Friday Five, Vol. 79
It's 4th of July Weekend, and even though we can already smell the sunscreen and barbecue smoke, we've still got a Friday Five to deliver. This week, though, we're switching it up. Without a ton of new releases to keep us going, we decided to jump in the time machine and look back at some of the most iconic moments in sports and pop culture history from July 4ths past. We found iconic blockbusters, summer jams, and inspiring sports moments that got us fired up for the long weekend. So kick back, crack open a beer, and enjoy Volume 79!
Well, if we're doing a 4th of July Friday Five, we've gotta start with the most iconic piece of content released on the day: Independence Day. It might not be the best movie released on the 4th, or the best movie that takes place on the holiday weekend, but if we were going to pick one movie to represent the holiday, it was this one. Independence Day was released in July of 1996, and it fundamentally changed the notion of a summer blockbuster, just like Jaws and Star Wars before it. The SFX, especially of the destruction of the White House, was jaw-dropping. It made almost $1 billion at the box office, was nominated for an Oscar, and helped truly cement Will Smith's place on the scene as a movie star. All of that lead-up, and we haven't even mentioned one of the greatest movie speech's of all time! If you ever need to get amped up for something, or just pulled out of a funk, pull up Bill Pullman's electrifying speech as President Whitmore. It is guaranteed to turn your day, your week, or even your whole month around.
Joey Chestnut Beats Kobayashi
Before streaming and Instagram and 24/7 access to the Internet, the Nathan's Hot-Dog Eating Contest really used to feel like an event. Sure, it's still broadcast annually in its stomach-turning entirety on ESPN, but it doesn't seem to be the same cultural phenomenon it once was. In 2007, though, that wasn't the case. A scrawny, Japanese competitive eater named Kobayashi was on top of the sport, and every 4th of July, he'd head to Coney Island to shatter his own record. He was a household name. Then, on July 4th, 2007, American Joey Chestnut took the stage and went toe-to-toe with Kobayashi, taking his throne by eating an unbelievable 66 hot dogs. It seems ridiculous to think about now, but that was a truly monumental sports moment. The torch was passed, and there was a new king of competitive eating. With the exception of one down year, Chestnut has taken home every Nathan's championship belt since then, often breaking his own records in the process. The Nathan's Hot-Dog Eating Contest will always be a 4th of July tradition, even if it doesn't get the same buzz it once did. And Chestnut seemingly has the longevity of Tom Brady as the sport's GOAT. But it might never get better than that 2007 performance.
The Beach Boys Hit No. 1
Few bands are as synonymous with summer music as the Beach Boys, and fittingly, they first topped the charts on the 4th of July. In 1964, "I Get Around" was the band's first No. 1 hit in the US, and it was a great way to announce their arrival on the scene. The fun, simple, repetitive lyrics and interesting song structure allowed the Beach Boys to compete with the Beatles and the rest of the British Invasion. Even almost 60 years later, the song is instantly recognizable and remains very catchy -- we dare you to try not to tap your feet along with the beat. While it may feel a bit cutesy, "I Get Around" kickstarted a rivalry specifically between the Beatles and Beach Boys, as the two iconic bands continued to try and one-up each other through the rest of the 60s. Along with most of their discography, "I Get Around" will fit perfectly on any beach, grilling, or summer playlist you might need this weekend, and for the rest of the season going forward. There's perhaps no band more fitting to have our big 4th of July music moment.
John McEnroe Wins Wimbledon
Before he was commentating on matches and making cameos in Mr. Deeds, John McEnroe was the "bad boy" of pro tennis, and was one of the best men's players on the circuit. Rivalries have been a bit of a theme in this Friday Five -- and McEnroe was no exception. He had a long-running rivalry with Björn Borg, and the two players often faced off in Grand Slam finals, including Wimbledon. The famed tournament always culminates around 4th of July weekend, and sure enough, on July 4th, 1981, McEnroe and Borg squared off for the second straight year at the All England Club. After taking a heart-breaking loss in 1980, McEnroe got his revenge in 1981, and finally reached the mountaintop of pro tennis. Like Chestnut, he knocked off a competitor with a long winning streak, as Borg had taken home the title the previous five years. McEnroe's title didn't come without fireworks, either. He was almost thrown out of the tournament after a first-round blow-up at an umpire, and he coined his now iconic phrase "you cannot be serious." Despite all of McEnroe's antics, his win was still a heartfelt and inspiring moment in sports history, and serves as a good reminder to keep on grinding.
Lou Gehrig Says Farewell
While the other moments may have been inspiring from a creative, competitive, or artistic standpoint, nothing is as moving or emotional as our final selection: Lou Gehrig's "Luckiest Man" speech. In 1939, Gehrig, one of the greatest players in MLB history, was forced to retire due to ALS. As he said goodbye to Yankee Stadium on July 4th, 1939, he uttered the now iconic line "I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth." Gehrig's career, and life, was cut tragically short by ALS, but his speech is a perfect reminder to never give up, and to appreciate every moment while you're in it. Baseball is the only one of the major sports to still be in-season over the 4th, and there have been plenty of no-hitters, clutch home-runs, and career milestones accomplished on the holiday weekend. But there's nothing that could come close to the impact or power of Gehrig's farewell.