won his only gold in his final Olympic race after years of disappointing finishes after his sister's death from leukemia. Seriously? You're making me choose? :( Fine. Dan Jansen, but only because of his victory lap holding his baby daughter he named after his sister. Because I'm the world's biggest sap. Winner: Dan Jansen.
Lindsey Vonn, 2010 vs. Bode Miller, 2010 -- So, I don't want to say that I hate Bode Miller, but the way he acted at Torino 2006 damaged him irreparably in my eyes. And Lindsey Vonn is so good she wants to compete against men, so... Winner: Lindsey Vonn.
"Dream Team," 1992 vs. "Magnificent Seven," 1996 -- There's a fine line between being inspirational and being boring because you're winning games by an average of 44 points. I think that's the Dream Team's downfall. An amazing feat, for sure, but Kerri Strug was her team's last hope, vaulted on an injured leg, landed it perfectly and won gold. There's a reason that video clip still gets replayed. Winner: Magnificent Seven.
Michael Phelps, 2008 vs. Jesse Owens, 1936 -- Sorry, Mike. Gotta go with the guy that stuck it to Hitler. Winner: Jesse Owens.
Sarah Hughes, 2002 vs. "Miracle on Ice," 1980 -- I quit. Can I not do this anymore? This is like choosing between my two children. :P Sarah will always be my girl, but that hockey game was so much more than a hockey game. Winner: Miracle on Ice.
Dan Jansen, 1994 vs. Lindsey Vonn, 2010 -- I'm a sucker for an underdog and a good comeback story. Not only was Dan Jansen losing his races, but he was falling. How often do speed skaters fall? He missed the podium in three Olympics, and finally won it all in his final race of his final Olympics, a race that apparently wasn't his strongest. And then he took a victory lap holding the baby he named after his sister. Game, set, match. Winner: Dan Jansen.
"Magnificent Seven," 1996 vs. Jesse Owens, 1936 -- Hah, I don't even know where to begin the thought process for this one. I feel like Kerri Strug's vault should've just been in the bracket on its own, because that's entirely what's carrying the Magnificent Seven for me. There's just something about this pint-sized, squeaky-voiced little girl doing the impossible. It sort of makes me feel like, hey, if she could do that, what's to say I can't do my own impossible? But Jesse Owens, man. He basically gave Hitler the finger. At the same time, though... nothing really changed. Hitler still tried to kill everyone who wasn't Aryan, and Jesse Owens returned to a racist America where he had to run races against horses in sideshows for money. So, in an upset that surprises even me... Winner: Magnificent Seven.
"Miracle on Ice," 1980 vs. Dan Jansen, 1994 -- There's no emoticon for what my face is doing right now. I'm going to sulk about having to make this choice for a little while. I really, really hate not choosing Dan Jansen because his story is absolutely amazing, but on the other side is a whole hockey team full of amazing stories like that. And then they combined all of that personal baggage and regional rivalries into this hodgepodge team that did the impossible. And I just really love them a lot. Winner: Miracle on Ice.
"Magnificent Seven," 1996 vs. "Miracle on Ice," 1980 -- Apparently I really have a thing for teams of regular people doing the impossible and beating Russia, huh? :P Apparently I also have a thing for teams with catchy nicknames that have to be put in quotation marks. But, in all seriousness, I wasn't kidding when I said that the Miracle on Ice vs. anything would be a no contest. It was a bunch of regular (albeit crazy talented, hard-working) guys who not only beat the best team in the world, but beat the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Now, granted, I voted against Jesse Owens because his win didn't really change anything, and did this win change anything? The Cold War lasted another 10+ years, and the Soviet Union won the next two gold medals, in '84 and '88. Not exactly a sea change. But I think this team inspired a lot of people during a really, really dark time for our country. Hell, they still inspire people now. And that's good enough for me. Winner: Miracle on Ice.
This was fun! Kind of awful and difficult, but fun! I'm glad this was only Team USA moments, though. Throw in Derek Redmond and the Jamaican bobsled team and Eddie the Eagle and we've got some serious problems! But nobody can dethrone the champs. They'd just make the road to #1 a little more difficult. ;)