Today (barely) in 1936 Jesse Owens won the first of his four gold medals under the nose of 20th century supervillain Adolf Hitler.
Today athletes talk about proving themselves, or showing their "doubters" what they're made of. There's a lot of empty pride, a lot of commercialism, and a lot of media. It's the nature of sport today.
But Jesse Owens genuinely proved something in Berlin. In the most dramatic possible context. His was one of the few moments in sports that genuinely exceeded the boundaries of the playing field to impact the entire world. Along with Eric Liddell (for personal reasons that one may discern by reading my signature) his accomplishments are the most significant to me in Olympic history.
This is only semi-OT, because Owens achieved his greatest heights in purely athletics terms at Ferry Field in 1935. As a Michigan fan, a sports fan, and an American, I am proud that one of the few memorials to any athlete on Michigan's athletic campus is the plaque honoring Owens at Ferry. As Rothstein says:
"Ferry Field still stands. Outside the track a plaque commemorates Owens' record-shattering day. It is, perhaps, the ultimate compliment in college sports that a University of Michigan athletic facility continues to honor the achievements of an Ohio State Buckeye."
Some things are more important than rivalry.